Ask Eartha: Sustain the holiday spirit with green gifts (column) |

Ask Eartha: Sustain the holiday spirit with green gifts (column)

Eartha Steward
Ask Eartha

If each family in the U.S. wrapped just three presents in reused material, we’d save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
Courtesy Getty Images

Ask Eartha

How can I give in a more sustainable manner this holiday season?

Tony, Blue River

Tony, thanks for reaching out. The Claus Family and The Steward Family are dear friends, and Santa let me know you are on the “Nice List” just for trying to be more environmentally conscious. You are right, one of the joys of the holiday season is giving, but with that comes the arrival of lots of new stuff.

When purchasing presents and making room for new gifts this holiday season, always consider what you can do with all your old stuff that is being replaced. Consider the four “Rs” when gifting this year: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle.

Before buying a new gift, ask some questions: Do you really need to give something new in the first place? Can you wait a year? Can what you are replacing be repurposed into something different? If you must give a present, does it have to be new? Can you buy something secondhand instead? What do you already own that can be given away?

The problem is that new stuff, although fun to receive, stresses the environment with virgin resources, transportation, packaging, human labor and more waste to the landfill. Giving in a more sustainable manner is not only friendlier to the environment but can be creative and fun! I share a couple tips below:

Make your own gifts

Nothing is more meaningful than what is created from the heart. Search DIY holiday gifts in your web browser and you will be flooded with creative ideas.

Shop locally!

Several stores in Summit County offer great holiday deals this time of year. Remember, shopping locally means giving back to the community. According to a study of retail economics, for every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $68 will stay in the community. Conversely, when $100 is spent at a national chain only $48 stays in the community.

Shop used or independent retailers online such as Etsy and thredUP.

Etsy’s mission is to keep commerce human. For the unique goods Etsy offers, it is economically and socially just to support direct creator-to-consumer transactions. The easiest way to shop online and sell high quality secondhand clothes at a very affordable price is to use threadUP.

Avoid next day air or two-day expedited shipping. Based on recent studies by UCLA, online shopping has a smaller carbon footprint than traditional shopping only when shipping is not rushed. The faster the delivery, the more trucks are on the road, which means more greenhouse gas emissions.

Give the gift of sustainability by purchasing your local loved ones an HC3 energy audit, food scrap recycling subscription or just check out how to recycle anything locally with Rocky. Visit for more information.

Not all wrapping paper is created equal. Be conscious if your wrapping paper is recyclable or not. It is recyclable if it passes the shake, scrunch and tear test. Check out the Summit Daily Ask Eartha on wrapping paper online for more information.

Besides purchasing, you can be sustainable in the way you present your gift. The most eco-friendly way to wrap a gift is by creating your own giftwrap from everyday materials around the house. The Steward family loves making our own wrapping paper. Our family uses cloth, old crossword puzzles, maps, newspapers and brown paper bags to wrap gifts. This is one terrific way to avoid having to buy new material and it promotes creativity and family fun.

Best of luck in your sustainable purchasing and wrapping, Tony. If you have any additional holiday recycling questions, visit Happy holidays!

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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