6 Ways to enjoy an eco-friendly Christmas

Dec 6, 2013 at 4:57 a.m. ET

Christmas is a time for reflection, family and fostering what's important in life — but not for producing excess waste.

christmas charity

Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to reduce waste at Christmas and even plan for the future.


Strings of holiday lights are everywhere this time of year. So if you're lighting up the inside and outside of your home, here are a few easy tips to help you save energy (and money).

  • Trade incandescent lights for LEDs. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the future of lighting. LEDs can last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, they use about 75 percent less energy and they reach full brightness instantly.
  • Turn on the lights for shorter time periods. Do the neighbors really need to see the lights deep into the night? When things are winding down for the night, pull the plug on the lights until tomorrow.
  • Better yet, put lights on automatic timers. This way, you remain worry-free about the lights.

Recycle the tree

Nothing symbolizes Christmas more than a tree. So what can you do after the holidays are over and it's time to take down the tree? Recycle it!

Go to Earth911.com, click "Recycling Search" and type in the search boxes whatever it is you want to recycle (in this case, "Christmas tree") and your zip code. That will get you to a handy list of places that will happily accept and recycle your tree. Some places even provide tree pickup.

Repurpose the newspaper

When your husband finishes reading his beloved sports page to find out how well (or how poorly) his football team is doing, reuse it as wrapping paper. And the best part is that you can recycle it after you repurpose it.

Give the gift of charity

When many of us realize just how good we have it, we instinctively move to help those who are less fortunate. Instead of buying something meaningless for that "someone who has everything," opt for giving something meaningful to someone who could truly benefit from it.

  • Sites like Network for Good allow you to choose a beneficiary. (And hey, there's no wrapping paper to throw away!)
  • Many churches offer some type of alternative gift fair that provides much-needed funding for aid to people in countries around the globe.
  • Go to the dollar store and offer to foot the bill for someone in line, or perhaps tape dollar bills to some toys.

Regift photo cards

We all look forward to receiving the ritual holiday photo card. Keep those images alive by repurposing those pictures of new faces, suddenly grown-up children and cute animals forced to wear embarrassing outfits. The photo cards you receive this year can easily become next year's coasters, place mats, framed photo cards and calendars for those who gave them in the first place.

Give tree seeds or saplings

One of the best ways to be friendly to our environment is to give back in the form of a tree (or future tree). This gift can be enjoyed for years and years to come. Companies like The GreenWorld Project, Tree in a Box and Seeds of Life offer amazing varieties of seed kits and small trees. Just make sure the type of tree you gift is able to thrive in the area where it'll be planted.