By Sherry Swensk

It’s the season of giving and most shoppers are focused on buying something shiny and new for those on their holiday list. But if you pride yourself as the conservationists you’ve worked long and hard to become, then you know giving back through reusing or recycling is even more satisfying this time of year.

Before joining the crazed crowds, first declutter your conscience and take a look in your stuffed drawers, closets and cabinets at home. You can quickly make a list of naughty and nice possessions begging for a new purpose in life.

For instance, if you’re like me, you are hoarding jeans that you’ll probably never slip your hips into again. Let them go. And don’t hesitate to donate even if they’re rag-tag because many charities will sell the material to a recycler, where the denim gets repurposed into high-quality, post-consumer products like denim insulation. The building material is used in green LEED-certified construction like the Molasky Corporate Center. Check out this link if you’d like to send your faded glories directly to the cause, bluejeansgogreen.org.

Another outgrown and often forgotten garment: old bras. I’ve got scads of them stuffed in the back of my lingerie drawers. Bra Recyclers is working to “reshape” the environment one hooter harness at a time by keeping them out of the landfill and putting them on the torsos of women in underserved communities. They’ve started a BRA-Volution by sending their donated inventory to registered agencies around the world to be worn again. You can send your gently used undergarments to the Bra Recyclers at brarecycling.com.

All of us have old, unidentifiable keys collecting dust around the house. While you don’t have a clue what they unlock anymore, they are made of valuable metal and many local scrap metal recyclers will buy them. Find them at earth911.com.

Got kids? Then no doubt you find oodles of broken or lonely crayons stuffed between sofa cushions, at the bottom of the toy box or even in the washing machine! There is a National Crayon Recycle Program that can make them new and useful again. Crazy Crayons have kept nearly 100,000 pounds of the unwanted petroleum-based color sticks out of landfills. Getting your kids involved in collecting the old ones is a fun, educational project that helps save the planet, one crayon at a time. Visit crazycrayons.com to learn more.

Wine is always a great gift during the holidays, and just think of the all the corks that get popped and tossed in the trash. This year, adorn your bottle of bubbly with a nifty tag that says, “Don’t forget to ReCork.” ReCORK (recork.org) is North America’s largest wine cork recycling effort having collected more than 45 million corks and turning into lots of useful eco-friendly products or mulched and used again to make new sustainable stoppers.

There are so many unassuming items around your house that can be recycled or reused: everything from cotton swabs, to used Brita water filters, to rechargeable batteries. Don’t forget the Back to Mac cosmetics containers buy-back program. And even those squishy, recyclable Styrofoam packing peanuts have local drop-off sites and a Peanut Hotline! Thank you Plastic Loose Fill Council.

Take some time to put the planet at the top of your list. While it may take some extra thought and energy, giving new purpose to so much of what we already have, instead of tossing it in the trash, will be the best gift you can give this season.

Sherry Swensk produces the daily segment “Living Green for Las Vegas” for 8 News Now. Read her blog at green.lasvegasnow.com. Stay up to date with Sherry on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook.com/SherrySwensk and @SherrySwensk

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