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5 Holiday Eco Decorating Tips
It's easy to get "wrapped up" in our traditional ways of decking the halls. But some decorating traditions, however sentimental, may not be so environmental.
Obviously it's eco-smart to reuse any holiday decorations that've survived their latest hibernation in the basement. Yet inevitably your "halls" end up looking a little bare — or your husband brings home a hulking tree that looks naked even after ALL your ornaments are hung. Then you find yourself writing "more tree ornaments" and "new wreath" and "garland for stairs" on your holiday decorating shopping list.
This year as you're making a list, be sure you're also checking it twice for any opportunity to green your holiday decorating.
Interior designer Cheryl Terrace says you’re in good company if you’re opting out of a new petroleum-based fake Christmas tree, mass-produced or plastic ornaments, or energy-draining string of standard holiday lights.
“There’s a huge movement toward respecting the planet during the holidays,” says Terrace, founder of eco-friendly design firm Vital Design. “The focus is shifting from mass consumerism to creating a holiday that’s about gratitude, especially for the environment.”
That think-green buzz is making it easier than ever to find affordable eco-friendly and socially responsible holiday decorations. Here are a few tips to help you look at holiday decorating in a new green light this holiday.
1. Gotta get a tree? Keep it green …
Love that fresh pine scent making your house feel all wintry? Go ahead — a live tree is actually a relatively eco-friendly choice, so long as you’re conscious about where it goes once the holidays are over.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, nearly all cut holiday trees are grown on tree farms — meaning their stock is replenished yearly and forests aren’t hurt by choosing a cut tree. And spent trees can be ground into woodchips and used to mulch your garden or prevent erosion at a local watershed. Check with your city government or go to earth911.org and enter your ZIP code to find out where to have your tree recycled.
Fake trees are a different story, requiring a significant amount of energy and petroleum-based materials to manufacture. Plus, artificial trees are often manufactured overseas and shipped thousands of miles before they reach our living rooms.
“Living trees are another option,” Terrace points out. “They can be kept in a pot during the holidays and planted in the garden afterward.” Local nurseries stock numerous varieties of evergreens. In the Northwest, the Original Living Christmas Tree Company rents live Christmas trees that are returned and replanted after the holidays.
As for those presents under whatever tree you choose, wrap them in recycled paper or other eco-friendly gift wrap alternatives.
2. String a smarter light string
Instead of buying more standard holiday lights to replace bad strings (or to try and keep outdoing your neighbor’s massive display), opt for energy-efficient light strings. When they’re made using light-emitting diode bulbs, or LEDs, they’re 90 percent more efficient than traditional holiday lights. LEDs also last longer — up to 10,000 hours compared with 5,000 hours for standard incandescent bulbs.
3. Practice the 3 Rs
You’ve heard it a million times, but Terrace says, “Those three little words ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ can have a huge impact during the holidays.”
Choose eco-friendly and socially responsible holiday decorations like tree ornaments handmade from natural materials. Many handmade decorations also come with little or no packaging, reducing that aforementioned holiday trash total.
Tired of that same old garland? Throw a holiday-décor-swapping party with neighbors, family and friends or check secondhand shops like Goodwill and the Salvation Army, where you’ll find aisles of gently used holiday décor. Buying secondhand saves cast-offs from the landfill, and you can use the savings to make a donation to a good cause.
Fair trade decorations offer another way to give back to the world around you. From handmade tree ornaments to hand-knit stockings and tree skirts to artful and useful gifts, products you buy through fair trade programs help ensure that artisans receive a fair wage in their local context as well as training and assistance to help them build sustainable livelihoods. Gaiam’s One World Fair Trade Marketplace collections are sourced through fair trade cooperatives that pay livable wages and improve quality of life for artisans in developing regions in Cambodia, Thailand, India and other countries around the world.
“Every dollar you spend has power,” Terrace says. “You get to decide how to use that power. Choosing green and fair trade products speaks volumes.”
4. Go green in the guest room & bath
What holiday guests wouldn't love knowing that your festive flannel sheets are made from organic cotton or some other eco-friendly textile? It's another way to add to the good feelings that the giving traditions of the holidays bring out in all of us.
Eco-friendly bedding and bath towels made from organic cotton come in a wonderful range of holiday colors and festive patterns. Check out sheets, quilts, duvets and comforters made from natural fibers like silk and bamboo. And don't be shy about it — come right out and tell your guests that their room and bathroom are decked in linens that are planet-friendly.
5. Borrow from nature
Think of how your great-grandma (or great-great grandma) decorated during the holidays — with natural evergreen boughs cut from the tree, handmade ornaments, and bowls of fruit, nuts or pine cones. With a backdrop of seasonal plants like poinsettias and cyclamen, they create a warm, welcoming feel — and they aren’t made of petroleum and chemicals.
Check your holiday decorations list twice this year, and put the planet first whenever you can.