Host a river-friendly holiday party with these 12 easy tips

Let’s make the holiday season a tad greener this year

Photo credit:

Photo credit:


Ah, the holidays. The smell of evergreen, the comfort of family traditions, the mouthwatering food, and the excitement of surprising your loved ones with a thoughtful gift.

It’s one of our favorite times of year.

But it can also be — dare we say it — a wasteful time of year.

On average, Americans produce 25% more waste during the holiday season, or 25 million tons of extra waste. Ho, ho, how!?

From the increase in shopping and holiday travel to using disposable cutlery to wrapping gifts, your impact can add up quickly. And that’s bad news for the Potomac River, a waterway that already suffers from a serious litter problem. In 2018, Team Potomac volunteers removed over 24,600 pounds of trash including plastic bottles, Styrofoam, straws, cardboard, and debris.

Fret not! We can make this holiday season a tad greener this year. Check out 12 simple tips and tricks from our staff and host a memorable, river-friendly holiday party!


1. Deck your halls with holiday cards

courtesy of and

courtesy of and


We’re bringing your holiday craft skills to the next level.

Recycle holiday cards and turn them into fun, unique decorations for your party. You can cut out cute graphics to use as gift tags, wreaths, or garland. And it’s easy to turn them into beautiful, handmade ornaments too. Get those scissors and glue gun out!


2. Use lightly used trays and baskets for displays that wow

Courtesy of

Courtesy of


Our favorite go-to stop for ugly Christmas sweaters has so many other treasures inside.

Your local thrift store is the perfect place to find a great assortment of cake stands, plates, wine glasses, trays, and ALL THE BASKETS. Avoid paying full price and find a new home for lightly used items.

Add a little flair to a used tray or basket with pine cones, rosemary twigs, or recycled ribbons from years past.


3. Gift reusable items for present-swapping games

photo credit: ecotribe/amazon

photo credit: ecotribe/amazon


This holiday season, let’s cut down on one-and-done waste by giving our friends and loved ones items they can use again and again.

Simple items like reusable coffee mugs, straws, produce bags, natural food wraps, or to-go meal containers make great gifts. You can even gift them in a reusable, cloth grocery bag to complete the theme!


4. Make your own wrapping paper

courtesy of

courtesy of


Let’s save some trees and skip the hassle of buying gift wrap, boxes, and ribbons. Opt instead for bags and boxes you already have at home.

Reuse simple brown paper bags or newspapers to wrap gifts. When tied with twine and a sprig of greenery, a brown paper package has a chic, rustic look. You can use stamps or paint to give it some extra flair.

Bonus tip: We all have that one relative who is obsessed with saving everyone’s gift bags and tissue paper, right? Let’s tip our hats to these clever loved ones by adopting their style. Ribbons, bows, twine, tissue paper, and tote bags can all be reused to wrap presents in the years to come.


5. Need a box? Look in your pantry.

courtesy of

courtesy of


Give a cereal or cracker box a second life by taking it apart and taping it back together inside-out (with the labels on the inside).

This trick eliminates the need to purchase a box AND you’ll look like the most creative elf there ever was. Accessorize with stamp prints, markers, or recycled gift accessories.


6. Shop local and support small businesses

Photo Credit: Serge melki via flickr

Photo Credit: Serge melki via flickr


Skip online shopping altogether and purchase goods from local businesses. You’ll cut down on transportation costs, reduce cardboard box use, and won’t have to worry about the amount of time it would take to ship something.

And if that weren’t enough, you’ll be supporting your neighbors and local economy! #neighborgoals


7. Plan ahead to avoid rush-shipping

Photo credit: Christopher jack via flickr

Photo credit: Christopher jack via flickr


When it comes to buying a last-minute present, we all love the convenience of free express shipping. But, there’s a hidden cost: when companies rush items, they often will send multiple items in separate boxes and will not use the most efficient means of transportation to get your order to your doorstop.

Whenever you can, plan ahead and select no-rush or standard shipping to cut down on packaging waste and excessive fuel consumption.

Bonus tip: When you shop Amazon smile, you can buy what you need and support clean water! It’s simple, just visit and select Potomac Conservancy as your preferred charity. Amazon will then donate 0.5% of your purchase to support our fight for clean water.


8. Plan your party menu using local ingredients

Photo credit:

Photo credit:


Farm-to-table menus aren’t just trendy, they’re good for our environment!

Opt for local ingredients to help reduce your carbon footprint; many common food items are shipped from hundreds of miles away via gas-guzzling trucks. Cleaner air means cleaner water! Most mainstream grocery stores now proudly carry meat and produce from farms in our region.

Go one step further, and buy organically grown food when you can. You’ll help reduce the use of chemicals sprayed on our soils and near waterways.


9. ‘Tis the season to give back


Consider moving your holiday party outdoors!

Create a new, fun tradition with your friends and family by getting together as a group to volunteer for a local cause. Make plans to volunteer your time as a complement to, or instead of, a traditional holiday party.

One way you can give back, is by helping to keep our local trails, parks, and waterways trash-free. Join us for a Potomac River cleanup in January in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Register to volunteer >


10. Post party: Recycle your tree

Photo credit: Ag America Lending

Photo credit: Ag America Lending


When it comes to purchasing a tree for the holidays, you may be wondering whether artificial or natural is a better option. When looking at the lifetime impact of your tree, the answer can get a bit complicated. Read up on the impact of both options and decide for yourself which you prefer.

If you opt for a natural tree, be sure to recycle it when you’re removing decorations from your home. Many counties will collect trees for recycling right from you curb. How to recycle a tree in your county >

Another option? Find a local goat farm and ask if they’ll take your tree. We hear goats LOVE fir trees.


11. Unplug, unwind, and reconnect

Photo credit: Burr Gray

Photo credit: Burr Gray


Liven things up a bit by having the group go for a brisk walk, or organize a fun hike after you’ve filled up on your holiday feast. Trust us, you won’t mind walking off the day’s extra calories!

Finding time to unplug from our screens, and socialize with those we cherish improves our mental and physical health, and strengthens our relationships with those we care about most. And that’s what the holidays are all about, right?


12. Support clean water with a gift in your loved one’s name


If you’re wanting to make a local impact this holiday season, consider making a gift for clean water. You can contribute directly, or make a gift in honor of a loved one’s name.

When you donate to Potomac Conservancy, you’ll help us stop local pollution from entering the Potomac River and ensure a future where we can all enjoy swimmable, fishable waters.


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