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Have Yourself A Sustainable Little Christmas

Have Yourself A Sustainable Little Christmas: How To Make Your Holiday Celebrations Eco-Friendly


Dana Fulton Porter is a publications supervisor in the DNR’s Office of Communications.

If you’re prepping for the holiday season, know that you’re not alone. The National Retail Federation estimates 91% of consumers will celebrate the winter holiday season in some way.

In this time of giving and sharing, it can be easy to get carried away. Between presents, food and decorations, the garbage thrown out increases dramatically during the holidays. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the volume of household garbage increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Eco-friendly options for holiday celebrations are now more accessible than ever. Making conscious choices can help the environment, save money and add creativity to the season.



Though no one wants to be compared to the Grinch during the holidays, he has one thing going for him: being green.

We’re not encouraging anyone to color themselves green, but focusing on sustainable practices during the holidays will certainly help turn the season green. Revelers should remember the three Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle — as they plan.

It doesn't take much effort to make a difference. Research from Stanford University suggests that if everyone sent just one less card during the holidays, we could save more than 50,000 cubic yards of paper.

Conscious consumers should also be mindful of “green” and “eco-friendly” labeling on packaging. Those claims are legally required by the Federal Trade Commission to be honest and true. The FTC’s Green Guides also help businesses make environmental claims on their labels.


Tinsel, lights, signs, holly, table runners and ornaments — the list never ends! For many homes worldwide, decorating for the holidays is a fun tradition.

Handed-down decorations can bring fun memories and help reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills. Thrift stores and vintage shops also can hold little holiday treasures ready for their second life.

Also, seek out ways to reuse fall decor for the winter season. Paint those pumpkins white and stack them to make a little snowman!


Food waste is a year-round issue that becomes especially problematic during the holidays. Extra dishes and treats to share can lead to too much food on the table, which turns into too much food in the trash.

If you are hosting a holiday gathering, encourage guests to bring smaller dishes to share and use local ingredients or ethically sourced products. Also, suggest guests bring reusable containers to pack away leftover food to nibble on later.

For more on reducing food waste at home any time of year, check dnr.wi.gov/tiny/1091.


After the season winds down, look for opportunities to reuse or recycle. Some unwanted wrapping paper can be recycled, except for the foil type and anything with glitter, but some wrapping paper and bags can be reused next year.

Live trees also can be reused. Check with your local town to see if they’ll place the trees somewhere for rabbits and birds to use. You also can save the tree in your yard to chip for mulch in the spring.