Kate Brocato, Communications & Program Manager | December 2, 2021

With all of the decorating, gift giving, and feasting, the holidays can cause a big jump in your carbon footprint. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste alone generally increases by more than 25%. 

However, it is easier than you think to keep your waste, energy consumption, and carbon emissions in check this time of year. Here are Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s (YVSC) tips to reduce your impact this season:

Give an experience Material items tend to create more waste and have a bigger environmental impact down the road. Consider giving gifts like a snowshoe excursion with Yampatika or a gift card to support one of our many local restaurants. If you do have to buy physical gifts, try to shop locally to avoid shipping emissions, and if you really need to buy something online, be sure to order all your gifts from the same site at the same time so you can reduce packaging and have it all shipped at once.

Wrap gifts in eco-friendly materials Most shiny gift wrapping paper is not recyclable because it has high ink content and low paper content. Instead, wrap gifts with old maps, fabric remnants, colorful dish towels, reusable cloth bags, butcher paper or newspaper. 

Decorate using natural materials – Decorating for the holidays is a fun way to bring holiday cheer into your home. However, many decorations are often made from materials that are not recyclable and may take hundreds of years to break down. Consider making your own decorations using natural materials like garland made from dried oranges and cranberries or pine boughs cut from the bottom of your Christmas tree. Not only is it more sustainable to do this, but it can also be a fun family activity.

Reduce waste at celebratory meals – Ideally, serve on dishware that can be washed and reused. If you need to serve on single-use tableware, purchase recyclable or items made from recycled materials. Reduce food waste by planning portions and eating or freezing any leftovers. 

Eat locally – Many of our traditional holiday meals, while delicious, can have environmental impacts down the road. Consider incorporating more local food items into your holiday meal this season. Eating local food cuts down on emissions produced by transporting food to our valley, and many of our local producers are using sustainable agriculture techniques that reduce impact on the environment. Check out Community Agriculture Alliance to see the wide array of food items available to us locally. 

Create DIY holiday cards – This year, try your hand at creating your own holiday cards using recycled materials. Steamboat Creates has a wealth of recycled art supplies that have been donated by community members. They are available to the public for free and would serve as a great resource to get your cards started.

Switch to LED holiday lights – If you’re still using incandescent lights, recycle them when you take your holiday decorations down and invest in LED lights, which last up to 30 times longer and use up to 90% less energy than traditional lights. Old holiday lights can be recycled at Ace Hardware. There is no need to remove the bulbs.

Recycle your tree – Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in landfills. Recycle your tree this year with the City of Steamboat Springs’ Parks and Recreation Department. More details to come on dates and location. Please remove all lights, decorations and wire.