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We’re Dreaming of a “Green” Christmas

The holiday season can be a time of joy, time spent with friends and family, gift giving, good food, and rewatching our favorite comfort movies.  It’s also a time when thinking about and acting on sustainable alternatives is important! 

Holidays bring about plastic and paper waste, increased travel emissions, food waste, and the never-ending debate over plastic versus real trees. Check out some our tips for navigating this holiday season as sustainably as possible! 

Shop local: 

We’ve talked about the importance of shopping local for our food, but shopping local for gifts is also important! Keeping our shopping to our local, small businesses helps support the local economy. Additionally, shopping locally minimizes carbon emissions because travel is minimized for consumers and purveyors.  Supporting small, local businesses also helps to sustain our town centers and can help reduce sprawl and automobile use

Food waste: 

Food waste is a major issues even outside of the holiday season- about 40% of all food produced in the US never gets eaten.  This amount increases by an additional 25% between Thanksgiving and New Years! Here are a couple of easy ways to minimize your food waste: 

  • Plan a head! Figure out your menu ahead of time and plan for the amount of people who will be attending your event. Try and plan foods that you will enjoy eating as leftovers or can repurpose into other dishes (like turkey soup, curry, or sandwiches!). Consider doing more plant-based options for an increased impact! 
  • Compost! Any of the raw fruit and vegetable scraps created in the cooking of your delicious feast  can go into your compost bin to be turned into compost for you to use during the next planting season! Learn more about composting in SLC here
  • Send people home with leftovers! Tell your guests to bring their own to-go containers to help you eat through any remaining leftovers. 

Plastic and paper waste: 

Like food waste, Americans throw out an estimated 125,000 tons of plastic packaging and 277,000 miles of wrapping paper between Thanksgiving and New years. Here are some tips to curb your paper and plastic waste this season: 

  • Reuse old paper! Whether it’s leftover wrapping paper, moving paper, or old newspaper, make use of it! Try adding a sparkly bow or getting some fun stamps at the craft store to really spruce up you re-used wrapping job. Check out Clever Octopus for some great previously-owned options!
  • Use some cloth! Maybe you have an old shirt lying around that you can no longer wear, or want to gift someone a dish cloth, repurpose these items as wrappers for presents! 
  • Avoid single use items in cooking! Borrow or strategize what items you will need in the kitchen and invest in dishware that can be reused at future events! 

Real vs plastic trees: 

There are pros and cons to both plastic and real trees– plastic trees are, well, plastic, and cutting down real trees has long been linked to harming the environment! 

To offset the carbon footprint (40kg) of a plastic tree, the tree would need to be reused 10 times! Unfortunately, most households only use them about four times.  

If you are looking to purchase a plastic tree, check out some local thrift stores, like Savers or Deseret Industries to see if you can give new life to someone else’s old plastic tree! If you want to buy new, remember to take your tree to a secondhand store so that someone else might be able to enjoy it when you’re done, and if you can, use it for the full 10 years (or more)! 

On the other hand, real trees take nearly 10-12 years to reach 6 feet and in the interim act as habitat for wildlife and capture carbon from the atmosphere. Much of the concern surrounding real trees stems from what to do with them after Christmas. In Salt Lake City, our Waste and Recycling team will collect your trees to be composted. We encourage residents to cut up their Christmas trees (four-foot pieces or smaller) and put them into the brown curbside bin for regular collection. Please remove all ornaments and lights before disposing of your tree! Residents who cannot cut their trees down to fit into their brown bins may place them curbside for collection. Learn more about special curbside services on our website. 

Utah State University compiled a list of Utah-grown Christmas tree options, find the one for you here

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