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Plants & Gardens Blog

Quick Tips for a Greener Holiday

The holiday season is officially here. But if you aren’t careful, the most wonderful time of the year can easily become the most wasteful. Here are some quick ideas for a greener holiday.

Tree Tips – There is a common misconception that artificial trees are better for the environment. Aside from being a pain to assemble, most of these knockoffs are made from petroleum products and shipped from overseas. While you may think that a fake tree will last forever, they are often tossed out once their luster is lost. Although it is more eco-friendly to purchase a live tree, remember that not all trees are grown equal.

If you have the outdoor space, your best bet is to buy a potted tree from a local nursery. Depending on the size, you might get several holiday seasons out of the same tree before you need to repot or plant. If space is an issue, your next bet is to throw on some flannel and go play lumberjack at a local tree farm. It’s not only fun, but a new tree will be planted in the exact same spot. If you don’t have time to get out to a tree farm, shop around. Talk to the sellers and ask about their growing and shipping practices. Look for an organically grown, pesticide free tree from a local source. But no matter how you acquire your tree, plan on recycling it in January at events like Mulchfest.

Smart Decorator – Don’t be a Clark Griswold and over do it with the lights. Pick up some strands of LED lights this year if you haven’t already. They use 90 percent less energy than traditional ‘mini lights’ and last ten times as long. Added bonus – these lights won’t burn down your brownstone. Unplug at bedtime to save even more electricity.

Think Outside the Box – The trash day after Christmas is one of the largest of the year. That pretty and pricey foil lined wrapping paper can’t be recycled. Use newspaper, sheet music or hand drawings on used paper to add a personal touch to your gifts and take a load off the landfills.

Get Creative – There are hundreds of ways to reduce waste and save money this holiday season. Re-gifting is no longer faux pas. That unworn sweater from your Aunt deserves a loving home.

For more green holiday tips and information, read Have a Happy (and Green) Holiday .

Michael Ratliff is the Publications intern at BBG.


  • Dan M December 20, 2010

    I think the only real, renewable option is to buy from a nursery. I understand this isn’t an option for all, but it’s worth the extra effort. If you don’t have the room to replant, Mulchfest is a wonderful option. It’s going to take some extra effort to go green, so you might as well make it your holiday present to Mother Earth.

    Dan M

  • Alison Kinney December 16, 2010

    Thanks for the tips!

    I am a fan of sustainable Christmas tree farming.  However, another option is to buy a vintage, pre-owned artificial tree (like our mid-century silver pom-pom model).  It’s not just an issue of new artificial vs. new live, but also of reuse, rescue of pre-existing landfill materials, and rethinking the Buy New paradigm.

    Also:  you might note that old, broken Christmas lights can (should?) be recycled when you pick up your new LEDs.  I haven’t been able to find any articles with real substantive information on what the recyclers do or how they work, but for lack of evidence to the contrary, it looks like a good idea.  Wal-Mart and Home Depot and some internet light stores have recycling programs.

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