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How you can reduce waste this holiday season

OCRRA is encouraging people to reuse gift bags and bows this holiday season to reduce waste.
Jessica Cain
OCRRA is encouraging people to reuse gift bags and bows this holiday season to reduce waste.

The Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency, or OCRRA, is getting the word out ahead of the holidays to let everyone know you can celebrate without putting more “stuff” into circulation.

Tammy Palmer, the public information officer for OCRRA, said for many years, people thought the answer to reducing waste was recycling. But in reality, the answer is not producing it to begin with.

"We produce so much more waste than our grandparents did, and the trajectory for the amount of waste we produce is just continuing to rise, so reducing waste is always the priority," Palmer said.

Palmer said before you shop for a whole new cart of wrapping materials, take a look at what you already own. If gift bags, tissue paper, and bows are still in good condition, use them again.

"I have a little supply in my closet, and every time I have to give out a gift, I don't have to go to the store. Because I go into my closet, and I get a gift bag that I reuse and stuff with reused tissue paper, reused bows, and reused ribbons."

On the other hand, you might not need gift bags at all. Palmer said to avoid adding more items to the environment, consider getting friends and family experience gifts instead of store-bought.

"If you know someone who loves cooking, you can give them cooking lessons with a chef,” she said. “If you know someone who loves dancing, you can give them dance lessons. There are great concerts coming up in Onondaga County. Everybody wants to go. Maybe you can make it possible for someone. Experiences are so touching, and you can even do these things with your loved one."

If you do want to shop for physical items, consider shopping local. Palmer said that will help cut down on waste generated from shipping containers.

“If you look at how many packaging materials are used for shipping, it’s a lot. So, if you buy local, you eliminate a lot of that extra material that’s used for shipping and packing and protecting.”

For holiday parties that are a little greener, OCRRA recommends skipping disposable plates, cups, and utensils. You could also encourage your guests to bring their own containers to take home those delicious holiday leftovers.

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.