Local green expert Fran Witte offers her best advice for an eco-friendly holiday. 

Dec. 3, 2014

By Julie Thibodeaux

We start out with good intentions, says Fran Witte, environmental programs coordinator for the city of Irving. But soon our plans to celebrate the holidays greenly goes by the wayside. Seduced by retail ads, lulled by nostalgia or panicked over time pressure, we end up spending too much money on non-eco-friendly stuff we wouldn’t buy at other times during the year. 

To keep you focused on your green mantra, Witte, a longtime environmental advocate, has created a checklist for keeping it green during the holidays: 


1. Keep it simple. The best way to reduce our holiday environmental footprint is to not let the gift giving get out of hand. Witte fondly remembers a Christmas from her childhood when her father took her and her three siblings to the toy store and they were allowed to pick out one gift for their Christmas present that year. Witte says hers was carefully chosen. 

“I still remember the toy I picked out,” said Witte. “It was a Kenner movie projector that you hand cranked.”

Today other sustainable living advocates are falling back on the old adage “less is more.” Here are 42 Ways to Trim Your Holiday Wasteline from Use Less Stuff.

Here’s a book Witte recommends: Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays by Elaine St. James, published in 1998.

2. Go natural. Decorate your home with natural materials such as pine cones, twigs, herbs and other greenery. 

“I like to incorporate things from my backyard,” she said. “Or, you can go to a park and find things.”

These found treasures can also be used to decorate packages.


3. Shop at thrift stores. Witte said she’s picked up some nifty holiday decorations at local resale shops. Not only does it reduce the amount of new items going into landfill, it's economical.

“I’ve really gotten some great deals,” said Witte.

You may also find a vintage gift that couldn’t be found anywhere else. Check out the NBC-5 news story on the Ugly Christmas Sweater Shop at 6333 Mockingingbird in Dallas.

Above, courtesy of the Ugly Christmas Sweater Shop in Dallas.


4. Reuse materials. For gift wrapping, use newspaper or old paper grocery sacks. You or your kids can have fun decorating the paper. Or cut and paste old Christmas cards on the packages.

Scrap material and old scarves found around the house can also be used for gift wrapping. Check out furoshiki, the Japanese style of artfully wrapping gifts and other items with cloth.

“It’s so simple and so fun,” said Witte. "Plus, [the giftee] gets a scarf."


5. Shop local. Buy from local artisans and retailers, such as Dolphin Blue, Gecko Hardware and Fair & Square Imports. Some farmer’s markets host holiday sales this time of year. White Rock Holiday Market will be held Dec. 6 at Lakeside Baptist and Dec. 13 at the Green Spot Market.

Left, these hardwood earrings handmade by a local artisan Hannah Aikins are available at Gecko Hardware in Dallas.



6. Buy products made in the USA. Manufacturing in America is subject to more progressive labor practices and environmental regulations than many countries oversees.

A Philadelphia-based woman has created a blog that recommends eco-friendly products that are made in America. 


7. Reduce waste. Buy gifts that aren’t going to produce a lot of waste. Can the product be recycled when it’s no longer in use?

Don’t buy things that require batteries. Or if they require batteries, buy rechargeable ones, along with a charger. 

“Look for higher quality items that will last,” said Witte.

Left, This oil drum ornament, handmade in Haiti from scrap steel drums, is available at Fair & Square Imports.


8. Give your time. Remember how when you were a kid you gave your mom or dad a coupon promising a few hours of housecleaning or some other chore? Adults can do that too. 

“Offer to provide babysitting, make dinner for your friends.”

Make your gifts if you have the skill. Build a birdfeeder or a cat tree. Make some baked goods, jellies or jams.

9. Give gift cards and memberships. Gift certificates and gift cards ensure your loved ones get presents they'll use.

Memberships to environmental nonprofits, nature centers, arboretums or museums provide a year’s worth of pleasure.

Recycling old gift cards is still a challenge but here are some options.


10. Green up your get-togethers. Use reusable plates and utensils for holiday parties. Or purchase biodegradable or recyclable products. Put some thought into estimating how much food you’ll actually need to reduce the amount of food that’s wasted. 

See this portion calculator on the Use Less Stuff Party Guide. 

Above, these eco-friendly plates, made from 100-percent recycled plastic, are available through DolphinBlue.com.

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