Earth-Friendly Gifts for the Holidays

Earth-Friendly Gifts for the Holidays
The holidays are upon us and so is the gift-giving season. Consumerism is not an earth-friendly habit, but we can find some middle ground when we choose gifts that are earth-friendly; things that someone can use to replace disposable or single use items.

Here are a few of my favorite options:
  1. Reusable cotton rounds. These are great for cleaning your face. Just squirt on some of your favorite face wash or wet them and apply soap. Rinse after use and then throw in the washer and dryer. The ones I have, I have used for over a year and they are in great shape. To keep tabs on them as they go through the wash, it’s best to put them in a lingerie bag.
  2. Bamboo toothbrushes. Use these as stocking stuffers or gifts for Hannukah. Bamboo is a much more earth-friendly material than plastic to make toothbrushes, so introducing someone to a bamboo toothbrush is a fabulous idea.
  3. Reusable produce bags. This is my all-time favorite gift. Grab a set of 5-10 bags and that will set someone up for shopping success. Choose a set made from cotton to be the most earth-friendly option. They can be thrown in the wash and when they’ve reached the end of their usefulness, they can be composted.
  4. Beeswax food wraps. Although you can make your own, finding someone who makes these locally alleviates the work and supports a small business. If you can’t find someone locally who makes them locally, look for a seller on Etsy.
  5. Zippered silicone bags. These help to replace the single use version that often go straight into the garbage after being used once. I have several versions of these and they are all fantastic. Different sizes help to accommodate different foods and these are perfect for adding to school or work lunches.
  6. Reusable cloth napkins. The ones that I use are from a seller on Etsy. They are made of two-ply diaper material and are super absorbent. We’ve been using the set I have for at least 5 years and they look practically brand new. These go straight through the washer and dryer and require no ironing.
Remember that with holiday giving, less is more. Consider giving experiences rather than items. Experiences gain in value over time whereas items lose value. Give a gift that creates memories.

Tips for an Earth-Friendlier Thanksgiving

Tips for an Earth-Friendlier Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks and gathering with family. It can also be a time of great waste, so let’s see if we can find some ways in which to be more earth-friendly this Thanksgiving. 

  1. Purchase products in glass and metal containers that can be recycled. There are lots of foods that are easier to purchase than make. I get it. I used to try to make my own gravy but after not being successful for too many times, and since only a few of us actually eat it, I have opted to purchase gravy. I make sure to always purchase it in a glass jar. Glass can be recycled, so I’m taking a small step to be more earth-friendly in that regard.
  2. Make turkey broth from the turkey carcass. I know more than a few of my friends who talk about wanting to cry when they visit family and they see the carcass going straight into the trash. I have learned over the years to make broth from either turkey or chicken and freeze it, and I have found it to be quite simple. 
Here’s how to make broth: Put the turkey or chicken carcass in a slow cooker, cover with water and let simmer for about 8 hours. Let it cool, remove all of the bones and ladle the broth into jars. All you need are some pint mason jars with lids. Leave about ½ inch of headspace in the jar to provide room for expansion when freezing. Make sure to label the lid with the month and year that you made it and put it in the freezer. You’ll have plenty of broth for the winter months. When it comes time to use it, just move the jars from freezer to refrigerator a couple of days ahead of time and they will thaw and be ready for use.

  1. Use reusable containers to store leftovers. We used to set a box of zippered plastic bags next to the leftovers to store them but have learned over the years to embrace the reusable containers. We even have some that go in the freezer, so we use all that we have. 
  2. Freeze some leftovers to reduce potential food waste. Estimate how long the family will tolerate leftovers for meals and then freeze the rest. One of the things I do is to chop up leftover turkey into 2 cup portions and freeze. The 2 cup quantity is perfect for adding to casseroles. Make sure to label the turkey and add a date so you know what it is and when it went into the freezer. 
  3. Make your own pies rather than purchase pre-made pies to reduce the amount of trash. Buying premade pies is really convenient, but between the box and the foil pie pan, it can result in a lot of waste. Instead, consider making your own pies and using reusable pie plates. I’m not one to make my own crust, so I purchase that premade, but otherwise, it’s homemade. Perhaps I should call it home assembled instead.
No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving this season, make sure to take some time to be grateful and to give thanks. 

