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Green Holiday Guide

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SLCgreen’s “Green Holiday Guide.” It’s snow bunny approved.


During the holiday rush, sustainability may not be the first thing on your mind. Fortunately, there are a number of measures you can take to ensure your festivities are more eco-friendly and sustainable.

We’ve compiled these actions into a convenient Green Holiday Guide. No matter how you celebrate, we at SLCgreen hope you find this information helpful and wish you the best of times and a very happy New Year!

Christmas Trees

One great option for your home Christmas tree is a live native potted tree. When you’re done with it, plant it after the holidays or let it live on as a house plant. As an added bonus, a live tree will absorb carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen for cleaner air.

Check with your local nursery or garden center for advice on the best type of tree, depending if you are planning to replant or keep it inside.  If you can, hold off and plant it in late March or early April. This will increase the tree’s chance of surviving long term.

If you go for a cut tree, use the compost bin to dispose of it after the holidays. Make sure to cut it up so it fits in the bin and remove any tinsel or non-organic decorations (Just be sure to dispose of it before the wintertime suspension of compost bin collection, beginning the week of January 22, 2018).

If you can’t cut up your tree for the compost bin, no problem. Leave it curbside and we’ll be by during the month of January to collect it.

No matter what you do, do not burn your tree. Burning anything during the winter is horrible for our air quality (Burning during “air action” days is also against State regulation and violates Salt Lake County Health Department rules).

Energy efficiency

When stringing up lights this season, think “less is more.” For the lights you do put up, go for LED lights, which are 80-95% more efficient than traditional bulbs and will last longer. (This is a good reminder to switch out any other traditional light bulbs you may have in your home for LEDs too!)


LED lights look great on me!

Make sure you have your lights on a timer so they only are on when you want them to be. Some LED Christmas lights are even solar powered!

Ditch the Disposables

While it can save some time to use disposable dishes and utensils during the holidays, it just transfers the extra burden to our environment. The vast majority of consumed plastics gets sent to landfills or contaminates ecosystems where it will last for thousands of years.

Furthermore, plastic utensils are difficult to recycle and paper products contaminated with food residue are not recyclable.

So what’s the alternative? Purchase some extra plates and utensils from a second-hand store, or ask a friend or family member to loan you some. 

Plus– washing dishes together is good for memory-making!

Knife Forks Cutlery Washing Dishes Metal

Use these this holiday season.

Recycling tips

Instead of throwing away unwanted items (including that gift you don’t really want), donate them to local organizations.

For the items that you can recycle, make sure they get to the right place! Here are some seasonal reminders:

  • Remember to recycle all the cardboard and paper products you’re receiving in the mail. This is highly valuable material. Don’t forget to break down your boxes before putting them in the blue bin.
  • Choose recyclable gift wrap and bags. As long as it doesn’t have any glitter or a metallic or waxy finish, you can recycle it. (Better yet– use cloth or re-purpose other materials you have in your house– old maps, magazines, artsy brochures or paper bags.)  Other tips here.
  • Tissue paper is not readily recyclable. If it’s white– put it in the brown compost bin instead.
  • Plastic packaging, plastic water bottles– make sure they’re going in the blue bin. Brush up on all your curbside recyclables here.
  • Not sure how to recycle an item (electronics, batteries, mattresses, etc.)? Check out the Hard-to-Recycle items page showing locations and services that will make sure these items are properly disposed of.

Buy Local

When buying gifts, buy from local businesses when possible.

This helps the local economy. Analysis shows that if you spend $100 at a national retailer, $13 stays in Utah.  But if you spend $100 at a locally owned business $55 stays in Utah.

Try the Winter Market at Rio Grande for local food and gifts for the holidays. You might be surprised by how much this market has to offer in the winter months!

Small Business Saturday

Shop small, shop locally. Not just for Saturdays.

Eat less meat and dairy

Eating plant-based foods immediately lowers your carbon footprint. As CNN writes of a recent report:

Emissions from the production of beef and lamb are 250 times higher than those from legumes, per gram of protein, and pork and poultry are 40 times higher than legumes. A large amount of methane and nitrous oxide, gases that are more than 20 times and 250 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, are generated through livestock-raising activities.

So if you want to do one thing to lower your environmental impact this season, opt out of meat and dairy– even for just a few meals.

Here is a list of 41 great meatless holiday comfort food recipes to get you inspired.

Be air quality conscious

As the temperature along the Wasatch Front drops, we often suffer poor air quality. During these inversion episodes, pollution doubles every day.

RoseParkStreets Winter

Let’s keep the air clear this winter.

Do your part during this busy season to manage your pollution. Be a SLC Clean Air Champion and follow these tips:

  • Remember not to idle.  Encourage family members not to idle in the mornings by gifting a durable brush and snow scraper for the winter commutes.
  • If a local school, church, or business is seeing a lot of idling vehicles, find out how to get idle free signs put up in that area. 
  • Combine trips, carpool to destinations, and use public transit. If you’re heading up to the canyons to ski, check out UTA’s snow routing changes and the UTA 2017-18 Ski Bus schedule.
  • Follow @TravelWiseUtah for other great transportation tips!
  • Above all, don’t burn wood. It’s festive at this time of year, but incredibly polluting to our air. One fireplace emits as much particle pollution as 90 sport-utility vehicles, and the pollution from one traditional wood-burning stove is equivalent to the amount emitted by 3,000 natural gas furnaces producing the same amount of heat per unit.  Use a natural gas fire insert or even an app or video to create the ambiance!
  •  Check out the burn restrictions here and if you or someone you know has a wood burning stove, let them know about this exchange program!

For more tips on air quality go to

Whatever you do, we hope you’ll incorporate some sustainable practices into your merrymaking.

From all of us at SLCgreen, have a happy and healthy holiday season!

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