Children shout for joy after meeting Santa Claus at the 2019 holiday tree lighting.
Children shout for joy after meeting Santa Claus at the 2019 holiday tree lighting. (Photo Credit: Leader File photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

The past year has been a test of patience and resiliency for many families to include military families.

Between COVID-19 risk mitigations, teleworking, mission essential personnel and yes even murder hornets, many military families are happy to get back to a sense of normality and the return of holidays with public events again.

Another large change came with the swearing in of a new president and administration. President Joe Biden made many changes to include returning climate change to the forefront of public attention.

Recycling has become popular again more than ever. With the upcoming holiday season approaching, having a sustainable and fun holiday season is possible for busy military families with just a few small changes.

“There are many ways to reduce waste during the holidays,” said Barbara Williams, Fort Jackson’s Environmental Division chief. “Look at the trash cans on post. There are people throwing a lot of things away that should be recycled.”

According to a Stanford University study, Americans create an extra 25% of additional trash between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Many items that can’t be recycled include metallic wrapping paper, plastic ornaments, many fake Christmas trees and ribbons or bows to name a few.

A few simple ways to be more sustainable this holiday season is by purchasing rolls of butcher or craft paper to wrap presents. These rolls come in many colors and can be decorated with inkling stamps or by children’s drawings. Recyclable wrapping paper is also available, just check the label.

“For bigger presents that are hard to wrap you might want to skip wrapping completely,” Williams said. “You can make it a scavenger hunt by leaving clues. It’s good for big stuff like bicycles.”

Have a fake tree? By continuing to use one you already own helps the environment. Fresh cut trees are more sustainable than purchasing a fake tree and can be a fun event for the whole Family. Families can make a day of picking out the perfect tree for the season and are available locally in the Columbia area.

“If you can possibly get a tree with a root ball and plant it after you are done is best,” Williams said. “We have lots of options around here to shop locally for a tree.”

Every tree needs decorations and many Families have ornaments that are sentimental and used year after year. Almost all military families have experienced a few broken household items during a Permanent Change of Station move to include Christmas ornaments. Using a simple recipe of salt, flour and water, Families can make sustainable holiday ornaments and garlands that are unique to the hands that make them.

“Shipping right now is a real problem,” Williams said. “Many online orders end up getting split so you end up using a lot of fuel. I would say shop locally.”

Williams said by combining shopping trips into one outing will help save fuel costs and with the current supply chain shortages, shopping locally will ensure you get the goods you are looking for in enough time for Christmas Day. Shopping locally also helps support and improve the local economy.

Decorating your home and tree helps bring the holiday and cozy vibes. Many however, have strings of lights that just don’t work. Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo and Garden recently let the public know they will accept those strings of broken or non-LED lights and recycle them. Replacing incandescent lights with LED lights help save money on the monthly electricity bill and will last through many future holiday seasons.

“When people recycle, those items get turned back into useful items,” Williams said. “This means that we don’t have to strip mine the earth to make those products. It saves energy, resources and helps with climate change concerns. We are helping the earth combat climate change.”

For more information about local recycling programs, contact the Fort Jackson Recycling Center at 751-4208 or the Environmental Division at 751-6858.