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Recycling: Enter the "Use Less Stuff Contest"!


Use Less Stuff Day (November 20) coincides with the holiday season -- that time of year when Americans produce more trash than at any other time!
Included -- news of a recycling-idea contest for students ages 6 to 12.

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The last thing we want to think about while we deck the halls is holiday clutter, but did you know... Each year between Thanksgiving and New Year's Americans increase their trash by approximately 25 percent, or an extra million tons per week!

And did you know...?
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.
In 1991, the average household received 142 mail order catalogs.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans send out more than 2.3 billion cards. Laid end to end, that's almost 26,000 miles of cards, enough to circle the Earth and then some.


On November 20, 1997, the Thursday before Thanksgiving, The ULS Report, along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Keep America Beautiful, Inc., and a diverse group of more than 250 other government, education, business, and community organizations, will kick of the Third Annual ULS (Use Less Stuff) Day.

To celebrate ULS Day, a new feature has been added this year -- a Use Less Stuff Contest for school children ages 6 to 12. Students nationwide will be challenged to think of innovative ways to reduce waste at home, in school, or within the community. Prizes include a new bicycle for the grand prize winner, and in-line skates, courtesy of Rollerblade, Inc., for the finalists. (In the spirit of using less stuff, a bicycle and in-line skates have been selected because they are energy-efficient alternative modes of transportation!)

Each participating student between the ages of 6 and 12 submits a ULS idea on a contest entry form (see contest rules for details) and submits that entry to The Use Less Stuff Contest, P.O. Box 130116, Ann Arbor, MI 48113. One entry per student. The contest begins on ULS Day, November 20th, 1997; all entries must be received by February 1, 1998. A panel assembled by The ULS Report will judge entries on the basis of originality, practicality, and waste-saving potential. Five regional finalists will be announced on March 1, 1998. The national ULS Contest winner will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 1998.


To help kids and their parents get the most from holiday shopping while using less, this year The ULS Report will issue The ULS Yuletide Guide: Tips and Gifts To Get More From Less. Free to consumers, the guide offers tips, surprising facts about holiday trash, and great gift ideas. Tips include:

  • Make your own personalized, festive gift wrap using materials you already have around the house: the comics for kids or the financial section for your favorite banker; fancy shopping bags; material scraps, etc.
  • Plan ahead. And consolidate your shopping trips. Having a list and spending fewer hours driving to malls and shopping centers (and trying to find a parking place) means less wasted gas, time and stress.
  • One of the best ways to save film -- and holiday memories -- is to write legibly. Each year Kodak disposes of 400,000 rolls of film due to illegible return addresses.
  • Calling the 800 numbers and canceling 10 mail-order catalogues you don't want will reduce your trash by 3.5 pounds per year. (If everybody did this, the stack of canceled catalogues would be 2,000 miles high.)
  • Keep it simple -- less can be more. Think carefully about what gifts friends and family really need and want. One thoughtful gift may be better than six wrapped packages of unwanted gifts.

This year, ULS day shares November 20th with a reduction crusade of a different sort: The Great American Smokeout. Although we will leave it to others to point out the health benefits of reducing smoking, we would like to remind the public that "Butt Reduction" has other benefits. In the U.S. each year, approximately 24 billion empty cigarette packs end up in the garbage, and cigarettes represent roughly 20 percent of litter on roads and beaches, by far the single largest source of litter.

For more information on the Use Less Stuff Contest or for a free copy of the ULS Yuletide Guide, check out the ULS Web site or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to The ULS Report, P.O. Box 130116, Ann Arbor, MI 48113.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1997, 2005 Education World

Updated 07/19/2005