Christmas Morning Aftermath — A Practical Guide to an Eco-friendly Holiday

It’s Christmas morning. The presents have been opened and you are surrounded by mountains of beautiful paper, ribbons, and bows. As someone who wants to be eco-friendly, I’m sure the idea of unnecessary waste bothers to you too. So before you give up and fill your dumpster with the discarded evidence of a great day, give these strategies a try. Not only will you help the planet, but you’ll keep that warm and fuzzy feeling going well after the holidays.

Recycle the Boxes and Paper

Let’s start with the easy stuff. Take the boxes, paper, and cards, break them down to manageable sizes and stuff them in the recycling bin. Keep in mind however that paper with high-gloss and glitter are not recyclable. Set those aside for the next tip.

Upcycle the Beautiful Ribbon and Bows

Once you’ve separated out the recyclable paper and cardboard, you’ll have the beautiful, sparkly ribbons, bows, and paper that cannot be recycled. A simple way to make sure these items don’t make it into a landfill is to save them for next year. Tuck them away under the bed or wherever you store your crafts and make sure they see new life on a present in 2017. If you’ve got limited space or just don’t want to keep it around, take it to a reuse center. Reuse centers are places that collect items from business and individuals for teachers to use for classroom craft projects. Visit to find a center near you.

What about the bubble wrap and packing peanuts?

Just like the ribbons and bows, keep them for reuse or give them to someone. helps people just like you find a place to drop off your packing peanuts. These places may even take the other packing materials, just call ahead to ensure they can accommodate what you are bringing.

Don’ trash your lights!

Christmas lights are thrown away far too easily. With a little time and patience you can find the burnt out bulb and replace it, bringing new life into that glittering strand of holiday cheer. If the half-lit, half-dark strand of multi-colored brilliance evades you recycle them. Yep, you can recycle those too. Some places will even pay you for them! Because the strands have copper wire at their heart, even the most mangled dysfunctional set of lights has value in a second life. Sometimes place like Home Depot will take them and, depending on the time of the season, they’ll give you a coupon that saves you money on buying a replacement strand. Be sure to buy LED lights when you do. They are better for the environment.

Give your tree a new life.

As we continually increase our understanding of the value of trees, as opposed to their plastic alternatives, make sure your tree makes it back out into nature rather than a dump. Many cities offer free pick-up for trees. Just look up the schedule and put your tree on the curb at the right time. They get a second life as mulch and more.

If you’ve made the mistake of an artificial tree, don’t worry. There are ways to recycle that too. On Pinterest you can find a ton of ideas for upcycling it or you can find a recycle center that takes them. You may have to do a little more hunting for somewhere to take it, but that is time well spent.

Compost your leftovers.

If you hate leftovers or just have too much to handle, find a place that will compost the fruit cake that grandma left. With a quick Google search you can find drop off centers near you. Also, cities like Denver offer composting services. For a mere $9.75/month (billed at $29.25 a quarter) you can have a weekly compost pick up. This is a handy thing to have around all year, not just for the holidays. By composting all year round, you can reduce the volume of your trash going into landfills. estimates that you could reduce your wast by up to 75%. That a lasting present to Mother Nature for sure.

During the holiday season it can be a real downer to hear people complain about the waste and damage to the environment. Hopefully, these few tips have given a new life to the idea of being eco-friendly and still maintain the holiday spirit.

Happy holidays!

Christmas Morning Aftermath — A Practical Guide to an Eco-friendly Holiday was originally published in Aspen & Pine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.