What To Do With Your Jack-O-Lantern After Halloween

What To Do With Your Jack-O-Lantern After Halloween

Carving pumpkins to make Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween is a long-standing tradition, but from an environmental perspective, there are some concerns. For one thing, pumpkins take a lot of water and pesticides to grow. For another thing, they are often disposed of in the landfill after their time of usefulness is over, leaving them to rot and emit methane.


But, all is not lost. What if we could have some good come out of our favorite gourd?


I know lots of people who toast the pumpkin seeds to eat later. That’s a great first step in putting to good use material that would otherwise be thrown away.


As far as what to do with the pumpkin after Halloween, there are many options besides throwing it in the landfill.


1.  Compost it. In our area, we have curbside food scrap collection, so putting the pumpkin in the food scrap bin will ensure it doesn’t end up in the landfill. You can also compost the pumpkin in your back yard. If you don’t have a compost pile, you can put small pieces of it in your flower or garden beds to feed the worms and other insects that inhabit the soil.

2.  Leave it out for the wildlife. If you have woods on your property, you could put the pumpkin out for the wildlife. While I don’t advocate putting food out regularly for the wildlife, this is one exception. The best thing to do is split the pumpkin open so that the squirrels, deer, foxes, rabbits and mice can get to the flesh on the inside.
Do you have friends who have chickens? Chickens love pumpkin. Offer to supply your friend’s chickens with a tasty treat.

3. Donate it to a farm or animal sanctuary. This is becoming a more popular option in my area. There are pig farmers who accept pumpkin donations and there’s even a directory to help you find them. Check out They have a directory of pig farms and animal sanctuaries that are updated every year.


Whether you are composting, leaving it out for wildlife or donating it to a farmer or animal sanctuary, it’s good to encourage your neighbors to do the same. You could offer to collect up some of the pumpkins and deliver them together to their destination.


Make sure to plan ahead. If you are planning to choose any of these options, make sure that you don’t put anything on the pumpkin that would be toxic to wildlife. Do not spray bleach or any other toxic substance in or on the pumpkin.  

Microplastics - What They Are and What We Can Do About Them

Microplastics - What They Are and What We Can Do About Them

Most of us are aware of plastic waste. We see it all over the place from the discarded plastic water bottle to the plastic shopping bag stuck in a tree. And, many of us are probably aware that the plastic breaks apart over time even if it doesn’t decompose. What we might not be aware of is what happens to the parts of plastic that we can’t easily see. 

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic (less than 5 mm in size). They come from a variety of sources. Many microplastics come from the breakdown of plastics over time into smaller and smaller pieces, some so small that we can barely see them. Some microplastics are even manufactured intentionally and appear as small beads in cosmetics and personal care products. They are added to replace natural ingredients and serve as an abrasive material to help exfoliate the skin or clean teeth. I remember hearing about microbeads in personal care products like facial cleansers but I never realized that the microbeads were made from plastic. I’m not sure what I thought they were made from. I just never thought about it. Thankfully, in 2015, the US banned the use of microbeads in personal care products, but it’s unknown what other countries are allowing their use.

Microplastics are also shed from clothes made from synthetic fibers. This is an area that I was not aware of until recently. Again, I just didn’t think about it but every time we wash our clothes, small fibers and bits are shed and washed down the drain with the wash water. Those small bits then travel on to our water treatment facilities and into our water systems. 

So, what’s the problem with microplastics? 

