The holidays prove that we have a throwaway culture. From wrapping paper and greeting cards to tree tinsel and burnt out string lights, we are destined to toss it away and just buy new disposable items. Stores make this cycle all too easy, even on the wallet. Although the most trash is considered to be generated between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we can move into the new year with better awareness of our actions and hopefully do more to make a greener change in our lives.

As I reflect on the top green trends of 2012, I feel that this past year has been a transitional time for the green movement. Awareness and education are what will encourage real behavior change, but the economy, convenience and daily living also play into our roles as we try to live greener. We are at a point that the green movement is not just about recycling your papers, cans and bottles or taking your reusable bags to the store. We have an opportunity to step it up and prove to others that we are not behind in the green lifestyle.

Second-hand sales are on the rise and in the last year, consignment, thrift and resale shops have grown at least 7 percent, according to the NARTS, the Association of Resale Professionals. I personally can attest to this rise because I shop at second-hand stores for myself and my daughter. Recently, I spent a scant $26 at the Goodwill in Conway for 10 articles of clothing for my daughter, including skirts, shirts and dresses. Most of these clothes still had the tags on them. I also have lucked out at Rug Rats on S.C. 544 for my maternity clothes during these last eight months. And one of my favorite stores, the Recycled Rooster, has an amazing selection of women’s clothes, especially jeans, shoes and accessories. Our area has no shortage of second-hand stores and whether it be slimmer wallets or just the fascination in finding treasures, these stores are definitely worth the visit. Other people still find their treasures on eBay, Craigs List and some groups on Facebook.

Onto transportation….during 2012 the electric vehicle (EV) market has been gaining wider acceptance driving throughout the nation, literally. Of course, the question was establishing infrastructure to support this movement with the installation of accessible electric vehicle charging stations. An EV can go about 60 to 100 miles before it needs a charge and can save drivers approximately $1,200 a year in gas. Plug-In Carolina of Charleston was set to deploy 64 charging stations across South Carolina, but they have actually deployed 93, including roughly a half-dozen in Horry County. Retailers such as Cracker Barrel and Rite Aid are considering installing charging stations, especially for travelers. Another company, GoE3 out of Arizona, has plans to install as many as 1,000 charging stations across the country before 2015. My husband and I have test driven a Nissan Leaf, which is an all-electric vehicle that stands for Leading, Environmentally, Affordable Family car which started arriving in the U.S. in 2010. We were greatly impressed, but the lack of charging stations for our main trips to places such as Cheraw made us decide not to go electric at this time. It simply wasn’t realistic for our lifestyle. However, as transportation and the cost of fuel continues to be a rollercoaster for us, maybe in time, the electric vehicles will be more mainstream in South Carolina.

Another trend is that litter is down and according to a 2012 survey of 1,105 Americans by the Shelton Group, littering is seen as more socially unacceptable than cheating on your taxes. Also 20 percent of respondents said they would be embarrassed if they got caught not recycling, using disposable paper plates and letting the water run while brushing their teeth. The Shelton Group claims that this 20 percent figure is critical to behavior change because it proves that it has reached a tipping point. The Keep Horry County Beautiful Committee, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, completed its litter index for Horry County with a score of a 2 out of 4, which is defined as slightly littered. This is great news for our area that sees many tourists throughout the year. While the committee did find specific areas that scored a 4, they plan to address those areas as needed.

And if you are like me, I still haven’t packed away my Christmas items, but here are a couple of things you can do get this year started off greener:

Save your wrapping goodies: If thrown away, paper takes up the most space in the landfill. Try to save as much as possible to reuse next time, especially tissue paper. Most wrapping paper cannot be recycled with the regular county recycling program because of the coated ink that’s soaked into the paper. Maybe think about using alternative wrapping paper, such as newspaper (Surge, perhaps?), magazine paper or reusable fabric for wrapping gifts. Don’t let gift bags, bows and ribbons get destroyed and make a habit to reuse these items, too. Remember how expensive they are brand new at the store? Each gift bag can cost as much as $10, depending on its size, so salvage those bags and save them for another gift next time. Some bags can be versatile for other gifts, such as birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.

Get into the grind: recycle your real Christmas trees with the Grinding of the Greens program until Jan. 23 with the Horry County Solid Waste Authority. After Jan. 23, return to the locations to pick up free pine mulch. Remove any decorations and bring the tree to any of the Horry County Recycling Centers or these locations:

Residents within municipal boundaries of Myrtle Beach, Conway, Surfside Beach and Loris may place trees on the street curb for pick-up.

Myrtle Beach city residents may visit 10th Ave. N. behind Myrtle Waves.

Aynor city residents may place trees behind Town Hall.

North Myrtle Beach city residents may leave trees on the curb through Jan. 20 or visit these locations: Cherry Grove parking lot at Ocean Blvd. and Shorehaven Dr. near 19th Ave. N.; Crescent Beach parking lot across from the J. Bryan Floyd Community Center at 1030 Possum Trot Rd.; Ocean Drive parking lot between Ocean Blvd. and Hillside Dr.; and Windy Hill parking lot at 38th Ave. S. and Seaview St.

For details on Grinding of the Greens, please call the Horry County Solid Waste Authority at 347-1651.


the author

Originally from Virginia, Jennifer C. Sellers is passionate about sustainability and conservation in South Carolina and throughout the world. She earned her BA in English from Coastal Carolina University and her MAS in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver. She is a university sustainability coordinator that implements programs and teaches people about going green and being sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @MyGreenGlasses

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