Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas

Green for ChristmasToday's green holidays posting 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. 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 a 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.


Deb G said...

I really like your holiday posts!

I think one of my favorite things about this time of year is the holiday lights, but I don't think it has to be a huge display to be beautiful. This year I have two strings of lights around my entry way and I added some tree branches that I collected from the last wind storm, plus some holly from my Mom and Dad's. I keep them on for about 3 hours a night and I always turn off the porch light while I have the holiday lights on. I figure it's a pretty even energy trade off.

Last year my Dad made me a tree out of metal scraps. It's a lot of fun. I usually keep an arrangement of herbs and evergreens near by to give me the sense of something woodsy in the house.

This year I'm going to make all paper ornaments for the tree. Normally I hang my collection plus one new ornament a year, but this year I have a kitten. All the glass ornaments are going up where she can't reach!

C said...

Recycling from thrift stores and garage sales is such a GREAT way to go without being a scrooge. Sadly, there are people buying new and chucking old every single year.

I have been known to just grab a crazy looking branch off the ground outside, and decorate that in a big vase. It really can get fun!!

Chile said...

There are TONS of holiday decorations at yard sales and thrift stores right now. For the past 10 years or so, we kept our entire decoration collection in one large box. I doubled that last year with the purchase of a tree, garlands, and some indoor lights. I'm wishing now I hadn't, but they are here now and I can enjoy them over and over.

There is a neighborhood in our city also, Crunchy, famous for its Christmas displays. I've been having mixed feelings about it due to the intense resource use involved, including people driving to see it.

Anonymous said...

For years, I've made a bunch of origami for my Christmas trees. If you use different sizes and colors of paper, it's really spectacular. Really, I've made all kinds of origami that I put on the tree, but the cranes are my favorite and I love teaching other people how to fold them.

I've never done it, but there are all kinds of origami boxes that were originally used for containing gifts. Probably not a project after a long, difficult day, but fun if you have the time.

Cave-Woman said...

Have you seen the solar powered christmas lights? AWESOME. I saw a set in the Gardener's catalogue. Expensive. But very eco-chic.

Christy said...

We've been using our artificial tree for 11 years now. It is still in great shape and probably has at least another 11 years in it. I have to believe that is more environmentally friendly than killing a tree every year.

You didn't mention buying live trees with the root ball still intact and planting it after the holidays are over. This is what my grandparents do every year.

salmonpoetry said...

Livingscape Nursery in Portland has a live native tree rental program for Xmas. For $15 (plus a deposit) you can rent one of their live pine trees, and either keep it to plant (minus the deposit) or bring it back for them to keep in their nursery (and get your deposit back). I got in early on it, and I heard that they have already sold out.
If you have a local nursery, you might ask if they would be open to such a deal- winter is a slow time for selling nursery stock, so the trees are probably just sitting there in their pots, anyway, and wouldn't mind a couple weeks indoors dressed up...

Anonymous said...

Making our own Christmas decorations was one of my favorite holiday traditions as a child...we made paper chains, stars and snowflakes out of newspapers or magazines. We also molded paper mache ornaments (try soap or candle molds, or go free-style) and painted them.

We did more traditional hand-sewn ornaments, like embroidered balls and crocheted chains, too. Plus, we'd inherited some beautiful tatted stars and snowflakes from my grandmother.

It was always such a fun day, and it made decorating much more celebratory.

A friend of mine made several origami crane garlands for her tree. I keep begging her for one, since origami is something I'm very not good at!

Anonymous said...

We haven't actually bought a Christmas ornament in probably 12 plus years. We create new ornaments each year for family members from recycled things. We also use alot of stuff thats been gathered on hikes and from our yard to make the ornaments also. All the ornaments are unique and always different from year to year.

What gifts we buy are usually gently used items from second hand book stores, thrift stores or used Cd/Dvd store.

We do alot of cross stitch, knitting and sewing around our house so many of the things we make go as gifts also. In looking back I didn't even buy the magazines we get our cross stitch patterns from-our nieghbor back then was going to toss them and I rescued them!

No need for senseless consumerism in our house!

Jennifer said...

What about buying a live tree and then planting it afterwards? I didn't see you mention that at all.

That is what we do. Well, actually I don't personally plant it... I freecycle it off at the end of the season. I always have a pile of emails asking for it for farms, acreages, new houses, etc.. makes me wish I had MORE Christmas trees to give away for planting. I get my live, good smelling tree, the earth gets one more tree planted and living. A BIG one, at that (when full grown).

If you want to do this, too, make sure you either keep your house pretty chilly (like we do) or you only keep it inside for a week or so, and then slowly harden it back to teh outside before planting.

We generally get ours at the local nursery, and it is not organic. However, you could definitely find an organic one to use instead. (Now I think I'm going to go research that for ME!).

As far as trimmmings, I have my box. Every year since I was born, I have recieved one ornament from the family... everyone gets the same one every year. I also have ones I made when young and ones given to me by my students. I decorate with those... it's quite a festive tree and full of so many memories. After Christmas they get carefully rewrapped in the exact same tissue paper they came out of in December and place back in the ornament box to be saved for the next year.

Anonymous said...

We don't do Christmas lights. I use fresh garlands and add them to my compost pile afterwards. (Mostly, we've just never had the ambition to hang Christmas lights!)

And we always buy a fresh tree. And we recycle it at the end of the year. It is a sustainable resource and our city parks get some fresh mulch.

Amani said...

I was at Sky nursery last night, and they have a lot of LED lights. More of a selection than I expected. Prices were a little high, but then it's Sky, and it's worth it for the shopping experience. They also had some battery powered LED lights too, for $15. I don't remember the prices on the plug-in ones, but I remember thinking I'd go back.
also Display and Costume supply ought to have a huge selection. I can't verify, but since half their store is Xmas stuff, and they just spent all year revamping that side, I'd be surprised if they didn't have some progressive, thoughtful products.

Monice said...

Hey Crunchy,
I know you are a Seattle lady and there is a great way to get an organic tree in this area without a long drive - from the U of Washington Forest Club. They do it every year as a fund raiser for their student organization. They are grown without use of harmful pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer in the power line right of way, utilizing otherwise unusable land. Orders for this year need to be in by 11/30, as the trees are being cut and available for pick up this weekend, but if you can't do it this year, its something to keep in mind for next year.