Slow Down for the Holidays

In the past few years I've noticed a trend toward scaling back and slowing down for the holidays. Many are looking for ways to simplify the celebrations both for their own sanity and for the sake of the planet. You think holiday excesses are hard on your nerves, wallet and waistline? Imagine the impact on Mother Earth. From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day our household waste increases by 25 percent. That's an additional 1 million tons per week for just the U.S.!

Here are a few simple ways you can reign in your festivities and still be the life of the party.

  • Recycle your Christmas tree. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 25-30 million real Christmas trees are purchased in the U.S. and 93 percent of them are recycled after the holidays. If your community doesn't have a recycling program, cut your tree up and use the boughs to cover plants during bad weather. Or set it up in the back yard for birds to use as a hang out.

  • Decorating the garden for the holidays.
  • Purchase holiday cards made from recycled paper and recycle the cards you receive.

  • When it comes to gift giving, nothing is better than something you have made yourself such as cookies or other baked goods. Or how about supporting a worthwhile cause by giving a membership to the Nature Conservancy or National Arbor Day Foundation? Rather than taking the "more is better approach," give only one nice, thoughtful gift rather than many and draw names among friends and family to shorten the list.

  • When selecting a gift, ask yourself, "Is it recyclable?", "Can it be reused?" and "Is it overly packaged?" In that same spirit, why not wrap some of your gifts using wrapping paper made from recycled materials, brown paper sacks or the comic pages from the paper?

  • Fresh greenery, either cut from the garden or purchased at a Christmas tree lot, is a renewable resource and a quick way to infuse your home with the aroma of the holidays. Look for greenery from a reliable source that sustainably harvests select boughs rather than cuts down the whole tree.

  • If you want to avoid getting out, get creative with items that you already have around the house. A bowl of fresh fruit accented with candles makes an elegant holiday display. I made a beautiful table centerpiece by stacking two cake plates and placing some votive candles on each tier. Add a little greenery and the effect can be sensational.

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