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10 Ways to Green Your Holidays

Post Date:November 21, 2017

Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year's holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week.

Here are a few tips that can help you green your holidays and reduce holiday waste.


1. Green your Tree

Have you ever wondered what would be the best environmental choice--a live Christmas tree, a cut tree or an artificial tree? Here's a look at the factors involved in choosing either option.

Tree Type



Live Trees

  • Help clean the air.
  • Save money (only one tree to buy).
  • Reusable. Plant the live tree or donate it to an organization to plant elsewhere.
  • Live trees need care and attention.
  • They may be difficult to move.
  • Not all trees grow well in California’s varied climates. Check your nursery for the best tree for your area.

Cut Trees

  • Easier to care for than live trees.
  • Cut trees give scent and appearance of a live tree.
  • Can be placed at the curb for collection and will be turned into compost.
  • May be expensive.

Artificial Trees

  • Can be used for many years
  • Saves money and time. No need to buy a tree every year.
  • Artificial trees aren’t recyclable. Make sure your purchase will last a lifetime.


Whichever tree you choose, keep this in mind:

  • Tree Flocking. Flocking is a way to make your tree looks like it is dusted with a light power of snow. While it may be lovely, it can also contribute to litter as the flocking falls off during transport or disposal. Cut trees that are flocked with any kind of plastic, foam or paint cannot be composted and are not accepted in yard piles or in organics carts.
  • Compost your tree after the holidays. Remove the lights, ornaments, tinsel and tree stand and place the tree in your organics cart (the lid must close). Smaller Christmas trees may be able to be placed in the organics cart as is. Larger trees may need to be cut in half or have the branches trimmed in order to fit into the cart.

    Trees can be placed in On-Street Yard Material Piles: Remove the lights, ornaments, tinsel and tree stand. Cut trees over 5 ft. tall in half (trees should not be larger than 5 feet in any direction) and place Christmas trees on the street for collection with other yard materials. Please note that yard material piles (and Christmas trees) may only be placed on the street 5 days before a scheduled pick-up. More information about yard material pile pick-up.


2. Don’t buy stuff

If you are looking for gifts for the holidays, instead of buying stuff, give the gift of an experience. Restaurant gift certificates, tickets to a live performance, museum passes, County, State or National Park Passes, day trips to a special place, etc.

You can also consider giving a subscription to a service. Massage or spa memberships, audiobook memberships, online magazines or newspapers, etc.

Another alternative to traditional gift giving is to have a white elephant gift exchange. This can be a fun-filled way to re-gift an unused item you already have.


3. Don’t wrap stuff

Instead of traditional wrapping paper, choose reusable ways to conceal gifts, such as reusable gift bags or reusable shopping bags. A piece of beautiful cloth can make an excellent wrapping material. Baskets and reusable boxes work well too.  You can make your own gift wrap out of newspapers, reused wrapping paper, or single-sided paper (just color or paint on the blank side).

For a fun twist on gift concealment, hide your gift and create a treasure map or a series of clues for the person to find their gift.

farmers market

4. Buy Local Food

When planning your menu and shopping, choose locally grown food for the freshest fruits and vegetables. Farmers markets and U-Pick farms are great places to find fresh food while supporting local agriculture. Choosing locally grown food eliminates the negative environmental impacts associated with shipping food long distances.


5. Don’t lose the leftovers

Got leftovers from your holiday meals?

  • Encourage guests to take home leftovers.
  • Freeze what you might not use right away.
  • Make soup with leftovers. An assortment of meats and vegetables leftover from a holiday meal can be the start of a great soup or stew!
  • Donate leftovers to food banks or homeless shelters. This may be easier than you think. Below is a list of local non-profit groups that accept food donations. Call ahead to confirm their hours and type of food they can accept.
    • Davis Community Meals 756-4008
    • Davis Senior Center 757-5696
    • Food Bank of Yolo County 668-0690
    • Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Center 661-6336
    • Short Term Emergency Aid Committee 758-8435
    • Village Harvest (888) FRUIT 411 (888-378-4841)


6. DIY Gifts

Show off your talents and give a gift you make yourself.

  • Homemade soaps
  • Decorated soaps
  • Knit, crochet or sew scarves, hats, blankets, etc.
  • Hair clip décor
  • Reusable snack bags
  • Custom t-shirt (iron-on decals)
  • And more!

recycle bins

7. Reuse, recycle, then compost

When planning a holiday party, try to minimize waste.

  • Use reusable dishware
  • Recycle waste whenever possible
  • Compost waste that’s not recyclable
  • Label waste bins clearly for guests to use.


Tip: if your recycling bin is fill of paper, you can put that extra paper in the organics cart.


8. Turn Down the Heat

Before guests arrive, turn the thermostat down a few degrees. The combination of cooking food on the stove and in the oven, plus the heat from all the people gathered in your home can make a room a little toasty. If this happens, instead of running the AC, just open a few windows and enjoy the fresh air.


9. Use Less Toxic Cleaning Products

When cleaning your home before guests arrive, go green and choose natural and less-toxic options instead of using traditional cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals.
  • White vinegar: polish silver, clean windows, neutralize odors and unclog drains
  • Baking soda: scrub toilets and tubs, clean ovens and grills.
  • Castile Soap: all-purpose cleaner, dish soap, mop floors
  • Lemon Juice: disinfect your cutting board, cleans glass and brighten mirrors, laundry, and toilets
  • Coconut Oil: Polish wood furniture, grease and lubricate hinges, remove shower scum
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: repel fleas, clean microwave, deodorize laundry 


10. Use Natural Scents

 On the top 10 list of the most common toxins found in homes, air fresheners come in at #8. Freshen your home without releasing toxins in the air with these techniques:

  • Boil cinnamon sticks in water. Add cloves for an extra rich scent
  • Place springs or wreaths of eucalyptus or pine around the house
  • Essential oils. Mix a few drops in a spray bottle with water and spritz the room.
  • Make a pot of coffee
  • Pomander balls. Stick cloves into an orange for a beautiful air freshener
  • Simmer lemon slices and cloves in water


For more green holiday tips, visit

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