Have a green Christmas this holiday season with decorations and celebrations designed to reduce waste while still conveying the spirit of the season.
Skip the Wrapping Paper
Don’t wrap gifts in single-use paper — it’s one of the largest contributors to waste during the holidays. Turn old maps, magazines, and book pages into creative gift wrap. Make reusable wrapping bags out of fabric in a few different sizes or purchase sturdy gift bags that can be used several times before recycling. For gifts that need traditional wrapping paper, opt for gift wrap made with recycled content.
Save Gift Wrap Accessories
On Christmas morning when the kids are opening gifts, grab all the ribbons, bows, bags, boxes, and other reusable accessories as they fly past and stash them away to reuse next year. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I haven’t had to buy new ribbons or bows for four years.
Recycle Your Christmas Cards
While sending electronic cards will save plenty of forests, you can’t control what people send you. Instead of throwing the cards in the recycle bin when the season is over, cut them into gift tags to use next year.
Add Natural Decor
Nature is beautiful, so put her to work as part of your Christmas decor. Go for a long walk in the woods with the family and see who can collect the most pinecones, then use them for centerpieces, or tie the pinecones with ribbon and hang them from the mantelpiece. Here are some tips for cleaning and preparing them.
Invest in a Reusable or Re-plantable Tree
You can use artificial trees season after season, which cuts down on unnecessary waste. Many artificial trees look exactly like the real thing and save you time and money across the board. They’re easier to set up and decorate, and once you have one, you avoid the annual effort and energy expenditure of growing a tree and transporting it to your living room. Artificial trees are also great for small homes or apartments — you can choose a pre-lit tabletop version instead of a full-size tree.
If you still want a real tree in your home, supplement your artificial tree with a smaller potted tree or plant. Research trees that are native to your area. Choose one in an appropriate size and bring it home to decorate. When the season is over, plant it in your yard. Over the years, you can grow a mini-forest in your backyard that represents each Christmas you’ve celebrated in your home. This is a lovely way to cherish the memories of the season and remove carbon dioxide from the air.
If you do decide to decorate a traditional cut tree, make sure you know how to compost it after the holidays. Many towns have designated Christmas tree drop-off spots. Check with your local recycling center to find out where to leave your tree. If you have the equipment, you can also mulch and compost the tree yourself at home.
Treasure Your Ornaments
Invest in high-quality, shatterproof ornaments that will last many years. Use a specially designed ornament storage box to store them safely at the end of the season. You can also decorate your tree simply with just a few strings of lights. Choose lights with LED bulbs that have a timer switch or smart plug to ensure they are on only when you need them.
There are many ways to reduce your ecological footprint this holiday season. If you have more tips about how to cut down on waste during the holidays, please share them in the comments.
Jennifer Tuohy tries to find new ways to reduce her carbon footprint and writes about her experiences for The Home Depot. She provides tips and ideas on topics such as making the holidays more sustainable by using eco-friendly Christmas decorations.
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