Greening your holidays

Seven easy tips to make your holidays greener

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More about Christmas composting and recycling electronics:
Go to to learn how to make an easy outdoor compost bin. Visit and to learn more about recycling your used electronics.

I know what you’re thinking—you just want to enjoy the holidays without any guilt. But don’t worry. I’m not going to Grinch out on you and make you feel bad for all your celebratin’ and gift givin’. You can still enjoy the requisite overindulgences of the season and wrap up a little present for your other mother (Mother Nature). Here are seven little things you can do to feel merry and bright about the holidays without needing a double-pickup for your over-full waste bins.

1. Give an experience

While the ultimate gift may be the gift of time, that is one tough sucker to wrap. But there is an alternative: a gift card or certificate for an experience. Consider gifting a set of lessons, membership to a local museum, or tickets for one of our local theaters (live and otherwise). You could even make your own coupon for time (my husband gave me two hours of writing time for Valentine’s Day—for me, very romantic). Parents and grandparents might like a hand-drawn ticket for an outing in the park or for a special lunch. (These also make great last-minute gifts … just saying.)

2. Make your own cards and gift tags

You know what makes really cool new holiday cards? Old holiday cards. Cut up the cards you saved for no good reason last year to make a collage or silly scenario with your own hilarious captions. (This is great fun for kids. Or adults who act like kids.) Punch out circles or rectangles, attach with a bit of string, and now you’ve got cute little gift tags. You’re welcome.

3. Wrap smart

Some people are gifted at wrapping. Others end up with ragged balls of paper and tape. I’m not going to judge you for your technique, but you may get a slow clap if you choose materials that recycle easily, like non-glossy paper, old calendars, sheet music or the Sunday cartoons. You get extra points if you don’t even wrap it. That’s right, creative types might use a reusable basket, stocking or cute pillowcase. You could even get all Mobius-strip on the recipient and use the gift itself as the wrapping (like a scarf or a sweater).

4. Recycle your tree … yourself

If you celebrate with a tree, what do you do with it once the holidays are over and it’s all brittle and dry and fire-hazardy? No, you can’t put it out on the street with your leaves, but you can compost it yourself. Friend and botanist Adrienne Edwards even had this cool suggestion for those of us who never got around to getting a compost bin: Create a hidden compost area. Take an unused corner of your yard, put up a little wall with rocks or what-not (enlist child labor if needed) and then rake your leaves into that section. Chop up your tree and add that baby to the mix. You can even put in plant-based food scraps. Stir it with a pitchfork or other such implement every week or so and the leaves and tree will compost down into excellent “humus”—organic matter that fluffs your soil, increasing its water- and nutrient-holding capacity.

For more information on composting, go to and check out the article aimed at kids from the Groundwater Foundation.

5. Recycle your electronics

So you really want that new (fill-in-the-blank-with-what’s-hot-this-year) tablet or cell phone. What to do with your old one? Recycle it, honey. Those babies are full of valuable resources that took a lot energy to get out of the Earth in the first place. According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, “For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.” I know what you’re thinking—that’s a lot of palladium. Good thing recycling those bad boys is pretty easy: Retailers including Target, Best Buy and Staples will take your old cell phones and other electronics. Ditto for local nonprofit outfit Computers for Classrooms (315 Huss Drive, 895-4175). Go to and for more info.

6. Party like it’s 1899

Yes, back in the good old days, we didn’t have paper plates and cups and napkins. We used tableware that you had to (gasp!) wash. But if you can’t imagine doing all those dishes, you can at least set up a place to sort garbage, recycling and plant-based compost materials (for your hidden compost area!) ahead of time so it’s easy for you and your guests to decrease what you have to throw out. Also, provide a permanent marker to write names on cups so you don’t end up with 35 unclaimed, half-full cups of punch on your counter. Other ways to party old-style (and save energy): Turn down the thermostat just before guests arrive. All that extra body heat will warm up your house pronto. If it’s still cold inside, initiate a dance party.

7. Be a natural scent-sation

Put down that aerosol can. Use natural scents without toxic and allergy-inducing ingredients to make your house smell good. Make a citrus potpourri (go to for citrus-drying tips), cut a few pine branches or even put a drop or two of vanilla extract on a glowing light bulb to release some good, natural smells.

Now, go make your New Year’s Resolution to be greener in 2013!