Microplastics can be inhaled or ingested by all living creatures. Their prevalence is causing problems with all walks of life and their long term effects on health are unknown. The mass production of plastics began in the 1940s and has increased at a phenomenally fast rate. According to Statistica, the production of plastics increased from 200 million metric tons in 2002 to 368 million metric tons in 2019. In 1950, production was just 1 million metric tons [1]. Eight million metric tons are dumped into our ocean annually and of that, 236,000 tons are microplastics [2, 3].

Microplastics, like much of our waste, ultimately ends up in our waterways. It gets washed down our rivers and streams to ultimately end up in the ocean. Sea life consumes the plastics, either mistaking them for real food or inadvertently along with their food. The plastics then cause numerous health issues. Small animals consume plastics which are then transferred to the larger animals (including humans) who consume the smaller ones, and the cycle continues on and on. As a fan of sea turtles, I have known about the dangers of plastic shopping bags being mistaken for jellyfish. The image of a plastic ring from a 6 pack of cans stuck on the neck of a turtle is ingrained in my head. I was not aware until recently that this happened more regularly with smaller pieces of plastic. It just never occurred to me. 

The harm caused by microplastics has not been studied extensively and the study of the harmful effects of microplastics is a relatively new field, but the fact that large marine animals like whales have been found with stomachs full of plastic is concerning. It’s becoming common to find large amounts of plastic in whales that die and end up washed on shores. One article stated that over 80 pounds of plastic was found in the stomach of a whale in the Philippines [4]. Certainly, if an animal is ingesting plastic instead of nutritious food, they will ultimately not be able to survive. 

The effect on marine life is bad enough but what about the effects on humans? A study conducted in 2019 analyzing a series of other studies estimated that humans ingest between 39,000 - 52,000 microplastic particles per year depending on age and sex. In addition, those who consume bottled water on a regular basis ingest an additional 90,000 particles as compared to 4000 particles for those who consume tap water [5]. If you need another reason to stop drinking bottled water, look no further than that last sentence. 

Just last month, a study was published demonstrating that microplastics are present in human placentas [6]. That means that microplastics ingested by the mother during pregnancy are potentially being passed on to the child in the womb. What these plastics will do to our health long term is yet to be seen, but it certainly is concerning.

We need to reduce our consumption of all plastics but single use plastics at a minimum. Here are some ways in which we can do that:

1. Use reusable shopping bags for grocery shopping (including produce bags) and other shopping trips. Whether you reuse the ones that you already have at your house or you make or purchase ones that will last a long time, reducing your consumption of new plastic bags is a good habit to get into.

2. Drink tap water instead of bottled water. If the water you have access to is not suitable for drinking, consider purchasing a water filtration system. Carrying around a reusable water bottle can significantly reduce the amount of plastic you consume which reduces the plastic in our environment. 

3. Purchase clothing made of natural materials such as cotton, wool, silk, hemp and bamboo. Fabric made from synthetic materials like polyester, fleece and nylon sheds small threads and bits that enter our water stream, mostly from being washed. If you have clothes made of synthetic materials, washing them in a bag that catches the fibers is one way to reduce their spread. 

4. When shopping for food, if you have the option to purchase a food in a non-plastic container, do it. Not all foods have this option, but when it is there, opt for the non-plastic version. If you have access to bulk food stores, use them for those items. 

All of these changes are small but can be impactful if many people do them. 



2. Jambeck, J. R., et al. “Plastic Waste Inputs from Land into the Ocean.” Science, vol. 347, no. 6223, 13 Feb. 2015, pp. 768–771., doi:10.1126/science.1260352.

3. Erik van Sebille et al 2015 Environ. Res. Lett. 10 124006

5. Cox, Kieran D.; Covernton, Garth A.; Davies, Hailey L.; Dower, John F.; Juanes, Francis; Dudas, Sarah E. (2019). "Human Consumption of Microplastics" (PDF). Environmental Science & Technology. 53 (12): 7068–7074. Bibcode:2019EnST...53.7068C. doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b01517. PMID 31184127.

6. Ragusa, A, Svelato, A, Santacroce, C. et al. 2021 Plasticenta: First evidence of microplastics in human placenta Environment International 146: 106274.

