Seven tips for keeping your holiday spirit out of the landfill

  1. Choose live, local Christmas trees. Here’s why:

The average artificial tree lasts 6 to 9 years but will remain in a landfill for centuries. With CSWD’s Yule Fuel program, when you’re ready to dispose of your real tree, they are given the chance to light up the night one last time: They are used as fuel to generate electricity and heat.

Think a real tree poses a greater fire hazard? Think again. Artificial trees are made with polyvinyl chloride, which often uses lead as a stabilizer, making it toxic to inhale if there is a fire.

Every acre of Christmas trees produces enough daily oxygen for 18 people. There are about 500,000 acres of Christmas trees growing in the U.S.

Because of their hardiness, trees are usually planted where few other plants can grow, increasing soil stability and providing a refuge for wildlife.

North American Christmas tree farms employ more than 100,000 local people; 80% of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured overseas.

Make a day of it and go to a local tree farm where you can cut your own, or purchase a potted tree and plant it in your yard after the holidays. You’ll also take home some sweet memories.

  1. Declare your tree a tinsel-free zone: decorate your tree naturally.

Instead of tinsel, which is difficult to remove, and spray-on snow, which doesn’t come off, decorate your tree with items found in nature, such as the fluff from a milkweed pod, or pine cones from the forest. CSWD can accept natural trees for free recycling only if they are completely free of anything Mother Nature herself didn’t install. If that is not possible, they will accept them as bulky trash (and send them to the landfill), at a charge of $1 per foot in height at CSWD Drop-Off Centers. Not a happy ending!

  1. Use recyclable or reusable wrapping paper.

In Chittenden County, most paper wrapping paper is recyclable.

Here’s what to stay away from: Shiny metallic inks, glitter, foil, plastic.

The best material to use for wrap is something your recipient can reuse, such as a bandana, a tea towel, a reusable cloth gift or shopping bag…the possibilities are endless.

If you still want to use wrapping paper, complete the recycling loop by purchasing wrap made with recycled paper. Let your favorite retailer know you’re looking for it and they’ll know that there’s a demand for it.

Recycling tip: Speedy recycling starts on your living-room floor on the big day:

  • Take off ribbons and decorations for reuse or trash.
  • Sort recyclable paper into your recycling bin (NOT in a plastic bag).
  • Put trash (non-reusable ribbons, plastic and metallic paper and wrapping) in a trash bag, and you’ll get ‘er done as you go!
  1. Use recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable gift decorations.

Ribbons and bows are big no-nos. Most are made of plastic and cannot be recycled. A better option would be to tie on an ornament that can be used on your tree, a knick-knack that will be enjoyed for years, or pinecones that can be composted or returned to the forest after use.

  1. Regift!

Save gifts that aren’t quite what you need for someone who will appreciate them. If you can’t think of anyone you can pass it on to, bring it to a local charity or resale store, or a ReUse Zone at a CSWD Drop-Off Center and someone else will be glad to make use of it.

  1. Collect your food scraps for composting:

After your big meal, keep your plate scrapings and prep scraps out of the trash and stash them instead in a FREE food scrap bucket available at all CSWD Drop-Off Centers and Green Mountain Compost. When the bucket is full, bring it back to CSWD or opt for food scrap pick-up options. Either way, we’ll use your scraps to make compost.

We accept all types of food scraps: meat and bones, veggies, dairy products, egg and seafood shells – anything edible. Toss in greasy take-out pizza boxes as well. Stop on by any Drop-Off Center or Green Mountain Compost and we’ll give you a kitchen counter-top pail to peel your carrots into, and a 4-gallon bucket for bringing it back to us.

  1. Remember: “The best things in life aren’t things.”

Instead of giving an object, give an experience, such as a horseback-riding jaunt, skateboard lessons, movie tickets, or a promise to spend time together doing something you know your recipient loves to do. An online tool called offers fun ways to make gifts more personal and timeless.