Some time in the sparkling green future, all of our holiday celebrations will be zero waste. But that will be then, and this is now. For a lot of us, the post-holiday hangover still means trash, and plenty of it.
But wait! With a little in-house preemptive dumpster diving, you can save some pretty good stuff from the scrap heap. If you have an extra shelf or drawer, or a corner in your closet where you can stash the goodies away until they’re needed, here’s where you can save the big bucks:
1. Mailing Boxes.
When was the last time you had to buy a new box to mail something in? Hopefully, never. They’re expensive! When a mailing boxes and padded envelopes come to your door, keep them. Tape over any damaged parts. Cover the old addresses with self-stick labels, or glue a sheet of blank paper over them.
2. Packing Supplies.
I know, Styrofoam packing peanuts are gross. But, they’re useful. If somebody sends a box of them to you, save them in a bag. Same goes for bubble wrap and foam wrap. You’ll need them the next time you mail out something fragile, or stow away a keepsake.
You can also save shredded paper grass from gift baskets. It’s good for lining a home-made gift basket, or topping off a gift bag.
3. Styrofoam Inserts.
Again, Styrofoam is gross. You probably stopped buying Styrofoam cups a long time ago. But a big block of Styrofoam with lots of nooks and crannies makes a great playset for a kid with imagination. It’s a fort, a garage, a castle, or – in the bathtub – a giant barge. And when that’s over, you can always try to recycle it (start by checking with your town’s recycling program).
Please note: this is for people who are old enough not to chew on non-food items, and who promise not to make a mess by breaking the Styrofoam into pieces.
4. Plastic Bags.
Lots of gizmos and gadgets come packed in perfectly good, sturdy bags. No, I would not wrap food in them. But if you have a pet, you can use them as poo bags, or trash can liners.
For kids who like crafts, a piece of plastic always comes in handy. Save a few panels from boxed toys. Use them as paint palettes, dry clay objects on them, cut them in pieces for collage art, or cut them into shapes and decorate with stickers for home-made suncatchers (punch a hole in the top and thread with a piece of salvaged ribbon).
Craft note: yes, leftover nail polish is great for decorating home-made suncatchers, but save that activity for outdoors where there’s plenty of ventilation.
6. Ribbons and Bows.
Not too long ago, reusing decorations was considered cheap, weird, or both. Not any more. They come in handy when you’re looking for cool green ways to wrap gifts. They also look nice on holiday wreaths and trees. Speaking of which, you can also go the other way: salvage ornaments from trees and wreaths, and use them to decorate gifts.
7. Fail-Safe Regifting.
What if somebody gives you something so hideous, you’d rather take it to the dump than palm it off on a friend? You could give it to a perfect stranger, that’s what. Somewhere out there, someone wants what you have. You can connect with them through one of the new barter websites that have been springing up.
…Total it Up.
Okay, so maybe over the course of a year you’ll save ten or twenty bucks by using these salvaged supplies instead of running to the store every time you need something. That’s not a lot of money. But it’s nothing to sneeze at, either. And by reusing stuff that would otherwise get thrown away, your family gets to practice creativity, resourcefulness and inventiveness – great skills that come in handy all through life.
Readers: Let me know how you’ve been reusing your holiday detritus, and I’ll share your thoughts in a future post.