Compostable versus Biodegradable: What You Should Know

Compostable versus Biodegradable: What You Should Know
On a recent blog post, I provided some suggestions on alternatives to new plastic trash bags. You can find that post here. Some of the trash bags were labelled compostable and some were labelled biodegradable. It got me curious about the differences between the two terms, so if you’re curious too, read on.
Although the terms have often been used interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two. The differences become even more important when we talk about their implications to home composting. Biodegradable means that the item will break down naturally over time in a typical outdoor environment. Compostable means that the item will break down over time in an industrial composting environment. So, compostable items are also biodegradable, but items that are labeled biodegradable are not necessarily compostable, at least not in your backyard. 
Compostable products will break down in an industrial composting environment. The key word here is industrial. This does not mean that they will decompose in a backyard compost pile. Industrial composting facilities keep tight control over the moisture and temperature of their materials whereas most backyard composters do not. The rate and which a material will decompose is dependent on the environment in which it is in. If it’s not ideal, decomposition can be very slow or nonexistent.
If you have access to industrial composting facilities, purchasing either biodegradable or compostable products will work well for you, as you will have a place to take them. If you don’t have access to industrial composting, but you have a backyard compost pile, you need to know if these products will breakdown in it. If you want to ensure that a product will decompose in your backyard compost pile, make sure the product is labelled “home compostable”. Otherwise, the labeling is likely for industrial composting facilities. 
Some of the compostable products that I am drawn to in terms of being more sustainable are paper plates and utensils. These are a great alternative to disposable plastic utensils, particularly for parties. When people gather for potluck lunches, parties, etc, disposable dishes and cutlery is the norm. Why not go for the compostable version? It might be a bit more expensive, but it would reduce the plastic being thrown away. I have access to industrial composting, so for me, this works as a replacement for single use plastic. If this sounds good to you but you are planning to put these in your backyard compost, you may not find it to be such a good idea. 
No matter what you decide to purchase, take some time to learn the difference between these two terms so you know what to expect in the long term with the products that you buy. 

Comparisons of 2 Silicone Bags to Replace Single Use Zippered Bags

Comparisons of 2 Silicone Bags to Replace Single Use Zippered Bags
I have known for some time that I needed to reduce my family’s use of single use zippered plastic bags. Our use of them wasn’t egregious, but we could still do better. For the most part, we have been able to swap out reusable containers for zippered single-use plastic bags, but that hasn’t worked well for everything. One example is something to use for freezing ground beef. We buy ground beef in bulk because it is less expensive and then we break it down into amounts needed for meals (typically a pound). In the past, I have used single-use plastic zippered freezer bags. I have also tried hard sided reusable containers, but they take up too much room in the freezer, so I need something that is more compact.
I decided to try some silicone bags to replace the single-use plastic ones. Although it is not the ideal material to use, as it is a manmade material and considered by many to be a plastic, it is a step in the right direction in that it can be reused many, many times before it needs to be replaced.

I purchased silicone bags from 2 different companies. The first bags came in a set of 4 bags of different sizes. They are a thick silicone and have a two-part system. There is the bag itself and the slider that keeps the bag closed. The thickness of the bags leads me to think that they will not be likely to tear and the thickness also allows for the bags to be washed in the dishwasher. The bottom of the bag is pleated, but the bag doesn’t stand up well on its own. The pleat, however, does allow for the bag to hold a larger volume. This set of silicone bags can be purchased here:
The second set I got came in a set of twelve bags; 7 were the size of a typical sandwich bag and 5 that were the size of a typical snack bag. These bags were a bit thinner than the first ones, but they were a one-piece system, so no extra piece to keep it closed. The bags are not pleated, but they hold a good amount of food. They are thinner than the first set and I ripped one of them along the seam with my fingernail. These thinner bags are recommended for hand washing, and they are lighter in weight. I think these will be great for using for packing lunches.
I used both sets of silicone bags to freeze ground beef in since that’s what I was looking for a replacement for. Both bags did exceptionally well, and both worked great during the thawing process. Each bag submerged well in warm water to allow the meat to thaw. I was surprised to observe that both bags seemed to allow the meat to thaw faster than it had in the single-use plastic zipper bags. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation behind it, but I don’t necessarily need to know what that is to know that it works. These bags can be found here:
So, for me, I’m switching to silicone bags which I enjoy using and which are more sustainable than the single-use plastic bags. I’m likely to continue to use a mix of the bags from both companies as I can see pros and cons for each one.

