The ULS Report

Helping people Use Less Stuff by conserving
resources and reducing waste.

November-December 1996
Volume 3, Number 6


Thursday, November 21st is...

The Second Annual ULS Day

It's that time of year again, when the wrapping paper flows like water and mail carriers start to whine. While it's virtually impossible to look specifically at the Christmas season, annual trash from gift wrap and shopping bags totals about 4 million tons. Third class mail adds another 4.4 million tons to mail bags and, ultimately, to garbage bags. These items combined account for a bit over 4% of the total solid waste generated yearly in the United States.

Educating people about the need to fight waste and conserve resources is what ULS Day is all about. To get the message out and help people learn to reduce and reuse as well as to recycle, 100 organizations have signed on as ULS Day 1996 sponsors and participants:

ULS Day 1996 Participants




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Don't Let the Holidays
Go to Your Waste

We kick off the holidays with Thanksgiving dinner, which produces more edible food waste than any other meal of the year. The season ends with the fall of the ball in Times Square -- and with the 42 tons of confetti and other garbage left behind for the New York Department of Sanitation. Here's what you can do to help reduce the trash in your town:

Make a List and Check It Twice

  • Holiday cards bought in one year would fill a football field 10 stories high! If each of us sent out one fewer card, that huge mound would be reduced by a full story, saving over 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

  • Local postmasters tell us that up to 20% of all mail is incorrectly addressed or otherwise undeliverable. Save time, money and resources by updating and paring down your list.

  • Food for Thought

  • Over 100 pounds of food are wasted per person each year. Take smaller portions. You can always go back for more!

  • Plan meals wisely and buy based on the number of guests you expect.

  • Save energy by cooking multiple items in the same oven. (Check to make sure that they should cook at about the same temperature.)

  • Buy fresh foods carefully, not just because they are cheap or on sale. Research shows that cheaper foods are wasted at a higher rate than more expensive items.

  • Give extra food to guests in plastic containers. Donate what's left to local food banks.

  • Home for the Holidays

  • Having a party? Turn down the heat before guests arrive. Their extra body heat will help warm the room.

  • Going to a formal occasion? Consider renting, rather than buying, a gown or tux.

  • Turn your fireplace into a furnace by using a heat exchanger. Glass doors will further improve efficiency, as will a flue that's open just enough to provide a draft without creating indoor smoke.

  • 50 million Christmas trees are purchased each year in the U.S. Consider a potted tree that can be planted in the yard, or an artificial one.

  • Buy outdoor light strands that are wired in parallel. If one bulb burns out, the rest stay lit. Also, make sure you re-box lights after the season, or use old newspaper as a spool and wind the strands around it. Either way, lights won't get tangled, so you won't end up buying more.

  • Make your own wreaths out of natural materials such as branches, dried flowers, herbs, red and green chilies, etc. They make great gifts, too.

  • Gift Giving Guidelines

  • Use the comics instead of gift wrap -- If we each wrap only 3 gifts in reused paper, we'd save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields!

  • Shop early, while you have time to make careful choices. Last minute spending often leads to panic buying, which leads to unwanted gifts.

  • Give gifts of yourself -- offer to baby-sit, wash the car, do the dishes, run errands, etc.

  • Don't know what to give? Make charitable donations. Consider gift certificates, so people can choose for themselves.

  • Plan trips in advance and consolidate, especially when going to the post office. Mail everything at once and save time, aggravation and energy.

  • Shop at antique stores, holiday bazaars and thrift shops. Someone's trash may be someone else's treasure.

  • Consolidate purchases into one bag. Better yet, bring along a few from home and reuse them.

  • Reuse packaging cartons and shippings materials. Old newspaper makes for excellent packing, too. Shred some at work and bring it home, if you can.

  • Save fancier bags and use them as gift wrap.

  • Paper grocery bags can be used to wrap small to medium sized packages for mailing.

  • Save Your Energy

  • A turnback thermometer, which automatically turns the heat down at night and up in the morning, can reduce energy costs by up to 12%.

  • Shop from home -- electronically or through catalogs.

  • Walk to local parties, or carpool if you have to drive.

  • Run appliances such as the dishwasher, washing machine or dryer only when full.

  • Let meats defrost to room temperature. They'll cook faster, save energy, and taste better, too.

  • Spreading Holiday Cheer

  • Donate unwanted gifts to charity.

  • Reduce the number of cards you send by sending e-mail or calling those casual business acquaintances.

  • Try sending holiday postcards, which will save on paper, envelopes and postage.

  • Donate those cosmetic "free gifts with purchase" to a women's shelter.

  • Creating Memories

  • Remember to bring your camera to capture holiday memories. Disposable cameras may be convenient, but they can also be wasteful.

  • Buy "faster" film such as 400 or 800. This will reduce the use of the flash and save energy.

  • Buy larger size rolls of film. Versus three rolls of 12, one roll of 36 reduces waste by 67% and saves you about $4.

  • Use rechargeable batteries.

  • Reuse video tapes instead of buying new ones.
  • Give family photos as gifts. A picture costs little to take, but the joy it can bring may be priceless.

  • Have a Happy, Healthy and Resource-full Holiday Season!

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    Have a Merry Xmas
    with as Little X-mess as Possible!

    Happy Holidays from Dr. William L. Rathje

    Archaeologist, Garbologist and Artist Extraordinaire

    What you see... ............................................................................. ...What you get


    Reduction RoundupTM

    Reuse, not Refuse. The Detroit Institute of Arts is hosting an exihibit entitled Re(f)use: Good Everyday Design. The show features 100 common products that celebrate the success of recycling and the power of design. Items include chairs made from old newsprint, necklaces from used inner tubes, stationery from obsolete maps, carpeting from soda bottles, and benches from milk jugs. Call Marci Rivers (313-833-9769) for details.

    The Green Team. The Alliance for Environmental Innovation (AEI) and S.C. Johnson & Son are teaming up to develop a range of new approaches that will improve the environmental efficacy of S.C. Johnson's products and packaging. The company makes a variety of household products including Raid, Pledge and Johnson's Wax. AEI is a project of the Environmental Defense Fund and Pew Charitable Trusts. Call 617-723-2996 for more info.

    Coal Goal. Recognizing that coal accounts for 95% of its growing power needs, China has announced plans to develop cleaner-burning fuels that can bring emissions down to near-international standards.

    Hanging it Up. Sears is starting two reuse and recycling programs designed to save money and landfill space. The programs will reuse or recycle plastic hangers and garment bag film. Hangers and bags will be sent to a central processing facility for immediate reuse or recycling back into similar items.

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    Special Thanks...

    We would like to acknowledge the following groups for providing ULS Day holiday tip information:

    The ULS Report is a bi-monthly publication of Partners for Environmental Progress. Send e-mail to

    Snail mail address: P.O. Box 130116, Ann Arbor, MI 48113
    Phone: 313-668-1690
    Fax: 313-930-0506

    Editor: Robert Lilienfeld
    Technical Advisor: Dr. William Rathje
    Editorial Advisor: Tony Kingsbury

    The ULS Report is free. We do accept contributions of up to $5.00 to help cover the costs of production and distribution.

    We encourage you to reuse and recycle our information. Since The ULS Report, Use Less Stuff, Reduction Roundup and the ULS logo are trademarks of Partners for Environmental Progress, please contact us prior to reprinting.

    Copyright 1996 Partners for Environmental Progress

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