Want to be greener? Learn more about sustainability in the Yampa Valley:

Guide to Greening Your Holidays

Written by Anne Mudgett, YVSC Program and Development Director

In this season of celebration, decoration, gift giving and travel, Americans generate more waste and use more energy. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the volume of household waste increases 25%, and 33% more food is thrown away during the holidays.

10 tips to make your holidays easier on the planet:

1. Make your holiday feast a Zero Waste gathering

Ideally, serve food on dishware that can be washed and reused. If you need to serve on single-use tableware, purchase compostable products from The Green Company, but make sure to compost it rather than throwing it in the trash. You can reserve your DIY Zero Waste event kit from YVSC today. Reduce your food waste by planning each meal, composting food scraps, and eating (or freezing) any leftovers. Learn more about reducing food waste at home.

2. Use LED holiday lights

Save money and energy while keeping the holiday spirit bright. LED lights last up to 10 times longer, are safer and use up to 90% less energy than traditional lights. Don’t forget to put your lights on timers or turn them off before you go to bed. If you switch to LED holiday lights this year, save your receipt and submit a Cen$ible Energy Rebate form at www.censibleenergy.org after January 1 to receive money back on your energy-efficient lights. (Incandescent holiday lights can be recycled at Ace Hardware in the metal bin at the front of the store. No need to remove the bulbs.)

3. Cook with local food

Planning meals with local ingredients means lower carbon emissions from transportation. The Community Agriculture Alliance Market has all the meat, fresh baked goods and local products for your holiday meal at their online marketplace.

4. Buy gifts locally

Support our local economy and reduce your overall holiday carbon footprint by purchasing from local merchants and artisans. Visit Main Street Steamboat Springs for a list of local favorites. Take the pledge to shop local this holiday season.

5. 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 www.dmachoice.org.

6. Buy or cut your own tree

Artificial trees are made with petroleum-based materials and often shipped thousands of miles to reach your home. Cut trees come from a tree farm, which grow new trees each year. If you cut your own tree on our nearby National Forest, be sure to follow the instructions with your permit and cut a tree that otherwise wouldn’t survive. After the holidays, trees and wreaths can be recycled at the Howelsen Ice Arena at 285 Howelsen Parkway from December 25 – January 31. Please remove all lights, decorations and wire.

7. Send a photo or video e-card

Cut down on paper products by sending your holiday card (or original holiday video) electronically. If you are going to mail cards, look for recycled content cards. Be sure to recycle the cards you receive or reuse the front cover of cards as gift tags.

8. Decorate with natural materials

As the seasons change, you can make beautiful decorations from items found in nature like pine boughs, twigs, winter berries and pinecones.

9. Avoid alkaline batteries

Every year over 15 billion batteries are produced worldwide, and many are alkaline batteries that are not easily recycled and end up in the trash. If you’re giving a toy or device that takes batteries, purchase rechargeables to go with it.

10. Recycle

Recycling is one of the easiest actions to take every single day—not just at the holidays—to conserve resources and protect the environment. For information about recycling in Routt County, including hard-to recycle items, go to YVSC’s Recycling Guide in English or Spanish.

Visit Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s Green Holiday Guide online.