Two Inexpensive Ways to Cover Your Leftovers

Two Inexpensive Ways to Cover Your Leftovers

Growing up, when we needed to store leftovers in the fridge, we would throw on some plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Although I ditched the regular use of plastic wrap a long time ago because I knew it couldn’t be recycled, so not sustainable, I only recently stopped using aluminum foil. Why, you ask? I’ve been a believer in recycling and up until recently, aluminum foil was accepted in our recycling bin for curbside pickup. Whether or not it actually got recycled is a discussion for another day, but now that we’re not allowed to put it in, I was without an option.

So, on went the search for a more earth-friendly substitute. Now, don’t get me wrong, most of my leftover containers are glass and have their own lids, so it’s not very often that I use something else, but when I need something, I need it to work.

I first discovered beeswax wraps from a friend of mine who sent them to me as a gift. The pattern of the fabric was the ocean with turtles, so it suited me well. I used them a handful of times before they were lost. One got eaten by the dog (don’t worry, she’s fine) and the other two were washed with really hot water, so they lost their beeswax. Note to readers – be careful how hot you set the water or learn how to recoat the wraps because beeswax has a low melting point. And, by the way, for those not wanting to use animal products, there are some on the market that are certified vegan. For me, beeswax is fine, so these work for me. The ones I use can be found here:

Check out my YouTube video here.

I liked using the wraps, but there were a couple of things I didn’t like. First, I don’t like that the wraps are square or rectangular in shape. I would rather wraps that are circular in shape as they would fit bowls better, which is what I typically use to store leftovers. As a quilter, I imagine the decision on shape is out of convenience as it’s much easier to cut squares and rectangles instead of circles. Using a square wrap on a round object results in extra fabric being folded up under the bowl. I know, small inconvenience, but I’m looking for a solution that works and that I like. The second thing I didn’t like is that the largest one was not large enough. One of the pans that I use rather frequently is for casseroles and it’s your typical 9”x13” pan. The beeswax wraps are not long enough to cover the edges of the pan.  

Moving away from the beeswax wraps, I discovered stretch reusable lids that are made from silicone. Silicone comes from sand, so I find it appealing from a sustainability standpoint. The lids come in a set of different sizes to fit different sized dishes. They are transparent so that you can see inside the dish and circular in shape so they fit the bowls I’m looking to cover. They appear to be thick enough that I’m not concerned about tearing them. As an added bonus, they make a great noise (think drum) when you tap on them, so my teenage children are entertained. The ones I use can be found here: The lids are hand wash and air dry. I’ve used mine for about 3 or 4 months so far and they are holding up quite well. The only negative I have to mention is that I need some that are larger in diameter. I wanted something to cover the pies I made for the holidays and none of the lids fit the pie plates. 

I’d love to hear what your experiences are on using either the beeswax wraps or the silicone lids. Which one is your preference?

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Family’s Food Waste This Month

3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Family’s Food Waste This Month

A great way to improve your earth-friendly lifestyle is by making a plan to reduce food waste within your home. Food waste is a huge problem around the world and in the US especially. It is estimated that, in the US, up to 50% of all produce is thrown away. The food that is thrown away ends up in the landfill, produces methane, and contributes to climate change. So, food waste is not only bad for us as Americans, it’s bad for the environment. The cost of this waste is estimated to be about $1500 per year for a family of 4. 

