Celebrate Sustainably: Waste Reduction Tips

Holidays and special occasions present us with the opportunity to consider the many ways we can show our loved ones and our environment appreciation by generating less waste and recycling right when traveling, gifting, feasting, and tidying up.

When Traveling

  • Consider taking public transportation or carpooling with friends or relatives.

When Gifting

  • Words of Affirmation. Express your appreciation in a letter, poem, or song. Laugh over a singing telegram. Leave a personal note in the lunch tote. Send a curated playlist with songs that express how you feel or favorite songs that will send them on a happy stroll down memory lane.
  • Quality Time. Share laughs over a meal at a favorite local restaurant. Plan a road trip and pair it with a specially curated playlist. Plan to enjoy together or gift entry tickets to a theater production, a live music performance, a museum or art gallery, a comedy show, or time outdoors together. Learn a new skill and more about each other while taking a dancing, climbing, cooking, or scuba diving class or starting a vegetable or herb garden. Volunteer through an organization/cause you both care about like the local food pantry.
  • Acts of Service. Offer to house, baby, and/or pet sit so they can be free to relax and take care of their needs. Take on a task or project they have been putting off such as organizing the garage and gathering unwanted goods to donate at a local charity or through an online network such as Freecycle. Give a certificate for a house cleaning service or massage. Research and organize an itinerary for an upcoming trip they are going to take. Whip together a homemade meal (pro tip: compost the food scraps and any food-soiled paper in your green compost cart).
  • Greeting Cards. Digital cards and singing telegrams are fun and sustainable alternatives to traditional paper cards. However, if you plan to send a traditional greeting card, choose a simple paper card that is free of embellishments like glitter, foil, and other additions so it can be recycled. Who wants to be covered in glitter anyways? Additionally, opt for a paper card that contains post-consumer recycled content to support using paper recycled through the curbside recycle program and to reduce the demand for virgin wood and help build markets for recycled paper. If you receive a card with embellishments, keep this as a special memento or place this in your landfill (garbage) cart. Received a card that talks or sings? The tiny batteries that power these cards can ignite when compressed and cause sparks that result in a fire. Remove and properly recycle the battery – visit the Union City Electronic Waste & Battery Recycling page to learn how to safely recycle batteries.
  • Gift Wrapping. If you must “wrap” the gift, consider repurposed materials you may already have around the house or durable options they can reuse such as newspaper, fabric, glass jars/containers, or paper bags. Whether gifting with a paper bag or the traditional store-bought wrapping paper, opt for paper with post-consumer recycled content and be sure to skip the glitter, foil, and other embellishments to ensure the paper can be recycled. Save gift bags, ribbon, etc. for reuse.
  • Chocolates and Candy Treats.  Look for third-party certifications such as Fairtrade Certified or the Rainforest Alliance seal to help you choose ethically produced chocolate brands that address the socioeconomic and environmental issues throughout the supply chain. Consider reusable glass jars filled with dried fruit, nuts, or other sweet or savory treats from your local store’s bulk aisle especially when gifting a group of people. Remember that plastic wrappers in which many chocolate and other candy products are wrapped are not accepted in the curbside recycle program and should be placed in the landfill cart.
  • Flowers. Consider eco-friendly alternatives that last longer than traditional cut flowers such as a potted plant, hardy cacti or succulents, a hanging flower basket, a bonsai tree Mr. Miyagi would approve, a planter or mason jar of herbs for the avid chef, or a dried flower arrangement. If you receive traditional cut flowers, remember to place the plastic cellophane wrapper in the landfill cart. Learn how to preserve flowers by searching online or place wilted flowers in your green compost cart.  
  • Second-hand and Local Businesses. Shop at vintage and thrift stores, which support a “reduce and reuse” economy and are great places to find a new home for unique items. Alternatively, shop at a local business that focuses on sustainable goods to build up community connections and prioritize ethically made/sourced items.

Holiday Food Waste PreventionWhen Feasting

  • Buy Only What You Need. Before you head to the grocery store, “shop” your fridge, freezer, and cupboards for ingredients and then create a shopping list around what you have and the meals you plan to eat to avoid wasted food. Use this Guest-imator tool to estimate how much food you will need for your party.  
  • Store Foods Correctly. Use this Fruit & Veggie Storage Guide for easy storage tips for your produce. Understand how to stock your fridge to keep food fresh with this simple guide.
  • Reusable Party Kit. Consider starting a party kit that contains nice, reusable tableware like plates, bowls, cups, table linen, decorations and more. Share this concept and lend the kit within your business, school, community, or friend network so everyone can reduce the amount of disposable waste going to landfill on multiple occasions.
  • Food Scraps. Save vegetable tops/bottoms/skins/stems such as onion peels, carrot skins, and corn cobs in your freezer to make delicious veggie stock. Collect kitchen food scraps and grease- and food-soiled paper in the Food Scraps Kitchen Pail and empty this Kitchen Pail in your curbside compost cart. Residents can contact Tri-CED Community Recycling at 510.429.8030 to request a Food Scraps Kitchen Pail at no additional cost. Make indoor compost and recycle containers available and prominent for guests to use. Contact Republic Services at 510.657,3500 to request hardcopies of recycle, compost, and landfill posters or decals to remind everyone of what goes where.
  • Takeout Food. Ordering takeout food allows you to enjoy a convenient, restaurant-quality meal in the comfort of your home, but there is a lot of “stuff” to manage at the end. Store leftovers for a tasty snack the next day or compost food scraps. Clean and save plastic takeout containers and bags to send your guests off with leftovers the next time you host a party. When disposing packaging materials, show our environment love by only placing accepted materials in the recycle and compost carts. Look for the plastic resin number on the bottom of the plastic takeout container to understand if it is accepted in the curbside recycle program – recycle plastic containers labeled #1 and #2 and place unlabeled plastics or plastic containers labeled #3-7 in the landfill (garbage) cart if they cannot be reused. Place paper napkins and towels, wood chopsticks, and food-soiled paper containers such as a greasy pizza box in the green compost cart.

When Tidying Up

  • UC Recycles - RESource AppProper Sorting Makes a Difference. Know what is accepted in the Union City curbside collection program and only place  accepted materials in the carts. Refer to the Residential Services Guide and Multi-Family Services Guide to find out what goes where.
  • Repair and Reuse. Before disposing of unwanted items such as clothing, furniture, and toys that are still in good condition, consider repair and donation options by searching the StopWaste Re:Source Guide.
  • Holiday Trees. Remove decorations and stands from your natural holiday tree before composting. For Holiday Tree compost drop-off and curbside collection details, visit the Union City Holiday Service & Tree Collection page.
  • Bulky Item Collection Program. Single-family households are eligible to receive two (2) annual Bulky Item Collections at no additional cost to conveniently, safely, and responsibly manage items that are too large or bulky.  Set aside reusable and recyclable materials to ensure these are collected for reuse and recycling and not sent to the landfill. Contact Republic Services at 510.657.3500 to schedule your Bulky Item Collection. Multi-family residents must contact their property manager to arrange for a Bulky Item Collection for an additional fee. Alternatively, the Property Manager may request an open-top debris box for organized clean-up events for the associated container collection rate. Learn more about this program here