Holiday Trash: Unwrapped

It’s beginning to feel like the holiday season here in Coldwater Canyon Park! The staff here in the Yurt Village loves a good holiday party but year after year we can’t help but notice the needless waste made from all the merry making.

Fortunately, we have discovered some creative ways to have holiday fun without a trail of tinsel bringing us down. Here are some of our favorite ways to green the gifting season.

hanukkah-giftReduce, Reuse & Recycle Wrapping

Carefully unwrap presents without tearing the paper so you can reuse it later! Sometimes one piece of paper can get re-gifted for five solid years before it’s a bit too crinkly and heads to the recycling bin.

Use scarves and dishtowels as wrapping! They can be found at your local thrift store or in your own closet, and they even double as an extra gift. Grab some recycled ribbon to tie it in place and voila!

Become a DIY-er and create custom wrapping using newspaper and paint for designs, or cut up and reuse brown paper bags. Top them off with sprigs of rosemary or lavender from the garden for a beautiful and amazing smelling gift!

Deck the Halls with Recyclables

Skip the tree this year go the eco-friendly route and create one from recyclables around your home! Various boxes, plants, and lamps around the house can come together to form a tree and can be used to display all your families ornaments without having to cut down a tree. Other cool, reusable holiday decorations are lights strung on a wall, trees in a planter that you can own or rent, reusable menorahs, and good ol’ fashioned, second-hand decorations that can be passed down for generations.

Give the Gift of a Green LA

A great go-to gift is donating to a nonprofit that lives on throughout the year, like a Tree Dedication from TreePeople, helps offset your carbon footprint and protects and shades our city for years to come.

Want something more personal? Give custom coupon activity booklet with IOUs for a trip to the beach, movie date or free pet sitting. You could make personalized gifts from things that cannot be recycled, like candy wrappers, corks, pine cones, empty candle jars, styrofoam peanuts and fabric scraps. Food is always a great gift! They’re not only fun toeco-tree make and eat, but they also reduce the pile up of clutter in our homes.

Buy a gift that cuts down on landfill waste long after the holidays pass. Think about it– gifts like portable cutlery, reusable beeswax food wrappers, glass Tupperware, personalized tote bags and vacuum-sealed travel coffee mugs are great gifts that aren’t just convenient, but planet-friendly too!  

Give back to the Community

Host a community swap in January after the holidays to purge of old items that have been replaced and of gifts you won’t be using. Have you ever felt overwhelmed with your leftover food after throwing a party?  Problem solved: call 211 for a list of nearest shelters and hunger assistance agencies where you can drop off food items. Share leftovers with neighbors or make friends with you community homeless population to spread the love.

All of these ideas can be adapted to fit any campus holiday festivities. To plan a swap event, food donation project, classroom holiday party recycling program, upcycled craft day, or a media campaign for students to spread this message to their community, contact

By Alyson Schill

Alyson Schill is the Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist for the Generation Earth program at TreePeople. She has collaborated with many organizations and nonprofits in New York and Los Angeles to reduce waste through recycling, upcycling, and composting--including Maker Faire, GrowNYC, Food Forward, LA Food Policy Council, Global Inheritance, and Swap Out LA. Her primary focus is in creating sustainable change through education and community empowerment.