Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? This year, make it a green Christmas! The Christmas décor and decorating industry accounts for many of the purchases made by consumers during the holiday season. The average American spends about $275 on holiday decorations each year. Instead, consider a festive season dedicated to zero-waste Christmas decorations!
The unfortunate reality of these purchases is that many of these items will end up in our landfills at the end of December. From wrapping paper, to broken strands of lights, to old tree ornaments, to Christmas cards, we throw out about 1 million extra tons of trash per week from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Not only can you help the environment, this offers the opportunity to get your kids involved so the fun spreads around!
You can make a difference this year and help to reduce the amount of waste from your household. To combat all this trash ending up in our landfills, try to choose alternatives to the typical Christmas decorations. You don’t have to forgo any holiday fun, but you can use environmentally-responsible materials to deck the halls this year. These eco-friendly ideas will help you have a very green Christmas this year.
How to Make Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations
You may feel already overwhelmed by all the things you need to do before Christmas. “The holidays can be stressful. You might be hosting a party, trying to find the perfect gift, or even meeting your significant other’s family for the first time. Sustainability is likely the last thing on your mind,” says Jeremy Walters, a sustainability expert and advocate. “But if you want to do the right thing, there are some things you can do to make your holiday season sustainable and care free.” These easy ideas can help make this holiday season your greenest yet.
1. Gift Wrapping Paper
Americans use over 4 million pounds of wrapping paper each year for Christmas gifts. Unfortunately, most of that ends up in our landfills. Some wrapping paper can be recycled, but not all of it. Anything with glitter, metallic elements, and plastic cannot be separated properly for recycling.
The extras, including bows, plastic ribbons, and plastic-coated gift bags also cannot typically be recycled. Instead of using traditional wrapping paper, try these eco-friendly ideas instead:
• Use fabric squares, which can be saved after opening for reuse again and again.
• Use a purse or tote bag as a gift bag.
• Wrap the gift in a pretty scarf.
• Get or reuse plain packing paper material that is easily recycled.
Natural Fiber String
• Decorate with natural fiber string in place of ribbons.
Dress Your Gift Up
• Dress up your gift with fresh flowers, pine sprigs, or pinecones.
Recyclable Gift Wrapping
• Look for gift wrap that is labeled as recyclable.
Avoid Certain Wrappings
• Avoid buying wrapping paper that is glossy, foil, or metallic.
Use Rubber Bands
• Consider skipping the tape and using colorful rubber bands or string to secure packages.
Save Ribbons and Bows
• Save ribbons and bows to use next year.
2. Christmas Decorations
Most Christmas decorations are made of plastic, metal, or glass. You can make a difference this year by choosing natural decorations to make. Using common household items while creatively supplementing with fresh natural items is a great way to keep the holiday waste and spending down.
DIY Christmas Wreath
• Make your Christmas wreath out of natural materials like pine boughs, twigs, and pinecones for the front door to your house.
• Buy second-hand decorations, such as tableware, festive candle holders, and décor, at a thrift store instead of buying new ones. You can also reuse empty wine bottles and mason jars.
• Decorate your Christmas table with natural candles, cloth napkins, and vases of fir sprigs, holly leaves, and pine cones to make your home smell festive.
• Poinsettias add a natural Christmas touch to your home and can be found in sizes from petite plants to bushy foliage.
Plastic-Free Hanging Decorations
• Hang food such as candy canes, gingerbread, and cinnamon sticks.
• Use rechargeable batteries in your motion and lighted Christmas decorations.
Choose Quality Decorations
• If you are purchasing new decorations, look for quality materials and workmanship so they last a lifetime and can be reused year after year.
• Turn off decorative lighting indoors and outdoors after everyone is asleep with a programmable timer.
Solar Powered Lighting
• Consider using solar powered lights for your outdoor decorating to reduce your energy use.
3. DIY Christmas Tree
With over 30 million real Christmas trees are sold each year in the United States, they can have a significant impact on our landfills. Instead of contributing to this problem, choose alternatives to your typical tree this season. Make your own Christmas tree instead!
• Buy a live potted Christmas tree that can be planted after the holiday season.
• Buy a used artificial Christmas tree instead of a new one.
