Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Part 2

December 10, 2014

Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Season Part 2paper

The Holidays are a time for gift giving, sharing meals with friends and family, and decorating your home in merry holiday splendor. While all of these activates are fun and good for the soul, sometimes this increased consumerism isn’t so good for the environment – according to the EPA the amount of household garbage from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day can increase by 25%, or 5 million tons! NC GreenPower has some suggestions below for ways to decrease your holiday environmental impact while still spreading holiday cheer.

Reduce waste

tupperwareFood waste reduction is one goal that is relatively easy to accomplish; simple behavioral changes like composting, always using reusable plates, silverware, napkins, etc. (as opposed to disposable), saving leftovers, buying in bulk and buying local can all have profound impacts. Visit NC State University’s Sustainability page to learn more. 

Waste reduction can also be accomplished by tweaking the gift-giving process. Recycling favorite wrapping paper and nice ribbons from year to year, or using quirky wrapping paper like newspaper or an out of date map both reduces the amount of paper produced and thrown away, and adds fun character to your gifts.

This Huffington Post article has several more ideas of how to reduce holiday waste, from giving home-made gifts to paying attention to a gift’s packaging.

The Tree

CB TreeThere are several approaches to having an “eco” tree. My favorite is what my family used to do back home in Colorado. We’d buy a $5.00 permit from the USDA National Forest Service and go into the woods to cut down our own tree! Unfortunately, the National Forest Service in North Carolina does not sell permits to cut down your own Christmas tree. Many other states do have this fun option, however, which helps reduce forest fire danger and allows people to have a fun experience searching for their perfect tree in the woods. If you are spending the holidays in a different state, this might be something to consider – you’ll not only be helping our national forests, but you’ll also create a fun memory! States with this opportunity are: WA, OR, CA, ID, WY, CO UT, KS, MT, SD, NB, AZ, NM, VT, FL, and possibly more.  Visit your state’s National Forest Service Website to find out more.

Since that isn’t an option for most North Carolina residents, the decision comes down to real vs. fake. This article from Mother News Network does a good job at laying out the pros and cons of both. Its top suggestion is to get a tree from an organic farm, and a list of NC farms selling organic and low-spray trees can be found here. If that isn’t viable for you, the final decision is still that real trumps fake, all things considered. And following the holidays, be sure to recycle your live tree! (We’ll remind you about this part after Christmas.)

There are other less traditional options as well, as outlined in this Good Housekeeping article. They too recommend organic trees in addition to plantable trees, using a living tree outside (if you live in a mild climate!) or making your own “tree” (think: Charlie Brown-type tree). You can also decorate a small Rosemary tree, usually available at any grocery store.  And Inhabitat shares 6 fabulous faux Christmas tree ideas, such as a 100% recycled cardboard tree from Cascades. Essentially, what it comes down to is how traditional you are and what resources are at your disposal.


cardboard treeFinally, this tip page from the EPA has some good general guidelines to be more environmentally conscious during the holidays (and many tips apply for year round, too!).


We hope you consider implementing some of these easy changes to make your holidays greener – or maybe you already do them! Regardless, we at NC GreenPower send you warm wishes for a happy holiday season!