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The 12 Days of Sustainable Living & Giving 

The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most wasteful. Between gift packaging and shipping, increased travel and energy use, the holidays create a great deal of excess. In fact, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, resulting in 100 million extra tons of garbage each week (neefusa.org)!

Never fear — you don't have to break up with your favorite family traditions to show the Earth some love this holiday season. Just adopt a few of these tips for sustainable living and giving, and don't forget to involve the kids. You may just find that a few of these simple suggestions help you and your family reconnect with the true meaning of the holidays and activities to enjoy.

1) More Experiences, Fewer Hard Goods

Ski lessons, horseback riding, a fly-fishing excursion... The joy that comes from a hands-on experience tends to last longer than the excitement of a new toy, and it won't end up in the landfill.

NATALIE STEVENSON
  • Natalie Stevenson

Bonus — experiences that get kids out in nature or connecting with animals may encourage a love of the environment.

2) O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree ...

The great tree debate is a hot one. Whether you choose to "keep it real" or buy an artificial tree, you'll want to consider environmental impacts.

Should you opt for an artificial tree that can be used year after yeayr, choose one made in the U.S. from PE plastic instead of PVC which contains more toxic chemicals (earth911.com).

If your family prefers a real tree, visit the Deschutes National Forest or a lot that only sells locally grown trees. After the holidays, the local Boy Scout troop will recycle the tree for you.

Best of all, take your environmental stewardship to the next level by purchasing a tree with its root ball attached and replant it after the holidays (theverge.com).

Or, really go out on a limb with a conceptual tree using a mix of found objects, natural elements and holiday decor. (See more on trees in Outdoors, p. 40)

3) Gift the Gift of Tasty Treats!

Good food is always in style, and consumable gifts create less trash for the landfill. Hit up one of Central Oregon's amazing bakeries or candy artisans and pair with a locally roasted fair trade coffee for a gift that is sure to make the season sweeter.

NATALIE STEVENSON
  • Natalie Stevenson

4) Recyclable Holiday Cards

The personalized holiday card industry offers a plethora of options for those who enjoy mailing that cute family photo. If this tradition is important to your family, you can help reduce the amount of waste produced by skipping the glossy photo cards (often printed by big box retailers) and using a paper that can later be recycled. Include a note on your card encouraging the recipient to reuse the card in a creative way (i.e. future gift tags) or to recycle it. Or, consider going for the greenest option, an e-card.

5) Need to Ship—Go Postal!

If given the choice, use the United States Postal Service instead of the other guys. USPS will already be in your neighborhood, so you won't be increasing your carbon footprint. (sustainablebabysteps.com)

6) Decorate with Natural and Found Objects

Less plastic, more berries, pinecones, cinnamon sticks and evergreen boughs. Bring the natural elements indoors for a simple yet beautiful display. Let the kiddos use their imaginations to help create a unique and festive ambience.

7) Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbon

Gift wrap waste really piles up, but wise choices can make a big impact. If wrapping paper is your thing, avoid styles with shiny foil or glitter which cannot be recycled. Or step up your gifting game and present your gifts in materials like cotton, newspaper, hemp or reusable totes and wicker baskets which can be used again and again. Skip those pre-made bows since they cannot be recycled and often get flattened before you get a chance to reuse them. Try a simple yet elegant reusable jute string on your gifts instead.

NATALIE STEVENSON
  • Natalie Stevenson

8) Sustanable Stocking Stuffers for Grown-ups

Less is more when you give small gifts with a purpose. Fill your sweetie's stocking with thoughtfully selected items that are not only fun and functional, but good for the environment. Suggestions: 100 percent wool dryer balls that cut down drying time by up to 20 percent and replace one-time use dryer sheets, adorable eco-friendly dishcloths made from renewable fibers that can be composted post-use.

NATALIE STEVENSON
  • Natalie Stevenson

9) Next-Level Illumination

Christmas lights and candles add a warm glow to any home and create a feeling of calm. But, these illuminating products can also waste energy and release toxins into the environment. Upgrade to LED lights which use 1/10th as much energy as traditional lights and choose candles made from natural products like soy and beeswax instead of paraffin for cleaner air. (ethicalstylehunter.com)

10) hostess with the Mostest

Throwing a shindig? Your guests will appreciate a thoughtful approach to decor, party supplies, food and drinks. Skip the paper products whenever possible or choose compostable bowls, plates and cups or sturdy bamboo options. Bamboo utensils and bowls are an elegant and eco-friendly way to present your meal. Serve organic and free-range foods and beverages from local producers for a fresh and sustainable feast.

NATALIE STEVENSON
  • Natalie Stevenson

11) Go, Go Green Gadgets!

Be sure to power down before you head over the hills to grandmother's house. If you are leaving for more than a day or two, avoid wasting energy by turning off lights, unplugging electronics and power strips and turning down that thermostat.

If electronics are on the wish list, seek energy-efficient options. Look for the Energy Star logo, and you'll feel warm and cozy knowing you are making better choices for the environment. Many electronics can be recycled in Deschutes County. For more information on recycling electronics in Central Oregon, visit: deschutes.org/solidwaste/page/electronic-waste-e-waste

12) Shop Locally!

There are oh, so many reasons to shop local: less shipping fuel and packaging waste, more money in the local economy, a sense of community when supporting local businesses...the list goes on and on. Venture in to a locally owned brick and mortar store or go even smaller and check out the plethora of holiday marketplaces and bazaars that are popping up all over town this season. See page 35 for a list of local holiday marketplaces.

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