FARMINGTON — Local organizations want San Juan County to help make the holidays as green as can be this year.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the holidays make monthly household waste jump by 25 percent.
All those half-eaten plates of food and mountains of plastic, paper, and ribbon-wrapped gift detritus scattered across the living room floor add up.
And of the 50 million trees sold each year, 30 million end up in landfills.
The New Mexico Recycling Coalition wants to make reducing waste easier. The nonprofit's "Greening the Holidays" campaign wants to underscore the ease and benefits of reducing waste over the holidays.
It has a simple list of steps the average resident can take to reduce waste in creative ways.
The organization wants to take the practice of giving and receiving gifts out of the box.
Whether regifting an unwanted gift to someone who may actually enjoy it to making gifts memorable experiences like movie nights or out-of-doors activities, the green group offers a plethora or possibilities to invigorate seasonal practices that cut down on waste.
View the full list at recyclenewmexico.com/holidays.htm.
Despite the daunting statistics, the coalition wants to spread the word that green-based holiday practices are possible anywhere.
"The idea that rural or smaller communities don't have effective recycling programs is simply not true," said Jessi Just, a community recycling-outreach specialist for the coalition. "What keeps programs going is participation, especially out of the gate."
This week, some local programs aim to inspire such participation.
Farmington Clean and Beautiful, part of the Parks, Recreation, & Cultural Affairs Department, begins its fifth annual Christmas tree recycling program tomorrow.
Residents can take their trees - with all tinsel or decorations removed - and drop them off at Berg Park, on San Juan Boulevard, in the dirt lot behind Washington Federal bank, and at Fire Department Station 5, on 30th near Butler Ave.
Trees will be collected during daylight hours at both locations until Sunday, Jan. 6.
"We grind the trees on site and make bark mulch for our 55 parks," said Debbie Homer, coordinator for Farmington Clean and Beautiful. "What would otherwise turn into trash becomes a resource that helps keep our city parks looking great."
Waste Management will accept recycling items at its Farmington facility.
Acceptable holiday items include greeting cards, shopping catalogs, wrapping paper, cardboard tubes and boxes.
Of course, no-waste gifts like potted plants or music lessons help lighten the landfill-bound load, said Janette Coates, Waste Management of New Mexico communications specialist.
"We can all save money and time and reduce our impact on the environment by looking for more creative, sustainable gift options," she said. "Whether it's buying products made from organic or recycled content or giving the gift of time to a favorite charity or recycling your Christmas tree through the City of Farmington, if each of us tried a few waste-reduction efforts, we would see a significant positive impact during the holiday season."
And don't forget those endless strings of lights that can short out and too easily end up buried in a box in the garage - or worse, in the trash.
Ace Hardware, 3030 E. Main Street, and Kroeger's Ace store in Durango are participating in the Lights for Life program to both help the environment and fight cancer.
The stores are collecting old or broken strings of lights until Feb. 15. The lights, which contain copper, are recycled and the proceeds donated to the cancer-fighting charity. For more information, go to lightsforlifeinc.com.
And then there's cardboard.
Encouraged by the turnout from celebrating America Recycles Day, Aztec Ruins will hold two "Holiday Cardboard Collection" events on Thursday and Saturday this week.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rangers will be collecting post-holiday cardboard near the entrance to the Visitor Center at the national monument.
"These two events are part of our park's ongoing "Go Green' initiative," Park Guide Shiana Montanari said. "At no cost, we will take your broken-down boxes and take them to either Aztec or Farmington recycling centers for you."