Here are 3 simple ways to reduce food waste in your home.

1.       Make a meal plan. Before you head to the grocery store, plan out your lunches and evening meals for a week and list out the ingredients that you will need for each meal. This will allow you to make fewer trips to the grocery store (save gas and energy) and save money not buying things you will not use. Fresh fruits and vegetables typically stay fresh for about a week, so planning out what you plan to cook in a week assures you will use up the fresh produce before it goes bad.

2.       Buy only what you need for the plan. With your meal plan in hand, only purchase what you need for the meals for this week. But, be flexible. You can change your meal plan on the fly if there’s something on sale or it suddenly sounds better to you (boy, those fresh pineapples look great!), but replace a meal with the new idea rather than buying for an additional meal.

3.       Freeze the surplus. If you end up purchasing more than you will use, freeze the extra before it goes bad. This is the case in our house during the summer when we’re members of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. If I receive extras, I go ahead and freeze them ahead of time. This is true for the times when I see green beans on sale as well. If they’re in a bag, I just toss the whole thing in the freezer to eat later. The second most common item I end up freezing is bananas. For me, there’s a very short period between the perfect banana and the overripe one. Overripe bananas go into banana bread or the freezer if I don’t have time to bake at the moment. Make sure to remove the peels before you freeze them so that you can add them directly to your recipe. Strawberries, blueberries, peaches and other fruits can easily be frozen for use in smoothies, breads, etc.  

Following these 3 simple, earth-friendly steps will not only reduce food waste which is good for the planet but will save you money in the long run and get you on a positive start for the year to come. Oh, and if you’re looking to step up your game to throw away less food, consider composting what you can’t use.

How to Wrap Gifts in an Earth-friendly Way

How to Wrap Gifts in an Earth-friendly Way
There can be a lot of waste associated with gift giving, but if we all make a few small changes to our routines, we can put a dent in that waste. One option is to reuse paper you may already have around your house. Growing up, we used to love wrapping gifts in the comics section from the Sunday newspaper. These days, I’m getting a lot of packages delivered to my house that contain packing paper. It’s a bit wrinkled from being stuffed in the box but do some smoothing and it makes a perfect wrapping paper.
Rather than using the plastic bows that come in a plastic bag from the store, why not try your hand at using natural twine or thin cotton rope. Yes, we’re going old school! You can decorate with evergreens if you like, but I’m sure the twine will be sufficient decoration. And, now you don’t need gift tags since you can write the name of the recipient right on the paper.
If you want to continue using decorative paper that you buy on the roll, just look for the kinds that can be recycled. If you can crush it into a ball without it opening up again, it is recyclable. After the gift has been opened, make sure to remove any non-recyclable elements and then stuff into a brown paper bag and add to your recycling bin.
There are several companies that make wrapping paper from recycled materials. Be sure to check them out here:
Another option is to use gift bags or decorative boxes (and reuse them). I have bags and boxes from the early years that we were married without children. Reusing bags and boxes can save you money in the long term if you take good care of them. I have a box of bags and boxes in my basement for just this purpose. Sometimes we have to refresh the tissue paper, but that’s a lot less than replacing wrapping paper every year.
Lastly, I have had some friends recommend using fabric to wrap gifts. As a quilter, I wouldn’t mind getting gifts wrapped in fabric (a gift within a gift), but I’m not sure wrapping gifts in fabric to give outside of your family is useful. If the person is not a sewer or a quilter, do you ask for the fabric back?
No matter how you decide to wrap gifts this year, get creative and find ways to reduce the waste.

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The Great Christmas Tree Debate – Real or Artificial?

