With the holiday season upon us, the three R’s of protecting the environment – reducing, reusing and recycling – should always be on the top of everyone’s list while shopping for gifts and planning end of the year festivities.
In an effort to help residents keep carbon footprints to a minimum, Montgomery County’s Department of Environmental Protection is again encouraging holiday shoppers to consider the planet when sending holiday cheer with the “Gift Outside the Box” campaign.
The Campaign encourages folks to donate to local charities and buy local (by looking for the “MoCo Made” labels) as well as giving experiences (like events or services) and “green” gifts (like reusable water bottles) and minimizing wrapping, the initiative aims to inspire county residents to give differently during the season.
This year, the program kicked off on November 15 to coincide with America Recycles Day – a day designed to help people commit to being better environmental stewards by pledging to use more repurposed and recycled products. In keeping with the conservation and protection themes, the “Gift Outside the Box” opening ceremony was held at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Rockville.
“Everybody knows Habitat for Humanity does great work out in the community, providing affordable housing and being an important part of the safety net,” County Department of Environmental director Adam Ortiz said during the event. “But not everybody knows that they have a retail component where they provide affordable furnishings.”
ReStore locations (the other is in Silver Spring) help keep home furnishings out of landfills by restoring and repurposing donated items which many people stop in to see, buy and gift for the holidays. According to Nancy Coufos, Director of Habitat for Humanity ReStore Operations in Rockville and Silver Spring, ReStore wholeheartedly believes in recycling because it is what the store represents.
“A lady came in today to pick up a present she had bought for her daughter – a dresser. We see that all the time,” Coufos said. “Some of the items we have here are new, but the majority of what we sell has been donated. It’s more about what the gift is than is it new or is it used.”
Understandably, the winter hustle and bustle can make thinking of the environment a bit tougher, but according to Eileen Kao of the County’s DEP Waste Reduction and Recycling, there are more than a few things you can do to be a bit more earth-friendly.
“Bring your reusable bags with you when you go holiday shopping and give gifts that don’t create any additional waste,” she said. “We [all] generate waste such as sales catalogs, bottles, cans and all the containers we use when cooking and entertaining, so please remember to recycle and recycle right.”
Last year on America Recycles Day, 12,000 people pledged to make more earnest efforts to be nicer to the environment. This year, that number climbed to over 82,000.
“Every action that we take – especially consumer decisions – have an impact on the environment, so with this campaign, we want people to be mindful that when they’re giving this holiday season, that they do so in a way that also gives back to the environment,” Ortiz says.
To see what Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations have in store, log onto https://www.habitatmm.org/habitat-for-humanity-restore-store.
Interested in pledging to be a better recycler? Log onto https://americarecyclesday.org/pledge/
For more ways to make your holidays a little greener, log onto MontgomeryCountyMD.gov/GiftGreener.
By Kimberly and Felicia Hodges