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!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Greening your holiday decorations

Green for ChristmasToday, 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.


Anna (Green Talk) said...

I am glad you gave an alternative to buying more poinsettias. In my area, they die and then people throw out the plastic pot.

I vote for the living tree that you plant!

Anonymous said...

We usually alternate years - frsh tree one year, fake the next. Sometimes we do fake a couple years in a row. It was a hand-me-down thankfully.

I really want to start collecting fabric to wrap my presents. After Xmas I'm hoping to find some on sale or maybe some remnants.

Jenn said...

I haven't really decorated for xmas since I lived with a roommate who was into it - about 1997, I think.

In the time since, I have had opportunity to drape sparkly lights on large potted tropicals but gave away all my twinkle lights to burningman-bound friends.

I think if you have kids, you can't get away with not decorating for some holiday - fortunately, the cats don't care and I can be as grinchy as I wanna be... no decorations, no tree, no lights, no gifts (except giving people stuff I've made).

Honestly, I love giving gifts. I just hate the whole "shop all at once and come up with things for people you like that will please them" concept.

Over the course of any year, I find and pass along gifts without any particular occasion in mind, so I don't feel bad about not giving gifts at holidays.

Marimoy said...

I love recycled christmases. I even made a wreath out of strips of white plastic grocery bags and it's cute every year. This is great.

Hannah Markwardt said...


Consider looking at thrift shops for unused cloth and fabric. I've found all I need to wrap all our holiday gifts at our local thrift shops. People buy extra fabric for their projects and have random-sized pieces left over. I've found, for 25 cents or so per yard, fabric scraps large enough to wrap anything I need to wrap.

Anonymous said...

one of my favorite places locally,an antique store - decks out all of their booths with vintage, retro holiday decor...I can't tell you how inspirational they are and how full the place is of wonderful used, formerly loved treasures. I do think it's the way to go. Awesome ideas here!

Diane MacEachern said...

I use the same decorations year after year, but i freshen them up with holly cut from my trees outside, dried flower pods, blooming grasses and the occasioal candy cane. Works like a charm!

Contributing Author said...

My boyfriend and I tried a live Christmas tree a couple of years but it died. We just had a small string of lights and some candy canes. We get a tree anymore make time to walk around the neighborhood and enjoy the houses that do spend the money and energy putting up the lights.