Eco-friendly holiday decor

“Going green isn’t just about bringing pieces into your home that are made with recycled, reused or reclaimed materials. Being resourceful is the original green.” so says Danny Seo, often referred to as a green lifestyle guru.

I thought it might be helpful and interesting to list several ideas that I have been doing for years along with some ideas gleaned from the internet regarding decorating in an eco-friendly fashion this holiday season.

Cleaning the house                                          cleaning image

  • Consider hiring a cleaning service if you do not have the time to spend cleaning your home. There are many companies that will use organic/nontoxic products that work to leave your home not only looking clean, but also smelling naturally clean instead of with chemicals.

The tree and the menorah                          christmas tree and menorah

  • When it comes time for you to purchase your Christmas tree, it is recommended that you buy from a Christmas tree lot. The majority of trees sold on these lots come from tree farms, meaning no forests are being destroyed for your benefit. If you live near a tree farm, it makes for a wonderful tradition to have the family pick the perfect tree and chop it down. Spent trees can be ground into woodchips and used to mulch your garden. Another option is to select a live tree. They can be kept in a decorative pot during the holidays and planted in the garden afterwards.
  • Candles for the menorah should be soy or beeswax. These do not emit toxins like regular paraffin wax candles do. If you are making your own, you can even add essential oils to add a fragrance that smells real and not artificial.

Lights                                                          christmas tree LED lights

  • LED (light emitting diodes) holiday lights can be purchased at many places – from eco-friendly retailers like Gaiam (www.gaiam.com) to big chain store like Target (www.target.com). These lights use 80-90% less electricity than traditional stringing lights. These lights also do not get “hot” thus, drying out your tree and causing worry if you leave the house and forget to turn the tree lights off. They are also more durable than incandescent lights not having a filament that can easily break. They are resistant to heat, cold and shock, meaning they are great for indoor and outdoor use.

Christmas tree decorations                     tree decoration

Obviously, it is eco-smart to reuse your existing holiday decorations, yet somehow we always feel the need for something new.

  • Fair trade decorations offer another way to give back to the world around you. Finding handmade tree ornaments, hand knit stockings and tree skirts, and more helps ensure that artisans receive fair wage to help them build sustainable livelihoods.
  • create cookie ornaments; gingerbread holds up very well, plus the kids love eating the ornaments off the tree! You can also use copper or stainless cookie cutters as ornaments.
  • garland made from popcorn and cranberries (can decorate both indoor and outdoor trees)
  • Sea shells, sand dollars and star fish left after high tide makes for a beautiful themed tree.
  • Pinecones (plain or with some glitter glue added to make them sparkle), candy canes, small lady apples, homemade dough ornaments, dried apples, oranges and lemons strung together add color and visual interest to your tree. Some of which can be composted after the holidays!
  • Choose eco-friendly and socially responsible tree decorations made from natural materials. Purchasing decorations with little or no packaging.
  • Often times at church holiday fairs, there is the “white elephant” room that has someone’s old decorations. These can be reused within your home and appear new to your family.

Wrapping paper                                         wrapping paper

  • Instead of traditional wrapping paper, consider using gift bags that can be reused over and over. It is said that in the United States, between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, we generate an additional 25% of waste. That’s 25 million tons of trash! After the gift has been opened, just fold up the bags and put away until next year!
  • Wrapping for kids: the Sunday comics work fine.
  • Once the holidays are over, think about next year and save packing materials, wrappings, tissue, bows and ribbons that you can reuse.
  • Purchase recycled paper.
  • The blooming wrapping paper: each piece of wrapping paper is embedded with annual and perennial wildflower seeds. Plant this biodegradable paper in the spring and watch the seeds grow! (www.uncommongoods.com)

Overall house decorating                         holiday decor

  • With a little creativity, your entire house can be decorated without any trips to the mall. Paper chains (memories from elementary school) created using old magazines and catalogs, old holiday cards, posters and scraps of wrapping paper can decorate both the tree and the stair banister!
  • Use live greenery as decor. Visit your local nursery and purchase fragrant topiaries of rosemary, thyme, sage basil, chamomile, lavender and mint.
  • Holy and magnolia branches make beautiful trimmings across mantles and as table decorations. Sprigs of holly can be tied with ribbon and placed on table tops.
  • Switch to cloth napkins, and china instead of paper and plastic products for your holiday entertaining needs. They offer a convenience but waste our resources. Collect a variety of napkins purchased at thrift stores as well as plates, and glassware.
  • Decorate with edibles that you can enjoy later. Bowls of fruits and nuts, pomegranates, pineapples, colorful squash create a color and festive addition to your holiday table.
  • Make a gingerbread house with you kids and use it as a centerpiece until the temptation to eat it takes over!
  • Add the scents of the holidays. Keep a gallon of cider in the refrigerator and warm up several cups on the stovetop or in your crockpot to add aroma to your home.
  • Natural scents and oils: rather than spraying artificial fragrances/air fresheners in your home, a couple drops of natural, essential oils can add to the spirit. Cedarwood, sandalwood, orange, or cinnamon oils can be added onto pinecones to release the fragrance throughout your home.
  • Baking pies, cookies and other delicious smelling goodies add wonderful fragrances throughout the holidays.
  • The sounds of the season: decorate your home by playing festive music that you and your family enjoy. I have collected a stack of holiday cds over the years and play them round the clock starting at the beginning of December. I tuck them away on New Years day for the next year.There are also several radio stations that play holiday music 24/7 the week of Christmas.

“There is a huge movement towards respecting the planet during the holidays,” says Cheryl Terrace, an eco-designer. “The focus is shifting from mass consumerism to creating a holiday that’s about gratitude, especially for the environment.”

Here are a few websites that offer eco-friendly gifts for the season as well:

Before you spend any money on holiday decor, look around your house, you probably have holiday decor, dinnerware and linens you have forgotten about. Anything you can reuse or repurpose will contribute to a more festive holiday event without the heavy price tag usually associated with holiday decorating and entertaining. If you must purchase, think multi-purpose: buy holiday decor and accessories that can be used at events throughout the year. It can be easy to fall into the trap of excess during the holidays – too many presents, too much waste, too much money spent, too much plastic.                                                      Don’t let the season change your green goals.

Happy holidays from Lisa Kawski at lmk interiors, ltd. www.lmkinteriorsltd.com

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3 Comments »

  1. Leslie said

    Awesome!!!!!!!!

    Should I save the oil I use for the latkes this year and re-use it next year??

    Or , as Gary just suggested, burn it in the menorah so that the house has a true Hannukah scent! 🙂

  2. ellen cool said

    So many good ideas……..and remembrances of old ways of decorating with what was at hand…….thankyou for representing these things……..

    One favorite creation of my own this year was a wreath made of seed corn bundles tied onto a grapevine backing, with glue gunned nuts of all kinds (in their shells) adhered onto these sheaves….
    In between the inner and outer doors of our house the wreath was protected and lovely for the holidays. Afterwards I hung it outside on my shed door where I could watch the graceful grateful squirrels and birds enjoy every last bit of it.
    ….Even the bits of lavender i added disappeared ……..perhaps to enhance the fragrance of someones nest ?

    Keep up the good thoughts………Ellen Cool

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