Northern Nevada may or may not see a white Christmas this year, but gift-givers can certainly make the holiday green.
There are plenty of eco-friendly options for shoppers, from buying gifts locally, to making presents. People can cut waste and make recycling a priority.
Start with the Christmas tree: Northern Nevadans have a great opportunity to secure a fresh evergreen while also helping the forest environment. Plus, a tree expedition into the wild often provides unforgettable family memories.
“There is an ecological value to harvesting trees,” said Matt Zumstein, district ranger for Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. “… Thinning out the smaller trees helps the other trees grow big and strong. It also reduces ladder fuels, which helps to mitigate catastrophic crown fires.”
It’s easy to be your own lumberjack Just get a permit from the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, online or at field offices, which list areas where the pines may be felled. You’ll get a tag for your tree, and instructions about which trees you can cut, and where you can cut them (limited to federal lands; never private property). The agencies also provide online tips for staying safe in the forest.
Buy gifts locally
To avoid supply-chain issues and high gas prices for shipping this year, think about buying your gifts from local sources, including artists, artisans and small local businesses, especially those who use sustainable ingredients or components.
The sisters of the Carmel of Reno Monastery have printed their beautiful Christmas cards for years. See and order the cards at www.carmelofrenocards.com; individual cards are only 85 cents, or a pack of 10 is $7.50. Because of COVID restrictions, customers who want to buy in person must wear a mask and can only view two racks of cards at the door at 1950 La Fond Drive in Reno—so it’s advisable to order online.
Unique handmade holiday ornaments are featured at the Holiday Treasures show at the Artists Co-op Gallery, founded in 1966. Shop the gallery for art, cards, jewelry, pottery, baskets and woodwork by local artists listed on the website, artistsco-opgalleryreno.com. The show runs through Dec. 30. The gallery is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 627 Mill St. in Reno and is hosted by the artists themselves.
A chocolate dynasty
A yummy holiday tradition is a box of premium chocolates. Dorinda’s Chocolates, founded by Dorinda Vance and her two sons, opened first in Truckee, Calif., and now operates shops in downtown Reno and at Rancharrah. Their source of chocolate is world-famous Valrhona chocolate in France, which imports the raw chocolate from 15 countries. Valrhona strives to promote sustainability through the promotion of fair trade, the rejection of child labor, combatting deforestation, improving soil and farming practices, better waste management at their plant and employing other eco-friendly strategies.
Dorinda’s best-seller is a box of 12 sea salt caramels, which costs $22 online. A 12-piece holiday box costs $27.
Dorinda’s at Rancharrah shares its space with another Vance business, Rolled Mountain Creamery, headed by Dillon Vance. There you will find exotic ice cream flavors like Amy’s Grasshopper, a blend of green-tea matcha, mint and crushed Oreo cookies. The creamery uses no plastic, instead offering wooden spoons and recycled paper cups.
Shun plastic bottles
A new way to store shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap and other household essentials is to visit a refillery. The first refillery to open in Reno was Replenish in The Basement, a boutique shop in the lower floor of the former downtown Reno post office.
Owner Melinda Brown opened the shop to offer alternatives to single-use plastic bottles. Customers can bring their own containers or purchase glass jars or strong, light aluminum bottles to be refilled with lotions, dish soap, wet/dry shampoo and soap.
The shop also boasts a collection of eco-friendly gifts including Swedish dishcloths, dryer balls, cotton fleece napkins and towels. Holiday items include Christmas ornaments made of cotton in candy-cane and reindeer shapes which can be used as dryer balls after the holidays, and reusable Christmas fabric wraps to replace paper wrapping paper. Gift baskets combine several green products such as silicon straws and self-care items
Another refillery, the Waste Less Shop, has opened at Rancharrah and features a bulk bar refillery where soaps, shampoos, etc. can be customized with essential oils. In addition to glass and aluminum containers, the shop offers handmade ceramic jars made by local Pat Roberts Pottery. Manager Dominique Swanson recommends the 20 gift bundles of eco-friendly products offered on the website, www.thewastelessshop.com.
Find gifts made by artisans and local businesses at Tanner’s Magic of Santa Arts and Craft Faire on Saturday, Dec. 3, and Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. A Reno tradition of 43 years, the fair offers handmade items such as painted snowmen, doll clothes and fine woodwork. Admission for both days is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors and students; and free for children under 16 years. Tell the parking attendant you are attending the faire to receive free parking. Donate a can of food or new socks for a $1 off admission. Admission to the last hour of each day’s show is free. If you can’t make the event, visit www.renocrafters.com for an extensive list of local arts and crafts businesses and artisans.
Make gifts, decorations
Paper or popcorn chains, bright paper stars and cutout Santas are all fun ways to decorate your tree, especially when children are involved.
If you sew, knit or do paper crafts, dream up something wonderful for your family and friends. Instead of buying wrapping paper, wrap gifts in colorful fabric or scarves, or make simple fabric bags that can be reused. Homemade gifts are good alternatives to mass-produced goods and are often plastic-free. Online project instructions for tree ornaments, gifts and wrapping ideas are available at www.joann.com; click on the Projects & Learning tab.
Everybody loves homemade treats like nut breads, cookies, cupcakes, fudge or granola. When you think about wrapping food treats, consider beeswax wraps, available in shops and online, instead of plastic or aluminum wrap.
Laura Johnson of Reno makes cookies for gifts and uses her own beeswax wraps. She shops for beeswax at local farmers’ markets. “Instead of putting cookies in a plastic container or zippered plastic bag, I will wrap them in reusable beeswax cotton cloth squares that I make by hand,” she says. “I melt beeswax in a crock pot in the oven and then paint the melted wax onto the cloth squares until saturated. These all-natural food wraps can be washed with dish soap in lukewarm water and reused for many years.”
Holiday recycling tips
Cleaning up after the holidays generates lots of trash, an 25% increase in volume nationally, said Paul Rosynsky, senior communications specialist for Waste Management for northern Nevada and California.
Plain wrapping paper is recyclable. But if the paper has glitter or other metallic or plastic ingredients such as flocking, it must go in the trash rather than the recycle bin. Plastic bows and ribbons, or anything long and stringy—like garlands and twine—also wreak havoc in recycling machines, so they go in the trash.
Glass jars are acceptable for recycling, but broken glass and fragile Christmas tree ornaments don’t belong in the recycling bin. “I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to break down cardboard boxes,” Rosynsky said. If you have more boxes than will fit in the bin, “hold onto them until the next week if possible.” If the bin lid will not close because of overloading, the boxes might get wet, rendering them useless for recycling, he said.
Aluminum cans and big roasting pans can be recycled, but wipe out as much food residue as possible (and bear in mind that bears rummage through trash cans). Rosynsky recommends hosts use reusable dishes and silverware rather than disposables. “Make your special recipe of lasagna in a glass or ceramic dish,” he suggested.
And after the presents are opened and the feast is done, recycle the tree via the Christmas Tree Recycling Program offered by Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful and its partners. Six sites will be open between Dec. 26 and Jan. 10. The service is free, but a $3 donation is suggested. Donations will be matched by the NV Energy Foundation. Tinsel, flocking and ornaments must be removed. For those who can’t get the tree to the locations, area Boy Scouts offer a pick-up service at Scouts4Trees.com. Most trees will be chipped up into mulch and spread in area parks. Tree lights can be donated at the tree recycling sites, but remove them from the trees yourself.