The holidays are a time of joy, celebration, sharing and excess. Being green can be particularly difficult when you’re decorating, entertaining, shopping and exchanging gifts with family and friends. A few small changes during this holiday season, however, can add up to a real difference even during this busy season.
To get in the green spirit of the holiday season, consider these eco-friendly possibilities:
- Rethink your Christmas Tree.
If you want a tree, look for an organic tree farm or consider limiting yourself to decorating a tree in your yard. If you have a large enough room, you can also invest in a potted evergreen and plant it outdoors after the holiday is over. If you choose this option, be sure you keep your home at a reasonable temperature and move the tree to your porch for a week or two before transplanting if you live in a cold climate so that it has time to adjust to the temperature changes. If you do get a cut tree, recycle it after the holidays. Many park departments accept them to turn into mulch for parks and playgrounds.
- Switch to LED Lights
Christmas lights are one of the most cherished traditions of the holidays, but they are real power vampires. LED Christmas lights are 90% more efficient than their standard cousins. You can make things even more efficient by getting solar lights that will turn on at dusk and remain on for several hours using the energy collected from the day’s sunlight. You can find an excellent selection of energy saving holiday lights at SolarSanta.
- Decorate with Nature
Your Christmas tree, mantle and tabletops can be beautifully decorated with pinecones, holly leaves and berries, seasonal fruits and nuts and other natural elements. String popcorn or cranberries with your kids to make a festive garland for your tree, then put it in trees outside after the season is over as a treat for the local birds.
- Recycle for Christmas Ornaments
If you like a bit of sparkle on your tree, there are lots of things you can recycle into glittering ornaments that will catch the light of the tree and reflect it around the room. Comb consignment shops and flea markets for rhinestone and faceted costume jewelry that you can re-string as garland, or dangling chandelier style earrings that can be clipped right onto branches. You can also cut favorite images out of the front of old Christmas cards, attach a ribbon and dress up with a dusting of glitter for inexpensive old-fashioned style ornaments.
If you have consignment shops and antique stores in your area, start combing them right after Thanksgiving, when most will put out their best Christmas items. You can often find treasures from the past that are much higher quality than today’s mass produced decorations.
- Be Creative
Look at items you already have in a new light instead of buying new. Do you still have that old wooden sled with the metal runners in the basement from when you were a kid? Paint the runners bright red with low-VOC paint, replace the old rope with a length of bright checked ribbon and tie a spray of pine boughs to the front to create a great display to lean next to your front door. Do you have an old pair of ice skates? Hang them on your door with a festive pair of mittens and some holly berries.
- Gift Wrap Wisely
There are so many alternatives to commercially sold gift wrap that are fun and attractive. Sunday comics, Christmas advertising flyers, take-out menus, leftover wallpaper and artwork your children have done are all attractive ways to wrap packages without using up additional resources. To do double duty, you can also wrap a gift within a gift, such as wrapping a small item in a scarf or handkerchief.
- Give Eco-Friendly Gifts
Look for heirloom quality wooden train sets or handmade cloth dolls for children rather than plastic toys that are over-packaged and quickly broken. For adults, consider giving gifts that are personal and less focused on “things” and more on activities or moments. Tickets to a show, a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or a promise of babysitting or a particular service is a wonderful treat anyone can appreciate. If you have someone on your list who “has everything,” consider making a donation to one of their favorite charities in their name for the holidays.
If everyone does a few of the items on our list this year, we can make an impressive contribution toward a greener, happier planet for the years to come. So make plans now to celebrate by Greening Up your Holidays!