Tips for Minimalist Gift Giving


The average consumer spends nearly $1,000 dollars on gifts over the winter holidays. Not surprisingly, the holidays also generate more waste than any other time of year — as much as six million extra tons.

Many families have grown tired of holiday gift giving, saying that it’s wasteful, stressful and insincere to shop for a sizeable gift pile each year. But is it really possible to celebrate the winter holidays without giving gifts? According to some, yes — shifting the focus away from presents actually makes the holidays more enjoyable. Instead of spending money on gifts that are forgotten in a few weeks and eventually end up in a landfill, more families are choosing to spend their time and money on valuable experiences.

Here are some ideas on how to cut back on gifting without cutting back on sharing joy, appreciation and quality time with your loved ones:

  • Eliminate gift giving for adults entirely, and allow only small, reasonable gifts for children.
  • Make sure any physical gifts are useful, whether that means school and art supplies or consumable items such as food.
  • Use gifts (or the holidays themselves) as an opportunity to create an experience, whether that’s a home-cooked meal, tickets to a special event, a hiking trip, traveling or some other form of quality time. Massages, heartfelt letters, craft projects and group adventures are also good ways to do this.
  • Consider giving back to your community. Instead of spending a day opening presents, why not volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen? If you have children, have them pick out old toys to give to families in need so they can make room for their new toys.

Inviting friends or family over?

When you call or write out invitations, try saying, “Your presence is your present; no additional gifts are needed.” Or you might try something along the lines of, “No gifts, please, but cards are welcome.”

If you feel too uncomfortable eliminating gift-giving entirely, establish a gift exchange. If each person only brings and receives one gift, not only does it reduce the number of gifts overall, but it also gives each person more time and energy to invest in making the gift thoughtful. This way, the focus is less on quantity and more on quality. A gift exchange can also move the spotlight away from presents all together and direct it towards the time spent together instead. For inspiration on how to plan your own gift exchange, check out Real Simple’s list of 28 gift exchange ideas.

What if I still need to buy gifts?

If you are going to buy gifts, consider these questions:

  • Why am I giving this particular gift?
  • What value will the recipient find in my gift?
  • Does the recipient need this gift?
  • Is there a way that I could make the gift more meaningful for both of us?

When you take the time to answer these questions, you will use gifts to connect to those around you instead of to keep up appearances.

Shopping for fewer physical gifts each year can save you from spending time stressing over the latest presents and help you cut back on excess waste. It can also give you more energy to spend creating priceless memories with your loved ones.

Notes From the Field: No Leaf Piles in City Streets


If you have 3 wheeled carts for trash, recycling, and green waste, you reside within City limits and cannot pile leaves into the street. Instead, you must bag your leaves.

The City of Stockton has some San Joaquin County pockets within City limits, such as this picture from W. Benjamin Holt Drive. County residents are allowed to pile leaves in the street, but city residents are prohibited from this practice.

Remember, during leaf season (Oct 1 – Dec 31), you can put up to 5 bags of leaves next to your green cart for service per week for free.

City Street Sweeping will not pick up piles of leaves. Please do not blow or rake leaves into the street!

Learn more about leaf collection in Stockton.

These Two Videos Will Change the Way You Look at Food


No country produces food as efficiently as the United States, yet ironically, no nation wastes as much food as we do. Approximately 40 percent of the food grown and raised in the U.S. is wasted each year — either rotting on the way from the farm to our kitchens or simply being tossed out by consumers.

Though the food waste issue is nothing new, these two short videos from Yale Environment 360 are. They’re called Wasted, and they investigate the problem and potential solutions of food waste from the perspective of two countries handling it very differently.

In the first Wasted video, we look at the country wasting the most food — the U.S. Visiting Washington, D.C., we follow waste along the city’s food chain, meeting the people and organizations who are working to reduce and repurpose it.

In the second Wasted video, we look at the country recycling the most food — South Korea. While the United States has taken relatively minor steps to combat food waste, Seoul, South Korea, is making great strides to curb it.

Inspired to take action after watching these videos? Check out these tips to reduce food waste in your daily life.

Stockton Green/Food Waste “Think Before You Toss” Pilot Program – FAQs

What is the Think Before You Toss Campaign?
It is a campaign to educate Stockton residents about what belongs in their Green/Food Waste carts. This pilot program will not impact all residents, only those on the selected pilot routes.

Why is the campaign needed?
People are using their Green/Food Waste carts for trash. Based on a recent content study, one Green/Food Waste truck had over 1,160 lbs. of trash mixed in the Green/Food Waste material.

What’s wrong with putting trash in Green/Food Waste carts?
In the Green/Food Waste cart trash like plastic bags, glass, garden hoses and plant containers get shredded and mixed into the green material for compost. These contaminants ruin the compost meant for farming and must be disposed of as trash.

Has outreach been provided to those on the pilot route?
Yes. In July, all City residents received an educational notice included in their invoices detailing the proper items to put in a Green/Food Waste cart. A week before the program begins, all customers on the pilot route will receive an educational Think Before You Toss postcard.

