The season of giving has arrived, which can unfortunately be a season of waste and environmental degradation as well. Turns out the holiday season produces more waste than any other time of year, so while we humans are feeling extra cheery, Mother Earth is feeling extra dreary. Here are just a few tips to help perk her up!

No holiday season is complete without a decorative holiday tree. So the question is: What’s better, a real tree or a fake tree? That depends. In many parts of the country, holiday trees are trucked in from great distances, used briefly, and then chucked into landfills (what a depressing final destination for such a bringer of holiday joy!). Additionally, many of these trees are also treated with toxic pesticides. Fake trees, on the other hand can be reused over and over again, but how are we getting these fake holiday trees anyway? More than likely, the trees are made of oil-based plastics in China, and then they are shipped thousands of miles across the planet to eventually find their way into your home. Obviously, this too is less than ideal. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you have access to a plethora of organic holiday tree markets where the trees are grown right here in the Northwest and give off that amazing holiday tree aroma. Best of all, they probably traveled no more than 15 to 20 miles to make it into your living room. And when the season is over, most metropolitan areas offer holiday tree recycling programs that are free or require small fees to repurpose said tree. The Portland area offers many tree recycling options. Numerous non-profit companies offer to recycle trees for free, or for a small donation for at least one day of the New Year’s Day weekend. You can also recycle your tree with your curbside yard debris collection service. Of course, the best option (in our opinion) is to decorate a potted tree that you can either plant in your yard or keep to liven up your home at the end of the holiday season. Our Norfolk Island Pine looks super cute with it’s hand-made decorations and lights this year and it’s freshening the air of our home.

If you plan on decorating the outside of your house, here are a few ideas that can save your pocketbook and the planet. First off, switch out those incandescent lights to LED’s. LED lights are 90% more efficient, and they don’t get nearly as hot. Additionally, for goodness sake, put those babies on a timer. It is unlikely anyone will be admiring your decorative achievements at 4 AM.

Are you making dinner for the whole family? Buy local food products in bulk, this will cut down on packaging waste, plus its cheaper. When the party is over be sure to dole out the leftovers to guests to take home, or if you can’t finish a food product, go ahead and compost it if possible.

Here are just a few more ideas: Re-use the wrapping paper and gift boxes next year. If they’ve been torn apart in excitement, recycle it! Or better yet, skip the gift wrapping altogether. Put small gifts in decorative boxes that can be well used by the recipient. Sometimes just creatively hiding a present is more fun and challenging anyways. And finally, if you’re stumped on gift ideas, perhaps you could get crafty and make the gift yourself. Shoebox dioramas are always fun to receive! And besides, mass produced items like children’s toys frequently get shipped in (again, all the way) from China and sometimes contain dubious materials, such as lead paint.

Truth be told, if we can just apply the common sense of sustainability that we carry with us all through the year to the next week and a half of this holiday season, we can make those next few rounds of eggnog nearly guilt free. Cheers!

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