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University of Missouri

Deck the Halls, Sustainably

MU’s Sustainability Office offers tips to green your holidays.

christmas presents stacked in the shape of a tree


A pile of presents shipped from around the world sit under the tree. Hundreds — even thousands — of tiny colored bulbs burn every night for weeks. Reams of wrapping paper briefly decorate gifts.

Our holiday traditions, though festive and colorful, aren’t always the most sustainable use of energy and resources. So if you’re looking for a more conscientious way to celebrate Christmas, the Sustainability Office at MU has a few suggestions:

Go to Pot

Although locally grown Christmas trees are a renewable resource and artificial trees can be re‐used year after year, nothing beats a potted tree you can plant in the yard when the holiday season is over. You can even get multiple years of use by buying a small tree in a big pot.

Build Your Own “Tree”

If you don’t have the green thumb to pull off the option above (or if the yard is full of formerly potted trees), try building your own Christmas tree with books or boxes from around the house. A book tower gives plenty of places to plant your Elf on a Shelf, and you can still string it up with lights.


LED lights cost more up front, but they save money in the long run by using up to 90 percent less energy and lasting 10 times longer than traditional bulbs, according to Energy Star, the federal government’s energy‐efficiency rating system.


It’s not called “re‐gifting” anymore. Shed your guilt and share the extra stuff around the house with the people on your list who could use it. It saves a trip to the mall, helping your sanity, and prevents sticker shock from January’s credit card bills. For the crafty among us, hop on the DIY trend and make your own gifts.

Wrap it Funny

Forget the $5 rolls of shiny paper. Opt instead for the Sunday comics. The full‐color funny pages are still bright and cheery, are already paid for and will end up in the recycle bin anyway. According to Stanford University, if every family wrapped three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.