Talking Green: ‘Tis the season for sustainability

Anne Mudgett
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

With all the decorating, gift giving, feasting and traveling, the holidays can cause a big jump in your carbon footprint. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste alone increases by more than 25%. 

But, there’s still time to make your holidays sustainable. It’s easier than you think to keep your waste, energy consumption and carbon emissions in check at this time of year. Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s tips to green up the season:

Give an experience, not stuff: If you have some last-minute shopping to do, give event tickets, activities or restaurant gift cards. You can also give the gift of time — a precious resource — such as home cleaning or snow removal services. Or, make a charitable donation in a loved one’s name.

Wrap gifts in eco-friendly materials: Most wrapping paper is not recyclable because of the shiny coatings and foils. Wrap gifts with old maps, fabric remnants, colorful dish towels, reusable cloth bags, butcher paper or newspaper. 

Avoid alkaline batteries: Each year, Americans throw away more than three billion batteries, which can leak acids, mercury and other heavy metals into our environment. Purchase rechargeable batteries over alkaline.

Travel light (on the planet): If you’re driving over the river and through the woods, be sure to check the air in your tires to achieve optimal gas mileage. If flying, consider offsetting the carbon emissions of your flight. And, remember to lower your thermostat while you’re away.

Reduce waste at celebratory meals: Ideally, serve on dishware that can be washed and reused. If you need to serve on single-use tableware, purchase recyclable or recycled materials. Reduce food waste by planning portions and eating or freezing any leftovers. 

Recycle: Recycling is one of the easiest actions to take every single day — not just at the holidays — to conserve resources. The Yampa Valley Recycles app takes the guesswork out of recycling. Download the app for free at

Switch to LED holiday lights: If you’re still using incandescent lights, recycle them when you take your holiday decorations down and invest in LED lights, which last up to 50 times longer and use up to 75% less energy than traditional lights. Old holiday lights can be recycled at Ace Hardware. No need to remove the bulbs.

Recycle your tree: Each year, 10 million Christmas trees end up in the landfill. Recycle your tree (no wreaths) at the Howelsen Ice Arena, at 285 Howelsen Parkway, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 31. Please remove all lights, decorations and wire.

For more tips to make your holidays sustainable, go to

Anne Mudgett is the communications and development director for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

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