The holiday season is often a reason – and excuse – for indulgence, but increasingly, more people are looking for ways to rein in the excess.
One local business, realizing this movement, is now offering an eco-friendly way to spruce up households for the holidays, a sort of pushback to the plastic-heavy decorations many people buy at big-box stores.
“It can really be a wasteful time,” said Brooke Hampton, holiday decorating manager for Columbine Landscapes Co. “So we try to keep it simple and offer natural decorations, rather than plastic and things you throw away.”
Columbine Landscaping has been offering landscaping services for more than 20 years in Southwest Colorado, holding true to a philosophy that places extra emphasis on ecological health.
This year, however, the company is making its first go at holiday landscaping, using many of those same principles. Eva Montane, owner of Columbine Landscaping, said it has been a positive learning experience.
“Our company in general has a reduce, reuse, recycle program,” Montane said. “We’re ecologically minded, and even have a waste-reduction manager on staff that filters through that lens.”
According a Stanford University study, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, amounting to 25 million tons of garbage – about 1 million extra tons per week.
“While the winter holiday season brings good cheer for most people, it also brings a lot more solid waste to the landfill, harm to the environment and additional debt to the average American family,” the study said.
Although what clients want for their home varies, many of the techniques Columbine Landscaping uses aim to cut back on waste.
For starters, Columbine buys trees through the San Juan Mountain Association, a nonprofit that works to promote education and volunteerism on public lands in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service.
San Juan Mountain Association holds an annual Christmas tree sale, which is by far its largest fundraiser of the year. The sale not only supports the nonprofit’s programs, it helps protect forest health by reducing wildlife risk.
Gretchen Fitzgerald, a forester with the Forest Service’s Columbine District, said the sale specifically targets white firs, which populate the understory of a forest and become a high priority fuel risk for the spread of wildfire.
“Removing those little white firs really helps reduce the chance of fires,” she said.
Wreaths are procured from Mountain Belle Flower Farm, a local farm north of Durango near Purgatory Resort that offers seasonal flowers. Elaine Vidal, the owner of Mountain Belle, said this is her first year getting in on the holiday cheer as well.
“I’m pretty happy with it so far,” she said. “It’s all low input in terms of zero chemicals, and it’s all very fresh. And, it’s very, very local.”
So local, in fact, that many of the greens and garnishes are picked right from Vidal’s property in northern La Plata County. Flowers and other decorations come from rented space at James Ranch, another family-owned farm in the Animas Valley.
Vidal mostly sells her products at Nature’s Oasis and the James Ranch Market, but she hopes to expand next year.
“People in our community are geared toward looking for local, artisan products,” she said. “I think I’m satisfying a niche.”
And, Columbine Landscaping gets its garlands from Native Roots Garden Center, a year-round garden center near Home Depot.
After the holidays, the eco-centric efforts don’t stop. Trees and wreaths can be recycled as mulch. The city of Durango offers a drop-off center for this specific purpose.
“It’s good for the environment, but it’s also good for our own selves to be able to enjoy what the holidays are really about,” Montane said. “And that’s being with family and friends and honing in on why we celebrate it in the first place.”