Here are five areas in which you can incorporate eco-friendly holiday decor into your home, and celebrate mindfully.
I think that decorating is one of the most fun parts of getting ready for the holidays. The way things look different at this time of year is part of the magic of Christmas. Putting out decorations while listening to Christmas music is a highlight of my December.
However, the holidays are not a happy time for the environment. Around December there are an additional one million tons of trash going into landfills each week. Gift wrap, cards, packaging, boxes, advertisements, catalogs, napkins, and so on contribute to this, as well as food waste from all of the parties, festivities, and general attitude of overindulgence.
Emissions, the cause of global climate change, are increased at this time of year as well. CO2 is the big one, but there are many other gases that are doing their damage as well. Things like wood-burning fires, snow blowers, and extra driving are sadly a harm to the environment. Then there’s the extra energy consumption that goes on in the winter and even more around the holidays.
Is there a way to reconcile an environmentally-conscious lifestyle with the fun and festivities of the holiday season? I think there is!
My holiday decoration boxes are pretty small and minimalist, but I still enjoy setting out the few passed down, gifted, and handmade decorations that I have. I like to decorate and celebrate while trying to make conscious choices about how I do it. Here are five areas you too can incorporate eco-friendly holiday decor in your home.
Eco-Friendly Holiday Decor:
Unfortunately, poinsettias are not the best choice for an eco-conscious holiday. In America, 80% of them come from one single grower in Southern California, meaning they have been on a long, gas-guzzling journey prior to ending up in your house. Also, they can’t even live long in most of our environmental conditions, so it will only be a few short weeks before that poinsettia ends up in the garbage.
Instead, I recommend you ask your gardener friends or staff at a local nursery what other options are available and in season in your area to produce beautiful blooms to fill your home.
You can also go on a nature walk and collect your own branches, berries, etc. to make wreaths, swag, and other decorations. A couple years ago I made a wreath out of natural materials I found in my yard, and I was so impressed by how great it looked.
Of course, I can’t talk about plants without discussing Christmas trees. Real versus artificial Christmas trees is the great debate. Here are some comparisons from the National Christmas Tree Association with regard to their differing impacts on our environment and climate change. Let’s see which will come out as the eco-friendly holiday decor champion.
- typically grown in your own country, maybe even your own city
- grown on farms which support our ecosystems
- made from 100% biodegradable plant tissue
- PVC and lead-free
- carbon neutral because trees absorb carbon dioxide
- are a renewable resource as new trees are planted every year
- afterward can be “recycled” through decomposing which also adds nutrients back into the earth
- majority come from China
- made in factories where raw materials are used, natural resources are consumed, and they require long-distance transportation
- made of non-biodegradable plastics and metals
- contain PVC and lead
- not carbon neutral particularly because plastic is a petroleum byproduct
- not a renewable resource because of the use of petroleum and metals
- can use year after year for a long time
- when it does wear out or you want an upgrade, they end up in landfills and will not decompose
Real trees are the clear winners here in terms of eco-friendliness. There are other aspects to consider as well though before making a purchase (building restrictions, travel plans, cost, etc.). I know a real Christmas tree isn’t always a viable choice for some families, lifestyles, or situations.
I have experienced this myself as well. My husband and I are planning to chop down a real Christmas tree this year, and it will be our first time having one in our seven years of marriage. We are excited to finally be in a situation where we can have this option.
Scented candles create a wonderful, cozy atmosphere during the winter time. Talk about hygge. Some families also set out Advent candles or a Hanukkah menorah as part of their holiday traditions.
Unfortunately, most candles are made from paraffin wax which is refined from crude oil. These candles also emit toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, and soot when burned – not so wonderful and cozy.
To avoid the negative environmental impact and dangerous chemicals, simply switch to beeswax or soy candles. Beeswax candles are non-toxic and even provide negative ions to help clean the air. They also burn longer than any other type of candle. Soy candles are made from soybean oil which does not emit the harmful toxins, produces very little soot, and soy is a plentiful and renewable resource.
Over-the-top, inflatable decorations are regrettably becoming more popular each year. To make these figures stand up there is an electric motor in each of them running constantly while electrical grids are already being pushed to their limits during the holidays. Also, if the inflatable breaks or you eventually don’t want it anymore, that creates a huge petroleum-based addition to the landfill.
In my opinion, it is more mindful (and tasteful) to decorate with a few LED lights, a wreath, and soy candles glowing in the window. I have a few strings of outdoor LED lights hung along the roof, and it brightens my evening every time I drive home and see them shining. Eco-friendly holiday decor may sometimes be less in quantity, but it doesn’t have to sacrifice quality.
If you are in the market for some decorations, I suggested checking out your local thrift stores first. Reusing is an excellent option for eco-friendly holiday decor, and at this time of year, stores are full of Christmas lights, baubles, and really unique items as well. Think about how you might repurpose or revamp items you find to suit your particular taste.
And of course, when you are done with your own holiday decor, please don’t throw those decorations away to end up in a landfill. If you are not going to use them again, drop them off at a local second-hand store. You could go through your decorations now and donate any you no longer want. Those donations will be gladly accepted as people are currently shopping for them.
Other options include giving unwanted items to a church or organization that may be able to put them to good use for their own holiday events. Or you could set up a decoration swap night with friends where you can trade ornaments. What a fun, festive night that could be! Get creative and think up ideas to recycle or reuse those items in new ways.
Those are five areas for you to incorporate eco-friendly holiday decor into your home this season. By implementing these tips and swaps, you will be able to have a holly, jolly holiday at the same time as you help keep our planet safe and healthy.