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Ring in a greener New Year: Sustainable ways to dispose of holiday cheer


The holidays are a time for family, friends, good food and — less cheery — a lot of waste.

Americans toss about 25% more things in the trash from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, according to Stanford University’s recycling program, or about 1 million extra tons per week.

But with a few simple steps, people can reduce what goes into the garbage and start more sustainable habits. With Christmas in the rearview, here are some tips to reuse, repurpose and recycle the aftermath of the season.

The tree

Last year, Americans bought about 56.4 million Christmas trees, both real and fake, according to the marketing and consumer data website Unfortunately, the prickly centerpieces don’t have much use beyond the holiday, aside from do-it-yourself craft projects.

Instead of tossing trees in the landfill, the city of Steamboat Springs encourages people to bring them by the Howelsen Ice Arena, at 285 Howelsen Parkway. The free tree recycling service begins Thursday, Dec. 26, and runs through the end of February, according to a news release from the city.

“When you harvest a tree from the forest, we’re helping improve forest health by thinning crowded areas. We can take that even further by recycling your tree and allowing it to give long after the holidays,” parks supervisor Ernie Jenkins said in the news release.

People can drop off their tree in the northwest corner of the parking lot of the arena seven days a week during daylight hours. Any lights and decorations must be removed from the tree.

Come spring, residents can get mulch from the recycled trees on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the news release. The rest will be used in city parks.

The turkey

About 22 million turkeys are eaten each Christmas in the U.S., according to the University of Illinois — less than half the number eaten on Thanksgiving. Instead of throwing away turkey carcasses, people can make their own stock and store it for a tasty addition to soups or all on its own for a sickness remedy. Many recipes exist, all with slight variations.

Pro tip: Simmering stock in a pot can take more than an hour, but a pressure cooker can get the job done in almost half the time.

For food safety reasons, a turkey carcass should be placed in a cold place within two hours of taking it out of the oven. It can be stored in the refrigerator for about three days and in the freezer for no more than two months.

The lights

After a few too many Christmases, lights will start to show signs of wear or stop working altogether — especially for families who leave them up all year. Older lights also are not as eco-friendly as newer ones.

Modern LED lights not only last 50 times longer, they use 75% less energy than the incandescent bulbs of yore, according to Anne Mudgett, communications and development director with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. Solar-powered LED lights are also an option.

She encourages people to recycle their old lights rather than throw them in the trash. A special recycling drop-off is available at Steamboat Ace Hardware, 2155 Curve Plaza.

Recycling in general is a key part to any sustainable lifestyle, during and outside the holidays. The Sustainability Council has its Yampa Valley Recycles app to “take the guesswork” out of knowing what can and can’t be recycled. Download the free app at

Finally, as the holiday cards and wrapping paper pile up, Mudgett recommends repurposing all of it next year, helping to save money and the planet.


This article was originally published on

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