This is one of my favorite times of year— the Christmas season. At my home, the day after Thanksgiving was dedicated to decorating for the season. But, decorating for Christmas does not mean you have to make your home a drain on the environment. There are ways to decorate while still respecting the earth.
Do you light up the outside of your home? We do. And we try to do it with as much “eco” as possible- both ecologically friendly and economically friendly. Luckily, the two go hand-in-hand. A few years ago we purchased LED lights for outdoors. They use 1/160th of the energy used by traditional Christmas lights—making them less of a drain on both the environment and our wallet. Christmas Lights Etc. offers a nice resource to determine how much energy your holiday lights are using so you can determine if the time is right for switching from traditional lights to the LEDs or something else.
In addition, it’s important to make sure your outdoor lights are not on during the day. If you’re like me and will never remember to turn the lights on and off, you can invest in a simple timer that will do the work for you. Ours is set to a sensor that will only turn on the lights when it is dark out. You can buy them at most hardware stores—I would recommend looking at a local store to help stimulate the local economy.
Another option is to bypass lights that need an outlet or a timer and opt for solar lights. You can buy a string of lights that run on solar energy for a little more than you would spend on traditional lights. Not only are these lights a great option for those of us who are concerned about the environment, but they’re also great for lighting up trees that are a greater distance from an outlet. Plus, you won’t have to worry about ugly cords running across your steps so that your string of lights can find their way to an electricity source. We already use solar lights to illuminate the front of our house throughout the year, so it only makes sense that we will be making the switch to solar Christmas lights sometime in the near future.
Once the outside of your house is decorated, it’s time to take care of the inside. It seems the main decoration this time of year is a Christmas tree, and there are several choices. My husband and I opted a few years ago to forego the real tree and purchased a pre-lit artificial tree. While I recognize that the artificial tree may not have been eco-friendly to produce, I feel it is environmentally friendly since we reuse the same tree year after year instead of getting a new one each year and then tossing it in the garbage after Christmas.
Of course, having a real tree is also a wonderful option—I always had one growing up. Since tree farms plant new trees to replace the old ones, the impact of cutting live trees is minimized. You do need to consider what you will do with that tree after Christmas, though. Many communities recycle Christmas trees. All you need to do is leave your tree by the curb and your local sanitation crew will pick up your tree and it will be cut into wood chips, rather than making its way to the landfill. I encourage you to check with your local chamber of commerce if you don’t already know if your community has a tree recycling program. Earth911.com has a directory of tree recycling programs. All you need to do is enter your location, and it will tell you where you can recycle your tree.
You don’t have to get a cut tree to have a real tree—now you can rent a Christmas tree. Companies offering a service where you can choose a potted tree and rent it for the holiday season are gaining in popularity—mostly on the West Coast. A few of these companies include The Original Living Christmas Tree Company, Rent A Living Christmas Tree and The Living Christmas Company. While this service does not seem to be offered in states other than California, Oregon and Washington, people who want to have a living Christmas tree should not be discouraged. You could contact your local nursery and see if they might be willing to rent you a tree. Or, as another option, you could purchase a tree from a local nursery and then after Christmas, either plant it in your yard, donate it to your town or freecycle it.
Kid-made Christmas Decorations
I always like to do arts and crafts projects with my kids that celebrate the season. Since my daughter drinks a lot of milk, I always have empty milk jugs on hand, so while looking for a craft project, I found an adorable Milk Jug Santa crafts we can make. I plan to use these milk jug Santas to add festivity to the rooms in my house that have been somewhat neglected this year—mostly because I don’t want the kids to touch the breakable decorations. Some other ideas for easy ornaments and decorations that you can make with your kids include: a layered Christmas tree, cookies and milk ornament, stuffed felt Santa, Lightbulb Rudolph, Wishing Spool and a wrapping paper star. These are just a few of my favorite ideas to get you started. I especially like the Wishing Spool, since each year the kids can make a new one and look back at the old ones to remember what it was they wanted for previous Christmases.
Lastly, I want to remind everyone that one of the most important aspects of the Christmas season is the memories and traditions that accompany this time of year. When I got married, my mother gave me many of homemade ornaments from my childhood, and each year when we put them on our tree I am able to tell my children the story behind each decoration. Between those and the Nativity Scene my mother gave me (that we always had at my parents’ house growing up) I feel a little closer to my family at the holidays even though they are about five hours away. From my husband’s grandparents, we inherited a beautiful Christmas Village that they hand-painted themselves. I know having this on display at Christmastime makes my husband happy, as he misses them dearly. I think sometimes we dismiss the importance these objects can hold in our hearts—and while we hold onto their sentimentality, passing along the memories they bear to future generations we are also saving these items from landfills—a place I could not bear to think of any of these things going. So instead of going out and buying all new decorations and ornaments look at what you or your family may already have and remember that there is nothing new that can hold more value to you than the memories of holidays past, present and to come.