Four Ways to Make Christmas More Sustainable

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My family and I love Christmas — though I’m probably the ringleader in terms of holiday cheer. I love all of it — the Christmas spirit, the decorating, the gift-giving. The latter is probably my favorite part — particularly now that I have kids. I spend months planning amazing gifts for my family, and I delight in seeing their surprised faces on Christmas morning. But if we’re all honest, Christmas in this country also tends to be a time of over-consumption. I believe that with a little extra effort, we can reduce the impact Christmas has on the planet. Here are the ways we attempt to be greener during this joyful time.

Real Tree vs. Fake Tree

It can definitely be argued that a real Christmas tree will always be more sustainable than a fake one, particularly if that real tree comes from a tree-farm in your community or region. Most tree farms replant every tree that is cut down, and some will even sell live trees that can be planted after Christmas. However, even if you have a cut tree, many communities offer tree disposal services that will turn your tree into mulch.

However, if you’re in a situation like us, where someone in your family is allergic to real trees, you can still minimize the environmental impact of your fake tree. First, shop secondhand. Buy a tree from a friend who has an extra one, or shop your favorite consignment and thrift stores. If these efforts fail, be very mindful about your tree purchase. Buy a tree that you genuinely love that can last you for a lifetime. Because my little on is allergic, we were forced to purchase a fake tree. However, ours is a pre-lit tree with lights that can be white or colored and that uses very little energy to light. We plan to keep it for the foreseeable future, meaning we’ll never have to buy another tree.

Use LED Lights

Speaking of LED lights, if you’re still using old strings of Christmas lights that use incandescent bulbs, you’re doing yourself, your light bill, and the environment — a disservice. Newer LED lights use very little energy, and they also don’t get hot, reducing the risk of fire that happens when lights are on for a long time.

Decorate with sustainable decor

Every year, my family and I choose a new color palette for our Christmas decor. One year we did orange and white, and another, purple and turquoise. This year, we’re doing pink, maroon, light blue, and navy. Sometimes, it can be difficult to reuse our decor from year to year. But we always start with the stash in our attic to see what colors we already own that can be reused. Having to move all those decorations from the attic to our first floor makes me wish we had a home elevator for accessibility and to make the job easier, but it’s worth it if it means we can avoid buying new decor.

If you do find yourself in need of new decorations, you can always do a decor swap. Does your sister, cousin, friend or coworker have decor in the colors or style you want? Swap with them, and you save money and avoid buying new.

You can also opt to make your own decor from items you already have around the house. You can make ornaments from toilet paper rolls or string popcorn together for garland around the tree. DIY efforts will almost always be a greener choice than buying.

Wrap your gifts eco-friendly style

On Christmas morning, our living room generally looks like a bomb went off. Wrapping paper and packaging everywhere. As a result, we’ve started giving gifts that don’t come with a lot of packaging or with packaging that can mostly be recycled. But here’s the thing about gift wrap: A lot of it can’t be recycled. If it has a glossy finish, foil, holographic designs or glitter, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recycle it. Instead, opt for wrapping paper that is made of — well — paper. And only paper. And there are other green ways to wrap your gifts. You can also opt for brown kraft paper and decorate it yourself with paint, stencils and a little ingenuity. Finally, you can wrap gifts in beautiful fabrics, or other gifts, like large scarves or aprons. Get fancy with your folding and tie a beautiful fabric bow around them for a presentation that is sure to wow the recipient.

Realistically, Christmas isn’t the greenest holiday at all. But with some ingenuity and forethought, you can avoid some of the pitfull that make the holiday wasteful.

What tips do you have for making Christmas greener? Share with the Green Your Decor community in the comments below!

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