The Christmas tree came down today. We are always loathe to see it go, but yesterday’s warm temperatures made us feel the time had come. The treasured ornaments so happily unwrapped last month are packed away. The unadorned tree is lying outside—until I cut off the branches to strew around the flower garden—an object of curiosity for the chickens.

Reducing waste is high on our priority list: we try to reuse or recycle as much as possible. Our kitchen scraps go in the compost (or to the chickens), and any paper, plastic and glass we haven’t repurposed gets distributed religiously in the town’s bins, or taken to Whole Foods (which has bins for just about everything the town recycling doesn’t take). The process requires a little effort for great results. Perhaps if everyone visited a landfill they might feel the same…the mountains of waste are unpleasant and disturbing. I remember a story that made national headlines (in 1987) of a barge loaded with garbage that left New York and travelled down—and then back up—the East coast, until the trash was finally incinerated in Brooklyn. No state wanted it. The story made people stop and think about garbage, some for the first time. Recently I sat on a city bus, watching a woman dropping unwanted parts of her newspaper in a trash bin. New York now has permanent recycling bins placed around the city for paper, plastic and glass, so just a little thought on her part would have made a difference.

In Rhode Island, recyclables must make up 35 percent of the waste that towns send to the state’s landfill, or the disposal rates are higher, and town tax rates go up. So there is a strong financial incentive. For us, using our Christmas tree to protect the flowers, or turning our scraps into compost has its own tangible rewards.

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