While there are various holidays throughout the year that inspire people to decorate their homes, businesses, cars, parks, and even towns and cities, the Christmastime holidays seem to reign above them all. Whether you prefer to decorate for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or even seasonally for Winter, those of us with an eco-conscience are caught wondering if our decorations are Earth-friendly, and if not, wonder how we can improve our flair to be more so.
The number one question many have is: real or fake? The holiday tree. Most often used as a Christmas tree inside the homes of many religious and secular celebrants alike, this “symbol of everlasting life” has pagan roots, with Germany beginning the tradition of bringing one indoors during the 16th century. It may be surprising to learn that a real tree beats out an artificial tree, in the lens of sustainability. The key reason to this conclusion is that, according to ZME Science, PVC, “the main raw material for fake Christmas trees is both non-renewable and polluting, and you can’t recycle it.” That translates into eventual trash for the landfill. Also, the energy used to manufacture and transport the artificial trees takes decades of reuse to reach its return on (energy) investment. Meanwhile, real trees are often replanted after they are grown, year after year. Christmas trees are also a naturally pesticide-free crop. While you only use them for a short time for their decorative purpose, cut trees can be recycled into mulch and live trees can be planted in the ground. However, maybe the best option is neither. Get creative and design your own reusable tree (see Pinterest for some great ideas). Or, consider a houseplant…there is nothing wrong with stringing up some lights and adding some ornaments to a larger houseplant!
That brings us to lights. LED lights have really been evolving into a better product over the last few years, with warmer colors that can compete with the old, incandescent glow. Inhabitat makes the case for LEDs in that the lights “use way less electricity, don’t burn out or break, last longer and save you money and energy.” They also address the subject of candles, where the option of LED candles is a festive alternative to traditional, flickering candles. LED candles are still made of real wax, but remove the associated dangers, and provide you with the benefit of long candle life, low energy use, and better indoor air quality.
Gift wrap is another questionable topic. On the surface, nothing seems amiss with wrapping paper or gift bags, right? Wrong. Wrapping paper is often dyed, laminated, or can contain non-recyclable materials such as glitter. Tape used to attach the wrap to a gift also makes recycling difficult. It’s actually better not to recycle your holiday wrapping paper, as it often cannot be recycled. Instead, go old-school and save your wrapping paper to reuse next year. Gift bags are even easier to reuse year after year. Or, try a different wrapping, such as fabric, towels, old maps, comics, or posters. Another option is to channel your school-days book covering and use brown paper shopping bags. Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things. If you feel you must have printed Holiday wrap, try Wrappily for 100% recyclable products. And, for gift tags, why not do what I do and reuse last year’s Holiday cards to make tags?
The above just scrape the surface of the myriad of ideas for how to make the holidays more eco-friendly. Often, the best way is the least expensive and most earth-friendly way. What ways are you inspired to bring sustainability to the holidays?