The Great Christmas Tree Debate – Real or Artificial?
If you celebrate Christmas, one of the biggest activities is decorating a Christmas tree. Whether a tree is artificial or real is a personal choice, and there are most definitely pros and cons to both. Rather than debate the pros and cons of each from a general perspective, let’s examine the differences based on sustainability alone.
A real tree
Christmas tree farms exist around the country and the world. Trees are grown for years, watered, fertilized and trimmed; all in preparation for harvesting them over a 6-week period. During their growing phase, they provide habitat for local animals, emit lots of oxygen into the air and absorb carbon dioxide, all of which are quite positive.
During this same time, a Christmas tree farmer either irrigates or not and either uses pesticides or not, both of which can negatively impact the environment. Irrigation redirects water from other places in order to sustain the trees, and pesticides can contaminate local water supplies, harming plants and animals. So, although there are significant positives, there can be some negatives as well.
Now, it’s harvest time. Do the trees stay locally or are they shipped to other locations? The shipping of trees decreases the sustainability aspect as it requires a lot of gasoline to accomplish. Keeping the trees local and having customers come to the farm is advantageous from the transportation perspective, but still requires gasoline from individual families.
Many Christmas tree farmers establish their business with a keen eye on protecting the environment, so many are conscientious of how they are farming. They avoid using pesticides and minimize irrigation, so they are minimizing their environmental impacts and maximizing the benefits. To keep the farms going, they often plant 3-5 new trees for every tree that is harvested, so there is expansion in the number of trees over time. Purchasing a tree from a local farmer supports local agriculture which is always a good thing.
After the holidays, the question becomes: what do we do with the tree? In some areas, discarded Christmas trees are deposited straight into the landfill. This takes up valuable space and although the tree will decompose over time, filling up the landfills does not appear to be a good long-term idea. Sending it to a recycling center where it can be mulched and used on walking trails and in parks is a great alternative. This option works well in my area. In the end, the tree that came from the ground goes back into the ground, a full cycle system.
Another real tree alternative is to get one that can be planted after the holidays. People refer to this type of tree as a live tree. Prior planning and preparation are encouraged to make this endeavor successful. We all know that digging in the ground in January is challenging at best in colder climates, so planning ahead, digging a hole and filling it with leaves is a great way to ensure you have the ability to plant it in the middle of winter. This can be a great option for adding trees to your landscape.
An artificial tree
Artificial trees are made from plastics which are not environmentally friendly. That said, a well-made artificial tree can last for decades. Unfortunately, at some point, the artificial tree will need to be discarded, and the vast majority end up in the landfill.
Before you set the artificial tree out at the curb, think outside the box and look at ways to upcycle the components of the tree. You could make wreaths or other decorations with the components that are still in good shape before discarding the rest. That way, only part of it is being tossed in the landfill and the rest kept out for a longer period of time.
About 10 years ago, manufacturers thought it would be a great idea to incorporate lights on a tree so that families would not have to add their own. Unfortunately, when the lights no longer work, the tree becomes a nuisance. Removing the lights from the tree is a task best left to the uber patient, so what tends to happen is that people discard their tree once the lights no longer work which increases waste rather than decreases it.
When we purchased our artificial tree, 20 some years ago, I was under the impression that purchasing real trees was wasteful. At the time, we lived in a place that did not have a tree recycling program, so I only saw it getting added to the landfill. Finally, from a cost point of view, spending $100-$150 on a well-made artificial tree that could be used year after year was much less expensive than paying $50 (at a minimum) each year for a real tree.
Bottom line – from the sustainability standpoint, a real tree is the best option, ideally one that is grown locally and organically. Even if you can’t recycle it, it will eventually decompose in the landfill. Artificial trees are not sustainable because no matter how long you use it, it will still never decompose. If you already have an artificial tree, like me, just continue to use it until it falls apart, then see if you can upcycle parts of it before throwing the rest in the landfill. One of the keys to living an earth-friendly lifestyle is to use items for as long as possible and not to be so quick to discard them. Use everything that you purchase until it wears out, and even then, see if you can repurpose it for something else before casting it aside.  
From a personal perspective, we all need to do what works for us and our family. As several of my readers pointed out, obtaining a real tree is labor intensive and as we age, we’re not all able to do this as easily as we once were. We simply need to do our best and be happy with 

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