Green's not just for trees 

Ten tips for staying on a more eco-friendly wagon this season

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About .27 seconds after the last gift gets unwrapped on Christmas morning, a magical holiday scene morphs into something resembling post-robust-drinking wreckage: papers and wires scattered all over the floor, bright colors making your head throb, a tree standing in the living room.

If you celebrate Christmas, especially with family, you're going to wind up with some kind of a mess on your hands. But you can do some things to ease the holiday hangover for you and for a planet that never anticipated having to swallow garland or candy-cane wrappers.

Take it from Kathryn Porter. She's the Colorado Springs-based author of Too Much Stuff: Decluttering Your Heart and Home. She also belongs to organizations called the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD).

Porter kindly sent us some tips on how to cut down a bit on your holiday consumption this year. Here is a handful:

Decorating strategies 1. Don't buy new wrapping paper. Use old newspapers, fliers, magazine pages or anything that would normally find its way to the trash.

2. Instead of buying a dinnerware set and hand towels with candy canes, reindeer or snowmen, make or purchase dinner napkins in solid, festive colors that can be used throughout the year.

3. Purchase a potted tree to use for your Christmas tree. After the holidays are over, you not only saved a tree, but you are giving a tree back to the Earth.

4. Make biodegradable ornaments and garland instead of buying new ones.

5. Don't waste paper by sending a holiday card with just your signature. Send electronic cards to minimize the paper impact. Do a holiday newsletter to update the recipients on what's been happening in your life.

Gift-giving ideas

1. Organize a "white elephant" holiday party, re-gifting presents from the previous year that you don't like or can't use. They serve no purpose sitting in the back of your closet, and someone else might like them.

2. For the person who has everything, offer a donation to his or her favorite charity in lieu of a gift.

3. For your own family, agree upon one large family gift instead of exchanging lots of smaller ones. For example, buy the big-screen TV you always wanted, or take that family vacation you otherwise couldn't afford. (The kids will get plenty of other gifts from well-meaning relatives.)

4. Instead of giving gifts to everyone in your extended family, pick names from a hat. Focus on getting the one gift you know that one person will love, rather than a bunch of presents for a bunch of people to fulfill the holiday gift-giving obligations.

5. Nix the idea of giving recipients something they would never expect. Find out what your recipients need. They don't know that you will buy something off their wish list. Let them be surprised in a good way and say, "Oh thanks!" instead of "Oh, thanks ..."

Kathryn Porter offers community workshops on various organizing topics. She can be reached through her Web site at clutterwise.com.


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