Repurpose this holiday season

60% off holiday decorations! How can you pass up those savings? But, if you’re like most of us, you already have an attic full of boxes of cards, lights, and ornaments. They might be worn but they still have life. Consider repurposing them into something new this holiday season. Don’t know where to begin? Here are some tips to get you started.

Holiday Cards

Many of us are guilty of keeping piles of holiday cards from loved ones. Too difficult to toss out warm wishes and photos of the family in matching outfits. Bring those memories out of the box and give them new life.

  • Coasters  Perfect for your ugly sweater party. Check out this great tutorial here.
  • Tree Garland  With a little rope and glue you can turn those cards into garland for your tree or mantel.  Here’s how.
  • Gift tags Personalize gifts with a handmade gift tag by following these simple instructions.  

Trees

Real or artificial, trees are an essential part of the holidays.  After presents are opened and ornaments packed away, what will you do with your tree?  Before you toss it to the curb, or buy a bigger, better version, consider one of the following.

Recycle Natural Trees Donate it to The Woodlands Township. The Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park will have a designated area in the parking lot to drop natural trees from December 26, 2019 through January 7, 2020. Donated trees will be ground into chips to help refurbish the forest floor. Trees must be completely clean before drop-off. Remove any tinsel, decorations or any other materials that would litter the forest floor. Flocked (white) natural trees and artificial trees will not be accepted.

Natural trees are also available for curbside pickup by Waste Management. Remove all decorations, lights and tree stands and place at the curb on your service day. Natural trees will be composted, just like your yard trimmings that get picked up every week.  If you have a flocked tree, please call 1-800-800-5804, at least two days before your service day to schedule a bulk pick up. Flocked trees must be landfilled. 

Or, check out these creative ways to use your tree year round.

  • Log Wreath Perfect for Fall. Cut your tree into thin wood slices and follow the tutorial here.
  • Branch Tree From the Queen of Craft herself, Martha Stewart shows you how to reuse branches to display ornaments beyond the life of your tree.
  • Bird Feeder Stick your tree in the ground or keep it in the stand. Decorate your tree with stale bread, pinecones rolled in peanut butter and bird seed, or strings of popcorn and cranberry seeds.

Repurpose Artificial Trees If you have a broken artificial tree or have upgraded to a bigger, better version don’t kick it to the curb without trying one of these simple crafts.

  • Garland with Lights With a little elbow grease, some ribbon and a strand of lights, your artificial tree will transform into beautiful garland to trim your doorway, mantel or windows.
  • Snowflakes It may not snow much around here, but this step-by-step guide will show you how to create a winter wonderland with your very own snowflakes using two branches from your artificial tree.
  • Holiday Swags Upcycle your artificial tree and create beautiful swags to hang around the house.  This video walks you through how easy it is to make these festive decorations.

Lights

It’s inevitable, you finally finish hanging all the lights, plug in the tree and nothing happens. Loose wiring? Broken bulb? Bad extension cord? Do you check each light, one by one, or just run to the store and buy more? If you find that you have accumulated a few years’ worth of lights, try some of these DIY projects and shine a light on the joys of upcycling this season.

  • If you’ve upgraded to LEDs and have a strand or two of the old incandescent lights, save those torpedo-shaped bulbs and turn them into glitter-adorned ornaments. Watch this video and don’t forget to recycle used ribbon to hang your new ornament from the tree.
  • Hula Hoop Chandelier Have you found yourself with too many strands of lights? Get creative and personalize your home with this handmade chandelier.
  • Light Repair Why not try to fix something before throwing it away? This article will help you get your lights back in working order.
Strands of lights are not recyclable through your curbside service but can be taken to Precinct 3 to be recycled

Many of these repurposed items also make wonderful gifts. So when you are cleaning out the garage, attic or storage unit, take some time and consider if you can turn old into new again and repurpose your holiday decorations.

Already a DIY’er? Leave a reply at the bottom of the page and let us know how you repurpose or recycle your holiday decorations.

Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap Guide

The best gifts come in sustainable packages!

Approximately 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year with 2.3 million pounds ending up in the landfill.

Holiday wrapping paper is often coated in plastic or foil causing it to be non-recyclable. If the wrapping paper is metallic, has glitter on it, or has a texture to it, it is not recyclable. Gift wrap mistakenly put in the recycling cart harms the value of other collected paper at the recycling center.

