The holiday season is upon us, which means endless decorating and festivities with friends. Not all the decor you come across will be eco-friendly, though — which means you’ll have to get creative with sustainable Christmas solutions. Being green is a year-round deal, and plenty of ways exist for preserving the spirit even during the most unsustainable of holidays.
Deck the halls without fuel emissions, water pollution or landfill waste with these 10 ways to decorate sustainably this Christmas.
1. Live Christmas Tree
Artificial trees often consist of metal and plastic, while a live tree brings all the festive cheer without the resource waste. Use a potted tree throughout the year for a fun pop of green, and decorate it when the holidays arrive. If you opt for a tree from your local Christmas tree farm, give it to a local tree mulching program once the holidays end. It’ll become much-needed mulch for someone’s garden, enhancing the lifecycle of other plants.
2. Beeswax and Soy Candles
While regular paraffin candles may smell good, they release not-so-sweet chemicals while they burn — and they consist of petroleum. Choose beeswax or soy candles this year to light your home sustainably. From tapers to tea lights, the world of sustainable decor offers endless lighting solutions for fragrance-loving environmentalists.
3. Recyclable Gift Wrapping
Although gift wrap is a paper product, it isn’t recyclable — which means tons of it travels to landfills and creates waste. Change your gift-wrapping ways by making wrapping paper from recyclable materials or buying from a sustainable company. If you’re good with a needle, you can sew gift bags from scrap fabric or old clothes.
4. LED Lights
Opt for LED in your electric candles and string lights this year. LED lights last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs, meaning you won’t need to replace them as frequently. Less waste makes a happy planet — plus, you’ll save yourself a snowy trip to purchase more bulbs. They also save more energy than incandescents, which decreases your power bill.
5. Wood Ornaments
Beautify your tree with wood ornaments instead of plastic ones this year. Many vendors sell premade wood slices, and you can even make them yourself if you’re savvy with woodworking. Paint holiday images like snowflakes and candy canes on them, and you’ll have a set of sustainable decorations you can use for generations.
6. Recyclable Holiday Cards
If you love decorating your mantle with festive cards, choose ones made from recycled paper. These require less energy and water to produce than cards of virgin material, and they don’t contribute to deforestation. Many greeting card companies offer recycled options with all the same festive designs you get with regular cards.
You can also buy recycled cardstock and design unique holiday cards using watercolors or other mediums. Recyclable cardstock comes in numerous colors — such as brown, green and red — for all your holiday needs.
7. Green Dinnerware
Forgo the plastic utensils and plates this season and pull your long-forgotten dinnerware out of the cabinet. A little extra cleaning is worth preventing another load of unrecyclable plastic from ending up in a landfill or the ocean. If you don’t already have fancy dinnerware, search for bamboo or wood plates and utensils. Wood dinnerware will give your table a refined look, and it’s better than plastic or ceramic as long as it’s sustainably sourced.
8. Local Goods
Shop local for any storebought decor you use. This practice supports small businesses and bypasses the fuel emissions associated with long-distance transport. Plus, you never know what kind of fantastic goods you can discover nearby until you take the journey. You might find a unique gift to give someone or a piece of decor you never imagined.
9. Natural Materials
If you live in a woodsy area, you can use objects around you to decorate your home rather than storebought goods. Gather pinecones, twigs, buds and berries to use around the house for centerpieces or wreaths. Create a garland from leaves and pine needles, or design a centerpiece from pinecones and cranberries. Christmas Wreaths can be created the same way using the leaves from your area.
10. Burlap Stockings
Red and white stockings make a cute addition to your mantle — but they also contain energy-intensive cotton. Organic cotton offers an alternative, but it still uses tons of water that could go toward better uses. Burlap, made from jute fibers, is a more sustainable substitute for cotton because of its low-maintenance growth process. Jute grows fast and biodegrades without hassle, making it a preferred fabric among environmentalists.
Buy burlap stockings from a local home goods store, or sew some yourself for a DIY project.
Bring Green Decorating To Your Home
Celebrate the holidays with the planet in mind. Doing your part to conserve resources can make the season better for everyone, including Earth’s ecosystems. Protecting natural resources and curbing pollution ensures you’ll have many more joyful holidays to come.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.