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Green Holiday Decorating Tips and Tricks That Won’t Get Your Tinsel in a Tangle

‘Tis the season. But it’s not just a season filled with holiday magic. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with waste. According to Stanford University, Americans throw away 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, than any other time of the year. That extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage… talk about a big BAH HAMBUG.

When it’s time to deck the halls, your days can be merry and holidays green with our simple tips to wasting less this festive season.  Here’s what to know and do:

Holiday lighting:

  • If last year’s holiday lights aren’t so merry and bright, please do not place these in the recycling cart. Instead, please return to a participating retail location to be recycled.
  • When purchasing new string lights, please consider LED lights. These last much longer and require less electricity to operate.

Christmas trees:

  • Don’t toss out last year’s artificial Christmas tree. While these aren’t recyclable, they can be reused or donated.
  • Fresh-cut Christmas trees aren’t recyclable, but they are compostable. Many cities also offer opportunities to utilize these as artificial underwater reefs or mulch and have specific pickup times for composting trees – check your community’s website for details.
  • A green Christmas tree alternative is a live tree, which can be planted outdoors once undecorated.
  • You can use boughs from fresh-cut trees to create wreaths, mantle displays, or centerpieces. Whatever you do, these aren’t trash. They’re compostable.

Decor and ornaments:

  • Bring the outdoors inside this holiday season. Pinecones, greenery, nuts, and berries can create a traditional and festive holiday home. These can be composted once the holidays are over.
  • Popcorn isn’t just for popping. Some of the best and most fragrant ornaments are edible. Consider cranberries, popcorn, nuts, apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks, or peppermint sticks.
  • If you purchase ornaments, select ones made with recycled materials.
  • Bring nostalgic back with classic ornaments purchased secondhand.
  • Use upcycled decorations – many you can craft yourself. Ornaments can be made from strips of newspapers, magazines, fabric, and more.


  • Avoid plastic, paper, and Styrofoam plates and cutlery. Opt instead for items that aren’t single use. Mix and match your table settings to create a holiday table that pops. P.S. It’s OK if these don’t match. Color is part of the magic of the season.
  • Cloth napkins not only look better, they’re washable, reusable, and can be matched to your tablescape.

Holiday mail:

  • If you send holiday cards, select cards made from recycled paper and make sure to recycle any cards you receive. Pro tip: Cards can also enhance your holiday decor. Cards with glitter are not recyclable.
  • Catalogs may clutter your mailboxes, but they shouldn’t clutter your trash can. Please either ask to be removed from the mailing list or recycle unwanted mail. Pro tip: Magazines and newspapers can be used for gift wrap.
  • Boxes received in the mail can be used as gift boxes and as wrapped decorations around your holiday house.

 Just because your holidays are green, doesn’t make you a Grinch. Find more holiday tips, tricks, and resources at recyclingpartnership.org.