Beautiful paper like these: glitter, metallic, textured and reversible are NOT recyclable wrapping papers.

If it feels like plain paper, not slick or wax coated, or is made from recycled paper, then it’s a wrapping paper that can be recycled.  Another way to test recyclability is to crush the paper into a ball. If it stays bunched up, it is likely recyclable.

An eco-friendly gift is thoughtful for the recipient and the planet! Check out these tips for a greener holiday.

Reusable Gift Wrap and Recycled Paper

If the holiday rush has you hustling and there’s no time for crafting, consider purchasing a reusable alternative. Fabric gift wraps, nice tea towels, scarves and bandannas make excellent choices.

For wrapping boxes, try using found newspaper or purchasing wrapping paper made with recycled content.  Really get in to the recycling spirit with these two simple crafts and make your own gift box or hand-made bow this holiday season.


Shopping Bag Bow

Materials:

  • Paper – shopping bag, newspaper, etc.
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Double-sided tape

Instructions:

Cut your paper into nine strips, each ¾ of an inch wide. Next, measure and cut the length. You’ll need three strips that are 11” long, three strips that are 10” long, two strips that are 9” long and 1 strip that is 3 1/2” long.

Using one strip of paper at a time, twist each end toward the center until they meet in the middle and create a loop. Secure the ends in place with double-sided tape. Repeat with the remaining eight strips, with the exception of the 3 ½” inch strip; loop that one into a circle.

Start with the three longest strips of paper and begin stacking in descending order by size; largest on the bottom. Secure each loop in place with tape. Finish with the circle loop in the center. Attach your bow on top of your gift wrapped in recyclable paper.


Create a Gift Box

Turn any recycled card stock into a gift box. Find old record covers, cereal boxes, or old shipping boxes and make a custom box for a loved one.

Materials:

  • Card Stock
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Hot glue or double-sided tape

Instructions for an 8 inch square box:

Trim two pieces of card stock into a square that is 12″ wide and long.

For the top: Draw a line 2″ wide on each side. For the bottom: Draw a line 2 1/4″ wide on each side. Press firmly to score lines but not too hard or you might cut or tear the card stock. See image below.

Use scissors to lightly score along the lines

Cut alternating flaps as marked on the image below. Fold along all four scored lines on each piece of card stock. Use glue or tape to secure each corner flap inside the longer, side piece of the box. 

Use clothespins to secure corners while glue is drying

Once glue dries or the corners are secured with tape, you have a custom, upcycled box to fill with a special gift for friends, family or the holiday gift swap at the office.

Questions? Contact our staff at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

What do mosquitoes DO all winter?

If you have been following the Eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in the Northeast US, most of the news stories end with a statement such as “the first killing frost ends the adult mosquito season in any given area.” This is a completely valid assumption when you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing and stay there for weeks at a time.

However, to say that winter weather in our region can be variable is an understatement. While our recent cold front may have frozen some tender plants, it wasn’t enough to do much damage to our resident population of southern house mosquitoes, Culex quinquefasciatus.

A technician collects mosquitoes resting underneath a bridge

That’s because, as the days get shorter and temperatures and humidity drop, this last generation of female mosquitoes plump up internal fat reserves and find a nice sheltered spot to wait out the winter. Storm drains are a favorite haunt, along with garden sheds and rodent burrows.

The southern house mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, overwinters as an adult fed by fat reserves in her abdomen

Along with a thicker outer skeleton that resists drying and a metabolism slowed down like cold molasses, these mosquitoes enter a form of dormancy called diapause. This state of suspended development will last until the days lengthen and temperatures rise again – a relatively short window in SE Texas.

And that sheltered spot? When it warms up, storm drains do double duty as a breeding place for those overwintering mosquitoes. Excess irrigation and grass clippings keep drains perpetually moist and full of organic material. This creates the perfect breeding ground– read more about it here. Consider turning off your automatic sprinkler for the winter to avoid runoff (it’s also healthier for your lawn).

Mosquitoes shelter in storm drains over the winter, which become breeding grounds in the spring if kept wet by irrigation run-off

So how do mosquitoes survive where it is cold and below freezing? They do so as eggs, just like the invasive Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, that we have here. Based on seasonal cues, females will lay eggs with more fat to sustain the embryo, along with a thicker “coat” to keep eggs from drying out so they can survive the colder temperatures. These eggs are as big as a speck of dirt and almost impossible to differentiate with the naked eye. So, do yourself a favor and give those plant pots and other outdoor items a good scrub before storing them away for the winter. You’ll be rewarded with fewer mosquitoes when the weather warms.   


