Today, I'm serving up an updated green holiday post to get you in the spirit. This post covers everything you wanted to know and then some about greening up your holiday lighting and decorations.
Outdoor Christmas lights - I live in an area well-known for it's Christmas lights and yard decorations. In fact, we actually have tour buses come through the neighborhood. It's a bit insane and the pressure is intense. Last year I went on the hunt for LED lights (since we didn't yet own any outdoor lights), but they were hard to come by. So, I'm happy to see that this year more stores are carrying them. They are still more expensive, but you save money because they are soooo much cheaper to run since they use a fraction of the electricity (10% of incandescent) and they last forever. I'm not going to replace our new bulbs due to the cost, but I will be running the lights less this year. Eventually I will replace them with LED when the old (new?) ones wear out.
Christmas trees - If you can, make sure you get a fresh Christmas tree from a sustainable source, like a tree farm. Choose organic if you can find one. You can make getting a tree a family tradition by going to a U-Cut tree farm to select and/or chop down your own tree (see the Puget Sound Fresh listings if you live in Western WA). If you do get a fresh tree, look into the tree recycling options in your area. Or rent a wood chipper and make you're own mulch - just be safe and stay out of it yourself.
Artificial trees consume significant energy and petroleum-based materials (and lead!) during their manufacture and transport, but a one time purchase that gets used for years and years and years may make up for the gas spent in transporting that fresh Christmas tree as well as the chemicals used in growing the trees. In my mind it's a bit of a trade off if you can't find an organic tree. You might want to see if you can find a used artificial tree - you may even be able to find one on Craigslist in your area.
Wanna see the details on the Christmas tree debate? Well, the real winner is not having one at all, but like the picture above says, you don't have to be the Grinch to be green for Christmas and I don't think many people will budge on this one, so go organic if you can.
Christmas tree trimmings - Again, go with the LED lights and string up strands of popcorn or cranberries (if they are local). Use old craft paper to make paper chains. Of course you should reuse all those old tree trimmings but ask yourself if you really need more. If so, make it into an annual family event where each person picks out a new decoration. At the thrift store. Or better yet, take old knick knacks, jewelry, pins or other suitable things that you don't want anymore and convert them into something you can hang on the tree.
Home decorations - Attach those Christmas cards you get in the mail onto a long ribbon with double sided tape (or reusable small safety pins) and hang on the wall. Get creative! Collect scraps of fabric, old cards and boxes and get your family and friends together to create decorations that will have more sentimental value than anything you can buy. You can do pretty much anything with non-toxic paints and glitter.
If you need ideas, check out 101 Ideas for Christmas Decorations. Note - they aren't all environmentally friendly, but you'll get the idea. For a more natural looking home (think Pottery Barn), decorate the mantel with fallen branches and pinecones. Trim some of that overgrown holly and ivy from the yard and put it to good use.
Instead of buying another poinsettia this year, decorate the table with an arrangement of rosemary, sage, thyme or other woody herbs. Or you can fill a vase with pinecones or cranberries. Put out a bowl of edibles such as fruits and nuts - whatever's in season in your area. And, if you use candles, make sure you choose soy or beeswax candles over the petroleum-based ones, they are better for you and the environment.
If you still want more decorations, check thrift stores and garage sales for recycled decorations.