Holidays

How to Go Green for the Holidays

Sustainable Holiday Tips

Do you want to go green for the holidays? The holidays can be difficult- ham or turkey? Skip the extra butter to save calories, but ooooh, it makes everything taste so much better. Buy a new real or fake tree or just use the same one as last year, though the lights might or might not be working? Whether to gift that extra expensive foot massager or settle for the gift certificate for the cheaper place in the mall?

All these decisions add up and it shows in our landfills. In the US during the holidays, household waste increases 25 percent.

The holidays can be overwhelming with all the decision and choices, but here is a guide to help make it more simple to go green for the holidays.


The holidays are hectic and it's easy to forget our duty to care for the Earth. Check out these easy tips to go green for the holidays.

Ways to Reduce Waste During the Holidays

No matter where you live, these options are available to go green for the holidays.

Ditch disposable single-use items.

  • Rather than offer your guests disposable cutlery and plates, serve food on real, reusable dishware.

Reduce waste with Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts

  • Nearly 60 percent of Americans receive unwanted gifts during the holidays. Instead of giving the gift of stuff, give the gift of experience, such as football tickets, movie tickets, gift cards to their favorite restaurant or a gift certificate to their favorite local place to shop. You can also give treats or homemade gifts.
  • Check out this great list of eco-friendly bulk Christmas gifts for co-workers.
  • Chances are, if you’re feeling the pressure during the holiday, so are your friends and family. Bring up the idea of being gifts from the many retail shops downtown. Maybe even make it a contest to see who find the best gift under $10.
  • For more ideas on sustainable gifts, check out the M.e.t’s top ten green gift list.

Upcycled Lightbulb Penguins

Reduce Holiday Waste with Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap

This is a big obstacle for our goal to go green for the holidays. In the U.S., 4 million tons of trash is made through gift wrap and shopping bags. Plastic bags are not accepted through the Stillwater recycling program. While they are taken at some grocery stores, they are not easily recycled because they so easily clog the machines. They cause many problems the landfills and the environment, so use a reusable bag instead.

There are plenty of creative gift wrapping alternatives, such as

  • Scarves, handkerchiefs and bandannas
  • Old posters and maps
  • Newspapers (the comic sections works great)
  • A present in a present.  Place gifts inside reusable containers like cookie tins, flower pots, make your own reusable bags and baskets or wrap gift in cloth napkins or kitchen towels.
How to Add a Little Green to Your Holidays in Stillwater Reusable OSU T-shirt Bags
A reusable bag made from an OSU t-shirt
  • Give a “treasure map” to find an unwrapped gift hidden elsewhere in the house
  • Wrap gifts in your children’s or your own artwork
  • Look through old magazines, catalogs and calendars to use attractive photos
  • Use re-useable or re-used gift bags
  • Replace ribbons and bows with natural evergreens, berries, dried flowers. Keep them as decorations or compost them after the gifts are unwrapped.
  • Wrapping paper made from recycled paper

Tips to Reuse Waste During the Holidays

Again, these tips can be used almost anywhere, whether your town has recycling option for not.

Gift wrap bows
Upcycled Bows Made from Used Wrapping Paper

Reuse paper for Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts and Cards

As we get new stuff, there might be a temptation to throw our old stuff away, but there are plenty of thrift stores to take your used clothes, even some electronics and other used items that still have value.

Reuse Food Waste During the Holidays

According to the USDA, Americans throw away 25 percent, 52 billion pounds, of the food they purchase.  During the holidays, it is estimated, we throw away three times during this time as much as we do the rest of the year. Although this is a huge problem, there are also several solutions.

  • Find ways to use all parts of the food. Whether it’s pumpkin, sweet cherries or turkey, you can find creative ways to use everything you cook. Make stock or broth from your turkey bones to reduce waste and use your leftover meat to make other meals too.
  • You can compost or vermicompost, even with little experience or small spaces.

Fortunately, there are several apps to help with our food waste problems:

  • Fridge Pal-This app makes shopping lists, tracks expiration dates, and searchs for recipes for your week’s ingredients to make better use of them. It’s made for meal planning so you can utilize the best food at the right time.
  • Home Compost-Interested in composting, but not sure how to get started? With this app, find out how to use your food scraps to make soil for your garden. It’s available on the Android store, and is the most in depth explanation we’ve seen on an app so far.
  • Love Food Hate Waste-This app will help you cut your food waste by providing recipes based on the leftover food in your kitchen. Keep a track of your shopping within the app and use it to help you reduce the amount of good food you throw away by cooking inventive meals.

What to Recycle to Go Green for the Holidays

Of course even after all the care you’ve taken to reduce the trash you take into your home, there will always be something to throw away. Fortunately, Stillwater goes out of its way to take care of its citizens.

Trees: Each year, 50 million trees are bought in the US and of that, 30 million of them find themselves in the landfill.

The City of Stillwater offers two options for families who enjoy live Christmas trees. Regardless of which method you choose, trees must be stripped of all decorations — tinsel, lights and ornaments.

  • The first option is to drop the tree off at the Convenience Collection Center. There is no charge to drop off Christmas trees.
  • The second option is to prepare the tree for City of Stillwater yard waste collection. Bundles must be shorter than four feet long and less than 18 inches across. Bundles must weigh less than 35 pounds.
  • Cardboard: Cardboard is one of the easiest things to recycle and it can also one of the most economical things to recycle, but it is also one of the biggest contributors to landfills. Recycle your cardboard!
  • Paper: For all the leftover recycling paper or paper gift wrapping alternatives, Stillwater offers paper recycling.
  • Plastic: Although, Stillwater does not offer plastic shopping bag recycling, other plastics #1-#7 can easily be recycled through the single stream curbside recycling or through the Convenience Collection Center.
  • Electronics: Don’t underestimate the value of your electronics. Best Buy, the City of Stillwater, Habitat Restore, American Scrap, Staples Office Supply. will take your electronics off your hands.

Later computer models that still work can be donated to the Stillwater Board of Education. For a comprehensive list of what can be recycled in Stillwater, check out this Sustainable Stillwater website.

More Tips for the Holidays

See more ways to reduce stress during the holidays. I also recommend this article on more ways to reduce waste during the holidays.

What are your tips to go green for the holidays?

If you have any ideas to add to the list, leave a comment!

Don’t forget to pin these tips for later!

The holidays are hectic and it's easy to forget our duty to care for the Earth. Check out these easy tips to go green for the holidays.

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