Tips to Make Holiday Decorations and Gifts Fun and Sustainable - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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Tips to Make Holiday Decorations and Gifts Fun and Sustainable



A Standford study shows Americans produce 25% more waste during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. (Shutterstock)
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The best time of year is upon us, cheer is all around exploding with bright red and green colors.

Liz Juarez


Lights twinkle throughout neighborhoods, and department stores are filled with gift sets and festive holiday decor.

Wall-to-wall shelves and displays offer us what our hearts desire.

However, Christmas also encourages overconsumption, waste, environmental harm, and increased debt.

So let’s take a look at how to enjoy the holidays without going overboard.

Do You Really Need That?

Holiday decor is often not recyclable and ends up in the landfill. In fact, a study out of Stanford University shows that Americans contribute 25% more waste during the holiday season than at any other time of the year.

This extra waste amounts to one million tons of waste per week.

Sure, some items can be hard to resist. They’re cute, and they make your house feel warm and inviting.

But ask yourself this the next time you’re out shopping: Do I really need it?

I often find that I don’t really need new Christmas baubles, ornaments, and knickknacks.

Holiday decorations can be as fickle as the clothes we wear, quickly going in and out of fashion.

Decorate With What You Have

Instead, I propose this.

Pick out holiday decorations that will last you a lifetime. Also, look for pieces with sentimental value. That way, you won’t ever feel like you need to upgrade and throw them out.

For example, instead of buying flimsy Christmas stockings made of cheap fabric and glitter, invest in a nice quality knitted stocking or try your hand at knitting it yourself.

And, look for things you have around the house or find them at a thrift store. Beautiful decorations needn’t break the bank.

In my case, I took pinecones left over from a party and put them inside Mason jars to give my home the look of Christmas. They might last me until next year and even if the pinecones start breaking down, they can be composted.

I always keep this in mind when shopping and opt for wooden decor that is compostable or reusable for other events and holidays.

Save decorations from previous parties and opt for wooden decor that can be composted later. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

Use The Nature Around You to Decorate

If you live in the Central Valley, there’s a high probability you might have at least one citrus tree in the backyard. Even if you don’t, there’s a good chance that friends and family do. There’s a third option, as well. It’s called the grocery store.

I have an old orange tree in my yard and, unfortunately, most of the oranges are bitter. Instead of eating them, I slice and dehydrate them in the oven before I hang them on the Christmas tree.

They add a nice touch to the tree, make your house smell lovely, and once the holiday is over, into the compost they go.

You can use what grows in your backyard as a holiday decoration. (Shutterstock)

Should You Buy a Real Christmas Tree or a Fake Tree?

It’s a debate as old as time. Should you buy a real Christmas tree or get a fake plastic tree to use over and over again?

When I was younger, my parents went out and bought a fake Christmas tree that we decorated every year.

That tree lasted us at least 15 years, making it a real bargain. But when it turned ragged, we threw it away and it’s probably sitting in a landfill today.

Moving forward, we decided on buying only little trees that are real because they’re not so expensive.

Trees grown on a Christmas farm are as zero waste as you can go, and thanks to the state of California, you can compost them afterward by throwing them in the green bin.

Don’t Let Anything Go to Waste

While shiny bows and wrapping paper may make a gift stand out, it’s important to remember much of these packaging materials cannot be recycled.

That’s why I save boxes and brown paper bags throughout the year. They can be used to hold and wrap gifts. To add holiday cheer, I use an array of colored Christmas stamps, ribbons, strings, and twine that can be reused or recycled.

Don’t throw cardboard boxes in the recycle bin. Save them instead for Christmas packaging. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

Gift Experiences Rather Than Items

Lastly, sometimes the most challenging part of Christmas can be finding the perfect gift.

However, none of us are mind readers. Sometimes the gift we think someone will love ends up thrown away, donated, or re-gifted.

So I look for items that I know someone will enjoy, and sometimes that can be a sweet and thoughtful treat.

For example, I know my grandmother loves making hot chocolate in winter and my father-in-law loves cookies.

I’m always on the hunt in thrift shops for Mason jars, which I use as gift holders for treats.

This year, I’m filling up the jars with a concoction of Mexican hot chocolate for my grandmother and homemade baked goods for others.

Make handmade gifts and treats for your family and friends. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

If you feel like your gift is lacking, you can always add a gift card with it, enabling that special someone to buy what they actually want or need.

You can also choose to gift an “experience,” Movie, concert, and festival tickets are always appreciated.

Liz Juarez joined GV Wire in July, 2021 as a Digital News Producer. She has experience working for publications around the Central Valley including the Clovis Roundup, Porterville Recorder and Hanford Sentinel. While in college, she interned for Mountain West Athletics and served as Outreach Chair for the Fresno State Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Liz earned a bachelor's degree in Media Communications and Journalism at Fresno State and a master's degree in Communications from Arizona State University. In her down time, she enjoys reading, drawing and staying active by playing basketball, taking trips to the coast and visiting national parks. You can contact Liz at