Earth-friendly holiday ideas

By Steve Rypkema
Director, Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department

OREGON, Illinois — The Christmas season is a time of the year when the tradition of gift giving and receiving can have a positive impact on our spirits and the local economy. It is also a time when we generate a lot more waste than we normally do.

The Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department encourages the following ideas for reducing waste and your impact on the environment, while still enjoying the spirit of Christmas:

1. Consider gifts that support reuse, like local nonprofit thrift stores or antique shops. Check out fair-trade stores, where many of the products are made from natural or recycled materials, and the proceeds more directly benefit the people who produce the products.

2. Limit the number of gifts you buy and consider grab bags, white elephant, or other ideas where secondhand gifts can be exchanged.

3. Shop locally when possible, and remember to use reusable bags while shopping for groceries and holiday gifts. If you shop online, choose a vendor as close to your location as possible, thereby reducing fuel consumption and pollution from shipping the product.

4. Make your own gifts or baked goods, or give the gift of your time with a loved one, local nursing home, food pantry or other charity.

5. Reuse wrapping paper, bags and boxes or use newspaper, or no wrap at all. Table cloths or bed sheets can be used for larger gifts for a waste-free wrap. Try to do without the boxes that stores give out with the purchase of clothing. They are short-lived, require more wrapping paper, and quickly end up in the recycling bin. Instead, tightly fold or roll clothing so less wrapping paper will be needed.

6. Consider electronic or postcard greeting cards, thereby reducing paper waste and postage costs.

7. If you decorate your house with lights, consider light-emitting diode (LED) holiday light options. They consume about one-tenth of the energy of conventional lights and produce less heat. Energy- or water-saving products like LED or CFL light bulbs, water-conserving shower heads or faucet aerators or insulation and weather stripping can also make great gifts that continue to benefit the recipient and environment for years to come.

8. When planning holiday meals, consider locally grown and organic foods, which have less of an impact on the environment. Avoid disposable dinner ware and utensils. Cloth napkins and dishrags can further reduce paper towel and napkin waste.

9. Recycle as much of your holiday waste as possible. If you have curbside recycling and your bins are overflowing, use a tote or extra garbage can for recyclables and set it out with your other recycling containers. You can recycle wrapping paper, but do not include plastic bags, bows or ribbons.

10. For those without curbside recycling, consider using the Ogle County drop-off recycling stations in Byron, Forreston, Monroe Center, Oregon and Rochelle. For Polo-area residents, a recycling container provided by Moring Disposal is at Franklin and Locust streets. A container provided by Advanced Disposal Service is at the Orchard Hills Landfill in Davis Junction. Keep in mind that the recycling containers fill up quickly this time of year, so flattening all boxes and plastic containers is required. No Styrofoam or plastic bags, bows or ribbons permitted.

11. If you purchase a live-cut Christmas tree, get one locally grown. There are several tree farms in the area, and buying from them supports the local economy and reduces your environmental impact compared with trees trucked in from other states. After the holiday, recycle your live Christmas tree at the following locations until Jan. 18, 2015. Please remove all decorations, lights and tinsel, no plastic bags:

• Byron: Illinois Route 2 and South Peru Street;

• Forreston: 407 N. Locust St.;

• Leaf River: 208 W. Railroad St.;

• Monroe Center: Lichty’s Landscaping, 309 Pacific St.;

• Oregon: Park District Maintenance Department, Hill Street;

• Polo: 410 N. Prairie Ave.; and

• Rochelle: Atwood Park, 10th Avenue and 20th Street;

Curbside collection of Christmas trees for recycling will be done by FFA groups Jan. 10 in Mt. Morris, Oregon, Byron, Polo, Adeline, German Valley and Forreston. Trees will be collected at the curb in Rochelle by the Rochelle Street Department Jan. 2-18, 2015.

12. Recycle broken holiday lights and extension cords until Jan. 31, 2015, at fire stations in Byron, Mt. Morris, Rochelle and Stillman Valley, at the Ogle County Courthouse or Solid Waste Management Department, and at the village/city halls of Polo, Forreston or Davis Junction.

13. If you have old TVs, computers or other electronics to get rid of, please note that most consumer electronics have been banned from landfills in Illinois, so you can’t throw them out with your regular trash. Some electronics can be recycled at Secure Recycling Services in Dixon, Best Buy stores or Staples stores.

The Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department offers a monthly electronics recycling collection for Ogle County residents on the last Friday of each month from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at their location, 909 W. Pines Road, in Oregon. Contact them for more details, fees and restrictions.

If you live in Rochelle, the city offers a curbside electronics recycling program for residents for a fee. Contact the Rochelle City Hall or the RMU Customer Service (815-562-4155) for details.

With a little effort, you can make your holidays meaningful and earth friendly!

For more information, call the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department at (815) 732-4020 or visit www.oglecounty.org.

From the Dec. 17-23, 2014, issue

Share this story