Sustainable holiday celebrations

White snowy tree on a green background
December 12, 2013
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It’s that time of year when the world falls in love, Ev’ry song you hear seems to say…

Hold it!

Before we get all doughy and misty-eyed over the joy of the season – the holiday parties, piles of food and cookies, and time with friends and family – let’s not forget to mind our eco P’s and Q’s!

With all the hustle and bustle of the season we tend to forget that our actions can have negative impacts on our environment. For instance, the Environmental Protection Agency says that household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Years. That’s an extra 1 million tons of waste!

And the Department of Energy calculates that we use a lot more energy. This is so much more energy that if everyone switched to LED holiday lights we could save 70% of the energy over incandescent strands of lights!

But don’t get down about making merriment. Keep the season bright and stick to your green ethos by following the tips below.


Get a Pesticide-Free or Organic Christmas Tree

Did you know that some growers use 40 different pesticides, as well as chemical colorants on Christmas trees? Fortunately farmers are starting to see demand for organic trees. Ask your local Christmas tree seller if they have organic trees, or if they’ll consider stocking a few next year. Better yet, here are 2 nearby options:

  • Freezer’s Farm
  • Licking Creek Trees 301-587-1739. Organically grown pre-cut Christmas trees. Live trees and dig-your-own also available. Order ahead of time; trees are available in Takoma Park and the Adams Morgan Farm Market.


Add Organic and Local Foods to Your Holiday Feast

Support local family farmers who grow sustainable meat and produce. The fresh taste of local foods is a treat well suited for the holidays. Check out the resources in the Shop a Farmer’s Market, Join a CSA Green Project.


Make Your Own Wrapping Paper

Most wrapping paper you find in stores is not recyclable so it ends up in the trash, not the recycling bin. Get creative by wrapping presents with old maps, pages from picture magazines or the comics section of a newspaper. Decorate the tops with cut-outs from last year’s holiday cards or reusable pictures of you and the gift recipient together.

Or use a scarf, dish towel, bandana, or some other useful piece of and make the wrapping part of the gift.

If you are really crafty, try your hand at stitching reusable gift bags from cloth. Top it off with a matching reusable ribbon!


Host a Zero-waste Party

Minimize garbage by using reusable plates, cups and utensils. If you don’t have enough to go around, ask friends to bring their own! Use fabric tablecloths and napkins instead of paper ones, and as always, be sure to recycle cans and bottles, and compost veggie food scraps.


Sponsor a Food Drive at your Party or Event

This time of year we often end up with extra cans or ingredients we didn’t need. In the spirit of giving to others, ask party guests to forgo the hostess gift and instead bring a can or two of food to donate to the local food bank. Food banks can often use canned juices, fruits and vegetables, and packages of nuts or dried fruits. This donation can be helpful after the holidays when supplies start to dwindle.


Recycle Your Christmas Tree

Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill. Though your tree won’t fit in the recycling bin with your newspapers and bottles, you can recycle it! Montgomery County will pick-up your tree from the curb on your recycling day as long as it is:

  • Out of the stand and all decorations, including lights, ornaments, tinsel, and garland have been removed. Be sure there is no metal attached to the tree.
  • Not in a plastic bag.
  • A cut tree. “Live” Christmas trees with root balls and artificial trees cannot be collected as part of the County’s recycling program.


For Gaithersburg Residents 

Place your Holiday Tree on the curb with other recyclables on your designated recycling date. Follow these tips to make sure the tree will be picked up.


See, it’s easy to be green and still have a great holiday season. Tell us! What is your family planning to do this year?

Thanks to the folks at Green America and Sierra Club for some of the great tips.


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