T’is the season to decorate, give gifts and travel – a wonderful time to be with family and friends but also a time of increased waste, energy consumption and a jump in your carbon footprint. Yampa Valley Sustainability Council has compiled a list of helpful tips to make your holidays more sustainable. With thoughtful planning and a small commitment, you can minimize your own climate pollution while still having a delightful holiday season.

Give an experience, not stuff

Choose gifts that have little to no packaging. Give memorable experiences such as travel reservations, theater tickets, activities, and dining gift cards. You could also give gifts of service, such as spa treatments, home cleaning, or lawn care. Or, make a charitable donation in a loved one’s name.

Reduce, reuse and regift

Give a gift that helps someone go green, such as an energy-saving power strip, reusable stainless steel water bottle or coffee mug, metal straw or reusable cloth shopping bag. Shop secondhand or antique stores for unique reused gifts that are low impact. Or, regift a past present to someone you think might appreciate it.

Switch to LED holiday lights

Save money and energy while keeping the holiday spirit bright. LED lights last up to 50 times longer and use up to 75% less energy than traditional lights. Don’t forget to put your lights on timers or turn them off before you go to bed. Old incandescent holiday lights can be recycled at Ace Hardware. No need to remove the bulbs.

Include organic and local foods in your holiday feast

Planning meals with organic or local ingredients means lower carbon emissions and environmental impact. Consider serving more meatless options this year.

Reduce waste at celebratory meals

Ideally, serve food on dishware that can be washed and reused. If you need to serve on single-use tableware, purchase recyclable materials. Reduce your food waste by planning each meal including portion sizes, and eating or freezing any leftovers. Learn more about reducing food waste at home.

Stop junk mail

The holiday season brings increased catalogs and other junk mail, but you can stop it! Call the 1-800 number on the catalog to end subscriptions or register on websites like dmachoice.org.

Cut your own tree

Artificial trees are made with petroleum-based materials and often shipped thousands of miles. Cut a tree from nearby public lands following these guidelines to ensure a healthy and sustainable forest. Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill. Recycle your tree (no wreaths) at the Howelsen Ice Arena at 285 Howelsen Parkway from December 26 – January 31. Please remove all lights, decorations and wire.

Send a photo or video e-card

Cut down on paper products by sending your holiday card or video electronically. Recycle the cards you receive or reuse the front of the cards as gift tags.

Decorate with natural materials

You can make beautiful decorations from items found in nature like pine boughs, twigs, winter berries and pinecones or from organic materials and fibers that can be composted, such as burlap and hemp. You can also decorate using items you already own or can borrow. Consider decorations that can be used and enjoyed after the holidays, such as whole fruit, small plants or herbs.

Avoid alkaline batteries

Each year, Americans throw away more than three billion batteries, which can leach acids, mercury and other heavy metals into our environment. Purchase rechargeable gadgets and rechargeable batteries over alkaline.


Recycling is one of the easiest actions to take every single day—not just at the holidays—to conserve resources and curb your carbon emissions. The Yampa Valley Recycles app takes the guesswork out of recycling. Search hundreds of items, from packing peanuts to Play Stations, and learn where to recycle them locally. Download the app for free at www.yampavalleyrecycles.org.

Wrap gifts in eco-friendly materials

Most wrapping paper is not recyclable because of the shiny coatings and foils. Try wrapping your gifts with old maps, fabric remnants, scarves, colorful dish towels, reusable cloth bags, bandanas, butcher paper or newspaper. Curling ribbon is also not recyclable. Tie your bows with fabric ribbon, yarn or raffia that can be saved and reused.

Travel light (on the planet)

If you’re driving over the river and through the woods, be sure to check the air in your tires to achieve optimal gas mileage. If flying, consider offsetting the carbon emissions of your flight. And, remember to lower your thermostat while you’re away.