Color the Hill Country Holidays Green and Bring (More) Joy to the World

Wimberley, Texas and Texas Hill Country residents...many of a little closer to nature than our friends in metropolitan areas. Watching the water table fall and developers clearing natural areas, it's easier to see the impact of choices on the earth. This doesn't mean we're more sensitive (would that we were) but there are often more opportunities to observe the environmental impact of some decisions firsthand.

Yet the results of our rampant consumerism continue to accumulate. For your consideration:

  • Americans represent 5% of the world’s population, but generate 30% of the world’s garbage.
  • Less than 2% of the total waste stream in the United States is recycled.
Here's another. During the holiday season, only a few weeks long, the average household in the U.S. produces 25% more trash than at other times of the year...5 million extra tons of garbage.

It all begins with good intentions. In a season of giving, we find excuses for spending more, trashing more, and consuming more energy.

But there are so many ways we can help ourselves, help each other, help the earth, and bring an extra dollop of good will to mankind.


If you have a tree for the holidays, you may have mulled over the relative benefits of artificial vs cut trees. Of course, the most environmentally-friendly tree is a live, potted tree. You may be able to use it multiple years, repotted, and when it's time for it to go, it can be planted in the yard or donated to an organization such as Habitat for Humanity for planting. When this is your choice of tree, you actually help the environment.

Can't see your way to doing that? Then consensus is now that a cut tree, although it may have been grown with pesticides and transported some distance for sale, is generally more environmentally friendly than a non-recyclable, non-biodegradable artificial tree, if the tree is recycled after the holidays. Try to confirm that trees and wreaths come from renewable, organic sources.

Currently 85% of artificial trees sold in the U.S. are imported from China and made from PVC. However, if you have an artificial tree that you use year after year, that is obviously the clearest environmentally-friendly choice for now. Put it up for as many years as possible and smile. When it's time to let go, give it to someone who needs it for many more years of use.


LED lights, the miracle solution.

LED light strings use up to 90 percent (!) less energy than old-style incandescent lights and will last up to ten times longer. What's not to love about that?

Ornament choices with a little thought can produce tree decorations to wow family and friends. A rich source of materials for hand-crafted ornaments is last year's gift wrapping, usually tossed into that landfill. And while we're on the subject...


Save wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, boxes and gift bags for next year. It gives you a head start on supplies, saves money, and is kind to the earth. Even smaller pieces of wrapping paper make wonderful craft material. Just save them in a box to pull out on those rainy days, or in the case of central Texans, those 100+ degree days when it's too hot to think about outside projects. These materials can be the start of original and delightful cards and gift tags. If you don't feel crafty, donate the paper to a kindergarten or preschool.

If you're packing gifts to send to relatives or friends, try shredding discarded wrapping paper for a colorful packing material.

For much-appreciated thank you cards, glue attractive wrapping paper to clean cardboard (folded as a card). This is a creative way to use two recyclables in a thoughtful gesture.


Ah, the Achilles heel for those who love to shop! The holidays give some of us permission to go wild with purchases that may or may not ever be used. You may have unused gifts from others still hanging out in the back of a closet or storage area. If you have someone on the list you know could use any of these, pull them out, wrap them beautifully with recycled paper, and pass them on. With careful thought, you may be able to genuinely please many on your list in this way.

Shopping locally cuts down on time, fossil fuel usage, and is just plain fun. In Wimberley, you'll surely want to
  • Walk across the street to the Cedar Chest for the latest in designer fashions,
  • Check out Taste Buds for gourmet food with a Texas touch.

Shopping online can be a very rewarding experience. It gives you time to think and consider each purchase, compare prices, and help you find just that right gift at a convenient time (yours) and place (at your computer). And give yourself a star when you batch your purchases in fewer deliveries; you're also preventing an amazing amount of carbon from spewing into the holiday atmosphere by minimizing emissions.

Great (green) gift ideas range from such items as Seed Bombs, Wooly Pockets, and Rice Hull Garden Pots. Greenest of all can be online gift certificates; these are always appreciated and the gift of choice for many teens and young adults. Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing.

Saving the best gift idea for last: Make a donation in the name of that relative or friend who has everything. Try these:
  • The World Food Programme (
  • Hays Food Bank

    Taking the trouble to make a card describing the gift and why you chose it adds that special personal touch to show that you care for your giftee, and the donation makes them a hero to those who benefit. A complete win-win.
If your gift recipient has a special place his heart for animals, make the donation to

There are so many ways to keep the holidays green. Please feel free to add them here: Wimberley Valley Forums, Keeping the Holiday Green.

Happy (Green) Holidays!