Editor's note: The following information was provided by Horizon Public Health, which serves a five-county area, including Douglas County.

Sustainability is the responsible use of environmental resources in the present, so that future generations will have enough to meet their needs. You may not realize you are already working toward sustainability if you reuse and recycle. The more people who participate in energy and resource-saving activities, the greater the positive effect on our planet. Public Health strives to create an environment that promotes the health and well-being of all people.

You can be involved and make positive choices to incorporate sustainability into your holiday celebrations. Some of the following suggestions may spark your creativity — and even be fun!

Consider buying a living tree you can plant outside or keep as a houseplant after the holidays, or buy an artificial tree that you can use for years to come-make the most energy efficient choice. If you choose a live tree, dispose of it at a chipping facility or return it to the environment in other eco-friendly ways. Decorate with more energy efficient LED strings. Plug your decorative indoor and outdoor lights into a timer to save electricity.

Use fewer resources. Take your own bags on shopping trips. Give gifts that are durable, energy-efficient, recyclable, or made of natural products. If you are giving electronics, choose energy-saving items. Support your local economy by buying from local merchants, craft shows, or antique shops. Make your own gifts: knit, sew, bake, build, or create art; make calendars using your own photographs or a recipe book with favorite recipes. Give in ways that support your community: tickets to the local theater, sports events or gift certificates for a massage. Give your time and skill—coupons for household chores, meals, cleaning, car detailing, scheduled dog walks, or lessons in computer or smartphone use.

Use creative materials for gift wrap:

  • Scarves, fabric, handkerchiefs

  • Old maps, sheet music, advertisement

  • Reusable tins, baking pans, or other home or garden items.

  • Buy cards made from “post-consumer” content and printed in non-toxic inks.

  • Reuse the fronts of old cards as holiday postcards or gift tags.

For many of us, our priority during the holidays is time spent with family and friends. But the holidays can also be a time when we spend too much and create too much waste. Americans throw away about 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Choosing to use a few of these ideas will not only help you contribute to sustainability and promote over all public health, but chances are you will also simplify your life. In turn that gives you more time to enjoy family and friends and to focus on the joys of the season.

For more information call Horizon Public Health at 320-208-6672.

Horizon Public Health works in partnership with individuals and communities in creating an environment that promotes the health and well-being of people in Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse counties.