Before I get “tagged,” will I receive a warning first?
Yes, the week before the inspections begin each customer on the pilot route will receive on their Green/Food Waste cart a pre-inspection tag. This tag will inform the customer that inspections of the carts will begin the following week.

Inspections? Who is inspecting the carts?
The City of Stockton, Republic Services and Waste Management have partnered with the Greater Valley Conservation Corps to inspect the Green/Food Waste carts on the pilot route for obvious contamination. They will lift the lid, look at the contents and if they see anything in the cart other than grass, branches, plants & flowers, or food waste, the resident will get a tag notifying them of what was in their cart.

How long is this program and what days will the inspections occur?
The pilot program will occur over an eight-week period. The Greater Valley Conservation Corps will be inspecting the Waste Management routes on Thursdays.

I am a Republic Services Customer will I be affected by this Pilot Program?

No, not at this time.

Where are the Pilot Routes and how were they selected?
The pilot route was identified on the provided map and was selected based on average contamination rates from content studies provided by the processing locations and a comprehensive review of all green/food waste routes.

What can I do if I get a tag?
Take time to review the tag, refer to the Think Before You Toss mailer to see what belongs in the cart or visit to access recycling guides and other important recycling information.

How many times will my cart get tagged if I continue to put trash in my Green/Food Waste cart?
Three. For the first and second warnings, the Green/Food Waste cart will not be serviced. Customers will be offered the opportunity to call their service provider to schedule an extra trash pickup to empty the Green/Food Waste cart.
On the third incident, the service provider will remove the Green/Food Waste cart and the customer will be offered the opportunity to call their service provider to increase their trash container size.

Waste Management: (209) 946-5711

Can I get my Green/Food Waste cart back?
Yes. Following the completion of the pilot program, the customers that had their Green/Food waste cart removed will be contacted by the service provider’s customer service representatives to discuss and assess their service needs and will be provided with additional educational material on recycling.

How to Be Green This Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is around the corner, and we all know how labor-intensive preparing for the big day can be. What we’re not always as aware of is how much extra waste we tend to generate. According to the EPA, household waste in the U.S. increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. With their heightened activity, the holidays too easily become a time to think less and waste more. This Thanksgiving, try giving thanks for the environment by adopting some of these easy tips to green your holiday.

Reduce Waste From Packaging and Disposable Items

Remember to bring your reusable bags along when shopping, and choose products with minimal packaging, or packaging that can be recycled. It’s easier to avoid waste by shopping at farmers’ markets, from fresh produce sections and from bulk bins. Canned foods might save you a little time, but they’re less eco-friendly than fresh produce.

At home, skip the aluminum tray and invest in a roasting pan instead. A roasting pan will last for a long time, and the aluminum trays getting tossed around the nation add up quickly. Break out your reusable dishes and silverware for the holiday instead of serving on disposable plates. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins — you’ll add elegance and reduce waste at the same time. Opt for tap water over bottled water when serving beverages, and avoid plastic wrap when storing leftovers by using reusable containers or glass jars instead.

When preparing your decorations, use natural objects such as gourds or pinecones to brighten your space. You can also make your own eco-friendly decor by cutting shapes out of old wrapping paper or construction paper, or having kiddos make figurines from Baker’s clay and color them using non-toxic paint.

Reduce Food Waste

Food is traditionally the centerpiece of this holiday, but consider preparing less food this year, especially if you’ve never been short. Buy a smaller bird, or skip a couple of unpopular side dishes. You can also try serving food on smaller plates, so that people are more likely to finish what they take instead of tossing it in the trash once they’re full. Come up with a plan for your leftovers ahead of time — you can find a lot of creative ideas online, such as these from Taste of Home.

Think Local

Close to 50 million Americans travel 50 miles or more from their home on Thanksgiving. Reconsider your travel plans this year — see if you can stay close to home, carpool or celebrate with nearby friends or neighbors.

You can also shop for local, organic produce — from the bird you buy or the wine you bring, to farmer’s market produce or beeswax candles from a local boutique.

Reducing waste and recycling are important, but no matter how you choose to celebrate, remember to be thankful for who you’re with and all you have.

America Recycles Day


November 15th is America Recycles Day! Each year, this day offers an opportunity to remember why we recycle in the first place. Here are some great reasons:

  • Recycling reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators — by 34.6 percent nationwide, and by 44 percent in California.
  • Recycling has created a multibillion dollar industry that provides millions of Americans with well-paying jobs.
  • Recycling conserves natural resources such as trees, water, oil and metals.
  • Recycling reduces the need for new raw materials, thereby reducing pollution.
  • Recycling saves energy. We save the energy equivalent of the power that 14 million U.S. households would use in a year — that’s about 4.5 times the number of households in New York City.
  • Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions from landfills — the equivalent of removing about 13 percent of cars on the road in the U.S. for a year.

America Recycles Day is also the perfect time to get motivated about using less and recycling more. Need inspiration on where to start? Let us give you some ideas:

Happy recycling!