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A Greener Christmas, Acreage Insights for December 2017,
Old maps, sheet music and newspapers can be recycled into wrapping paper.

It’s a hard truth. From Thanksgiving to New Year, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash than any other time of year. Money, boxes, plastics, wrapping paper and, oh yes, the Christmas tree.

It’s too late to plant one now, but one way to bring the outdoors in is to plant a conifer in a place highly visible from inside. It can have lights on it for the holidays, as well as suet and birdseed “ornaments” for the birds. No need to cut it down, haul it home or throw it away, and you can enjoy it all year. Or buy a balled and burlapped tree to decorate and take it back outdoors to wait for spring planting. And if you don’t mind a Charlie Brown tree, ask a friend with an acreage if you can cut down a redcedar… they’re not likely to turn down the offer.

Here are a few other ideas for a greener, more simplified Christmas.

  • Decorating from our yards gives us a chance to pay closer attention to details we might otherwise notice in the cold. Even the smallest landscape is likely to have some attractive branches, the green of periwinkle or conifers, berries, pine cones, nuts or seedpods. They can be tied with ribbons, or gathered in bowls, pots or other arrangements.
  • As far as gifts, it’s worth asking if you—and all the people you celebrate with—really want to exchange them. More than 70 percent of Americans would prefer to avoid the time, cost, wrapping and waste of presents. Homemade gifts or gifts of time don’t have to be as demanding as we might think. What are the things you enjoy making or doing on a regular basis? Who could you share those times, activities and baked goods or other creations with? Are there errands you enjoy running that you could offer as a Christmas gift? Yardwork, babysitting, pet care?
  • Wrapping paper waste alone is estimated at 333 million square feet—5,787 NFL football fields worth of it—annually. Much of it is dyed and laminated, making it more difficult to recycle. Ways to reduce include using old newspapers or magazines, wrapping multiple gifts together and doing a scavenger hunt for larger items. Speaking of football fields, annual Christmas card waste can fill a football field 10 stories high, so a Christmas email is worth considering too.
  • Batteries make up another dramatic statistic. About 40 percent of all battery sales happen during the holidays. Rechargeable batteries offer another option or, better yet, gifts that don’t require them.
  • A lot of leftover food ends up in the landfill too. Rather than letting it go to waste, have containers at the ready so you can send it home with guests.

The bottom line is that a greener holiday actually saves us some green, in the form of both cash and natural resources.

Image of Karma Larsen
Karma Larsen
Communications Associate - Nebraska Statewide Arboretum & Nebraska Forest Service
Karma Larsen is a Communications Associate with the Nebraska Forest Service and the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. She writes, edits and/or formats monthly columns, news releases, horticultural publications, brochures, social media and websites.

Contact Karma at:
Nebraska Forest Service & Nebraska Statewide Arboretum
(402) 472-7923