• Use LED lights instead of incandescent bulb strings of lights on your tree.
Ornaments are among the most commonly purchased Christmas decorations, with 56% of American households reporting buying them each year. Many Christmas ornaments cannot be recycled, but if you are looking for new ornaments this year, consider these eco-friendly ideas.
Repurpose Old Ornaments
• Instead of discarding old, boring decorations, dress them up with new spray paint and designs.
• Use biodegradable eco-friendly glitter from companies such as Hemway and Bioglitter.
• Enjoy classic decorations like cranberry or popcorn garland, crochet snowflakes, and dried orange slice ornaments.
There are over 1.3 billion holiday cards sent annually, making it the biggest card-sending holiday in the United States. Sending one greeting card generates about 140 grams of CO2 emissions. But you don’t have to give up sending cards as a family tradition. You can simply make your cards eco-friendlier.
• Make your own cards using material you have from leftover crafts projects.
• Send e-cards or email your holiday end-of-year family update instead of mailing it.
Reuse Old Cards
• Reuse old Christmas cards by using the card front as a postcard greeting.
• Purchase holiday cards from eco-responsible companies, such as Paper Culture, which plants a tree for every order.
Skip Cards Altogether
• For the ultimate in eco-responsibility, consider skipping holiday cards altogether and connecting in person or by phone instead.
Why Make Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations?
‘Tis the season to be jolly—and to recycle! Amid the many gifts and lots of decorating, there is also a lot of trash. Americans generate excess trash at the end of the year to the tune of 29 extra pounds of waste produced.
That’s about 25% more trash than is typical at other times of the year. Of course, this is not a good outcome for our environment. That waste ends up in our landfills and much of it will end up sticking around for a long time.
Benefits of a Zero-Waste Eco-Friendly Christmas
That does seem like a lot of trash, so does it really make a big difference if you substitute eco-friendly alternatives for holiday decorating? “There are many simple things we can do to help our environment. If everyone adopted one or two, it would have an enormous impact,” explains Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, CEO for Will County, Illinois. Research proves this is true. A study by Stanford University shows the big impact you can make this Christmas season:
Reuse Your Ribbon
• Every American family reusing just two feet of Christmas ribbon when gift wrapping would result in enough ribbon to wrap around the earth one-and-a-half times.
Save Football Fields of Paper
• If every person used reusable material to wrap just three presents, it could save enough gift wrap paper to cover 45,000 football fields. A football field 10 stories high could be filled with the 2.65 Christmas cards sent each year.
One Less Card a Year
• Each American sending just one less holiday card less would save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
Reduce Your Trash Output this Season
Waste expert Dan Rogerson encourages everyone to reduce the amount of trash generated over the Christmas season. “Recycling is a simple way to save resources. It’s easier than ever before for people to do their bit over the holidays and help make a real difference to the environment.”
How to Responsibly Dispose of Christmas Decorations
It’s clear that reducing the amount of Christmas décor and decorations each year make a difference. But what about the things you already have? Are there environmentally responsible ways to dispose of old or broken holiday items? Fortunately, you can make choices that are better for the environment this holiday season.
• Cardboard boxes, old wrapping paper, tinsel, holiday cards, gift tags, and other scraps that are free from glitter, glue, and embellishments can be put in your recycling bin.
Donate Toys and Old Gifts
• Instead of throwing out old toys or Christmas decorations, donate them to a second-hand store.
By recycling the items you are disposing of, and taking care to make eco-smart purchases of new items, you can contribute to solving the problem of the excess holiday trash that results from every holiday season.
Make Goals for a Zero-Waste Festive Season
Mark Abrials, founder of Avocado Green Brands, explains, “We believe that taking responsibility for our actions can make the holidays more sustainable – and they can add joy to the season too.” As the new year rolls around, you can also look toward decreasing your carbon footprint in the coming months.
Set a goal to increase your recycling efforts, avoid unnecessary purchases, and look for environmentally responsible products to buy. “Changing habits is hard stuff,” continues Abrials. “We should all be patient with ourselves as we learn, grow, and make positive changes in our lives.” So, here’s to a jolly and green holiday season and a happy and healthier new year!
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