Environmental Services
600 East 4th Street
Chaska, MN  55318
(952) 361-1800

Environmental Center
116 Peavey Circle
Chaska, MN  55318
(952) 361-1835

Holiday Waste

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It’s snowing in Carver County and “holiday season” has begun. Time to share with family and friends often becomes lots of time shopping, parties and gatherings, food preparation—and stress. Are you feeling “holidazed”? Do you find yourself wondering how the season passes by so quickly? This year, instead of the hustle and bustle of the mall, maybe it’s time for a new tradition—a no-waste holiday season.

On an average day, a typical Minnesotan creates roughly six pounds of waste. But from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons—it all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to the nation’s garbage piles.

And it’s not just trash. The average American spends $800 on gifts over the holiday season. Think about your time and energy spent driving all around town looking at so much stuff. It’s no wonder that so many people get stressed out during the holidays!

In the spirit of giving, we’ve gathered some holiday gift ideas that create less waste and more memories.

Volunteer and Donate

Giving your time and/or money to worthy causes not only helps your community but gives you a sense of contribution and involvement that is hard to quantify.


Start a new tradition—pick one night a month that your family will donate time at a local shelter handing out food. It is important for children to help others. Studies show that people who help others are healthier and happier.

Children who volunteer enhance their self-esteem as they learn new skills and make new friends. They see themselves as kind people capable of making a difference, and they learn to live a more hopeful life. Volunteer activities help build character and teach social responsibility, greater empathy and compassion. Teach that who you are is more important that what you have.

“Volunteer Coupons”: Gift-giving ideas for children

Children want to give their family gifts, too, but limited budgets often make purchases difficult. Let them know that what you really want does not have to come from a store—their time is even more valuable. Maybe helping shovel snow this winter, or vacuuming the house is really the present you are looking for.

Coupon Ideas
• Walking the dog after school each day for a period of time.
• Cooking some meals, or offering to help shop and clean up.
• Watching younger brother or sister.
• Commit to extra chores: Housecleaning, shoveling, lawn mowing.
• Make a book of family recipes.
• Putting together a scrap book or family tree.
• Hugs and kisses.

Charitable Donations

The holidays are a great time to make donations to local charities and non-profit organizations. You can donate warm clothes, food and/or money. Most charities have their own “wish list”: they can tell you what they need the most.

If you are giving a monetary donation, you could make the donation in the name of someone else — a kind of double-gift. Many people feel good knowing that they are helping out someone during the holidays.

Learn about local organizations at the web site of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits:

Give An Experience 

Here’s an idea for giving without all of the wrapping: Give an experience. A gift certificate might be just the thing for someone who would like to begin a new hobby or polish the skills they have already learned.

A lot of people would like to try new things, but won’t spend the money on themselves. Do you have a brother that has been dying to learn how to play the guitar but has just never signed up for the lessons? A father that loves to play golf but may need a few more lessons?

Gift Certificate Ideas
• Candlelit dinner
• Music lessons
• Language lessons
• Lessons in baking or a hobby or craft
• Sports instruction: How about a golf lesson?
• A trip to the nearest state park
• Tickets to a play or concert


Practical Gifts

An experience can also be something that you do for someone. Perhaps you can whip up a gourmet meal or teach someone the secrets behind your special talents. It can be very thoughtful when you see a need and take the time to see that it’s filled. Giving a gift certificate for bike repair to someone who bikes a lot encourages a non-polluting way to travel. Or, how about giving gift certificates for balancing and rotating your car tires or for oil changes to keep a car as efficient as possible? You could also offer to repair or do work for someone who can’t do it himself or herself.

"Eco-friendly" Gifts

If you are looking for something to wrap up for the holidays, there are products that go easy on our planet. Products with little or no packaging, products made from natural ingredients, and products that are made with little or no pollution are all examples of eco-friendly products.

Carver County Parks annual permit
Minnesota State Parks annual permit
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum membership
Minnesota Zoo annual pass
Minnesota DNR Hunting and fishing licenses
Science Museum of Minnesota membership
Minnesota Children’s Museum membership
• Fitness and community center membership
Compost bin or rain barrel
• Plants or seeds with pots
• Bird feeder and seeds

Invest In Your Family

Toys break, clothes are outgrown, and cash is often frittered away. Instead of trinkets today, perhaps you want to help a child plan for the future? There are lots of investment options for those wanting to contribute to a college savings fund. Each plan has its advantages and disadvantages and you need to decide which option makes sense for your family and financial situation.

A 529 Plan is a state-operated investment plan designed to help families save for future college costs. Under Minnesota’s 529 program, the Minnesota College Savings Plan, investment earnings are tax deferred by the federal government and state of Minnesota through tax year 2001. As of January 1, 2002, investment earnings on contributions will be exempt from federal and state taxes if used for qualified higher education expenses. Learn more at

Click on to learn more about 529 plans and how they might offer a great opportunity to save for your family’s college education expenses.

U.S. Savings Bonds are long-time favorites for gift-giving. You can give a gift today that will be worth more in the future. Plus, this risk-free investment is a way to invest in the nation. Learn more about your options at

Contribute to or start an Education IRA. Find out more about Education IRAs from an investment broker or financial planner.

Use Earth-friendly Gift Wrapping

Ideas include:
• Scarves, handkerchiefs, and bandannas
• Old posters and maps

• Newspapers (the comic sections works great)
• Reusable decorative bags
• A present in a present (example, cookies in a reusable tin, kitchen gifts in towels, etc.)
• Wrapping paper made from recycled paper

Recycle Your Christmas Tree & Holiday Lights

Carver County provides a number of resources for residents to recycle their real Christmas tree at no cost! Find these resources on the Christmas Tree page. Holiday lights can be dropped off at NO CHARGE at the Environmental Center.