By Laura Turner Seydel

As we deck the walls with twinkle lights, wrap oodles of presents, and plan our festive holiday parties, it is important that we are conscious of our impact on our planet during these merry times. Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans throw away an extra million tons of garbage each week?

Get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions by pledging to do you part to keep our landfills free of extra refuse by reducing, reusing and recycling as much holiday merriment as possible to ensure many happy holidays to come.

On average, each holiday season we dispose of 8,000 tons of wrapping paper, 38,00 miles of ribbon and almost 2 billion greeting cards. Kick off your eco-holiday by prepping your home with a herbie curbie sized recycling bin to recycle these items, as well as the bottles, cans, corrugated cardboard and other recyclable items that are bound to accumulate (for a list of approved items or to get a recycling bin, visit atlantaga.gov).

You can also cut back on wrapping waste by getting creative. Around our house we love wrapping presents with the comic section of the newspaper, pages from magazines and even old maps from past road trips.  We also save holiday greeting cards and “upcycle” them to become tags for our gifts. And why not make the packaging part of the gift? Wrap presents with a colorful scarf, holiday sweater or a cool keepsake cigar box.

Another big landfill culprit is food waste, as each holiday season 28 billion pounds of edible food are thrown away (that’s 100 pounds per person!).  Reduce this number by donating leftover holiday meals and food items to a local soup kitchen or adding them to your compost bin (if you don’t already have one, you can get one from Farmer D at farmerd.com). By composting food residuals, including used coffee grounds and flowers, not only will you be helping our landfills, but also creating nutrient rich compost, which you can later use in your flower or edible garden.

Recycling efforts shouldn’t end after you have decked the halls, trimmed the tree and taken down the LED twinkle lights (they use 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent lights!).  In Atlanta there are many options to recycle your Christmas tree, old batteries and broken strand lights. At Earth 911 (earth911.org) you can search for drop off locations.

This year, create traditions that incorporate these eco-friendly practices so that each year you and your family can do your part to keep the planet healthy and happy!

For more eco-living tips, visit lauraseydel.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.