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Your Stuff: Rethinking the Holidays - December 2, 2011
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Holiday gathering with friends and family

The holidays are here! This is the time of year to rethink how we celebrate the season. By choosing to spend more time with family and friends and by supporting local businesses, your choices can have a positive impact on the community and the environment.

For example, by buying locally-made items, you cut down on the carbon emissions associated with transporting those gifts from across the country or beyond.

People living in the Portland area throw away 25 percent more garbage during the holiday season and recycling volumes increase by a third. So with this in mind, it's also the time of year to consider giving gifts that help people consume less high-impact stuff.

Try something new this year:

Promote (creative) reuse

  • Handmade gifts are meaningful and show your creativity.

  • Second-hand items usually have a memorable story of how they were found or discovered.

  • Use cloth bags instead of wrapping paper.

Celebrate community

Give a gift of an experience, like tickets to an event, a gift card to a restaurant or for a massage, and support Portland's arts, wellness and restaurant communities.

Start a new tradition with friends and find local holiday or volunteer activities to do together. The Oregon Food Bank and local shelters need extra help this time of year, or you could set up a blanket or coat drive.

Make sustainable food choices

Look on labels for food grown in Oregon and SW Washington and take advantage of the delicious food available locally: pears, apples, hazelnuts, and much more.

Think about packaging before you buy. Purchase food items (and gifts) with little to no packaging or packaging that's recyclable.

Food scraps in the landfill create methane. Now that Portland residents can add food scraps to their green compost roll cart, remember that even the turkey carcass, ham bone or seafood shells can be composted. Keep your kitchen pail nearby as you prepare food, and try putting your pail in a visible, accessible location during gatherings so guests remember to scrape their plates into it. Visit portlandcomposts.com for more composting tips.

Avoid disposable containers and utensils and instead use dishes, utensils, cups and serving dishes made of glass, metal or sturdy plastic that can be washed and reused year after year.

Invite friends and family to bring Tupperware or other reusable containers to gatherings and send them home with leftovers of their favorite dish.

Check out Be Resourceful for local ideas and additional resources.

Metro has resources on how to have a sustainable holiday.

Lane County, Oregon has tips for reducing waste during the holidays.

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