Questions? Comments? Contact enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Create Rich Compost Using Thanksgiving Kitchen Scraps

Give thanks for the piles of potato and apple peelings, egg shells, onion skins, coffee grounds and tea bags left over after a home-cooked holiday meal and create your own nutritious backyard compost in just a few easy steps. 

Compost offers an abundance of benefits to the home landscape, garden and container plants through:

  • Improved soil texture and aeration
  • Improved drainage and nutrient availability in clay soil
  • Water loss prevention and nutrient leaching in sandy soil
  • Less fertilizer required since compost helps soil hold moisture

Food is the largest single source of waste in the U.S., taking up 20% of our landfill space. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 6% of our food waste gets composted.

Good news, it’s easy to do something about this problem. Start this season by composting your holiday meal scraps.  Here’s how:

Follow these simple guidelines

What to compost

  • Egg shells
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags and leaves
  • Raw vegetable scraps/peelings
  • Raw vegetable cores
  • Fresh fruit peelings/rinds

What NOT to compost

  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Fish
  • Dairy Products
  • Grease
  • Cooking Oil

Animal by-products are not appropriate for home composting systems. As they decompose their odors may attract wildlife scavengers.  These items also require a lot more time to break down into components that are useful to plants.

Where to store your scraps

Most folks elect to save their compostable scraps in a bucket with a lid or a freezer quality zipper lock bag until they have enough to warrant a trip out to compost bin. Keeping the scraps sealed prevents any unpleasant odors.

How to compost

There are many ways to compost: bins, piles, barrels, enclosed, exposed and more.  Whatever your preference, a good starting point is to select an area for your compost that receives partial shade to keep from drying out too fast and good drainage to keep from being too wet. Compost needs a mix of organic material, microorganisms, air, water and nitrogen for decomposition to occur. The good news is that you have all these elements at home.  A good mix of kitchen scraps, dry leaves and garden clippings is a great place to begin. For more information on how to manage your compost throughout the year to produce the best material for your lawn and garden, check out this resource from The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services.

Setting up a home composting system is simple and easy.  The Woodlands Township’s Environmental Services Department offers home composting classes on the first Saturday of each month from November through March.  Classes are free!

High quality C. E. Shepherd compost bins are available for purchase at each class.  Our classes are taught in our outdoor composting classroom located at 8203 Millennium Forest, The Woodlands, TX 77381.  Class is from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. with optional hands-on opportunities immediately following the presentation.  Join us to learn more about turning kitchen scraps into compost and be sure to check out our website for more information.

Questions? Comments? Contact us at enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Residents Recycled MORE at 3R Bazaar

On Saturday, November 9, more than 800 residents enjoyed shopping local artists, free recycling, document shredding and learning about recycling at the 9th Annual 3R Bazaar! 3R Bazaar is a once a year recycling event with local resources available to educate on a number of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle as well as on-site recycling opportunities. Residents saved 13,817 lbs of material from the landfill by bringing hard to recycle items for free recycling. $1,485 and 850lbs of canned food items were collected from the document shredding service and donated to Interfaith of The Woodlands Food Pantry.

The 2019 Recycling Village Challenge item was batteries. The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N. will award scholarship funds to villages based on the amount of batteries they collected.

Save the date for the next 3R Bazaar on Saturday, November 14, 2020 and watch for the new Recycling Village Challenge item, to be announced in January. Batteries will not count towards the 2020 Village Challenge but will be accepted along with eyeglasses, textiles, oral care products and documents for shredding. In the meantime, batteries can be recycled at Precinct 3 Recycling Facility, Batteries Plus Bulbs, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s or a Walmart Super Center.

Residents are encouraged to think beyond the curbside cart and take advantage of the wide variety of local recycling opportunities. A complete list of participating locations and the items they accept can be found here.

For more information about recycling, please visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/recycling or contact the Township Environmental Services Department at 281-210-3800. The 3R Bazaar is a free program of The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department with sponsorship from Waste Management, Southern Shred, Gullo Dealerships, Woodlands Water and The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N.

Questions or Comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov