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Repurposing the Holidays

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What to do with all those holiday boxes?

What to do with all those holiday boxes?

The holiday season is upon us! Persimmons are shining on bare trees like ornaments, kale quivers with sparkling rain drops, and of course, the Fed-Ex trucks keep rolling in, with one tiny Amazon gift in each big cardboard box. I feel a twinge of consumerist guilt every time I toss one of those big boxes into the recycling bin, knowing it could have lived a longer life before going through the costly process of recycling. But if I kept them all forever I’d be smothered by boxes! What to do??

There is a bit of holiday magic that can help with this problem, because the other thing that comes with the winter season is freshly germinated weed seeds, all merry with rain. When you add the problem of cardboard holiday waste to the problem of garden weeds, you somehow end up with a solution rather than two problems. That solution is knows as sheet mulching. 

Sheet mulching is the process of building soil, suppressing weeds, and absorbing water by layering up organic matter or compost, cardboard, and mulch on top of the existing landscape. Some people call it lasagna gardening. It’s basically an eco-friendly shortcut for nature’s very long process of building soil in a forest through layers of decomposing leaves and woody debris. 

The formula for sheet mulching is as easy as 1, 2, 3. After removing the tape and any staples from your cardboard, layer 1 inch of compost over the landscape (on top of lawn if you have one), then cover that with 2 layers of cardboard (with each piece overlapping ~6 inches), and top it off with 3+ inches of mulch a.k.a. woodchips. The end result is a blank canvas that you can plant into, or it can simply be used to tame the weeds growing around your existing plants. Sheet mulching projects are a family-friendly way to get outside and involve your kids this winter in sustainable practices, so encourage them to take part, take heart, and take action amongst the holiday craze.

Eventually, the cardboard will decomposed, leaving a rich layer of soil. This treatment is great for preventing erosion on bare soil, finally getting rid of your lawn, or just polishing your existing garden. The mulch also absorbs and holds rainwater, reducing evaporation and the need to irrigate. Plus your plants will love the boost of microbial activity and nutrients from the compost. It really is a holiday miracle!

If you’re interested in learning more ways to reduce waste and get out of the frenzy of consumerism during the holiday season, check out Daily Act’ A Very Mindful Holiday – Consciousness & Crafting Workshop on Dec. 10, 12-3pm in Petaluma. Marie Kneemeyer, will lead us through meditation, conversation, and tips & ticks on celebrating the true meaning of the holidays in an environmentally conscious light. Starting with a refocusing of the heart and reconnection to what makes this time of the year so special to us all, we will then move into learning different ways to create a holiday experience that is not only waste-free, but richer and fuller to boot. Wrapping up the workshop (no pun-intended) we will come together with our creative spirits and make small gifts from re-purposed materials that you can present to your friends and family.

You can sign up for the workshop, as well as find more info about sheet mulching, on Daily Acts’ website www.dailyacts.org. Cheers!