Going green with your holiday decorating

Nov 23, 2012 at 8:27 a.m. ET

Let's face it — the holiday season is a notoriously wasteful time of year for many of us. Excess stuff abounds and that stuff typically isn’t great for the environment. Consider these holiday decorating ideas to make your season a little greener.

Christmas decor

Making your holiday decorating more eco-friendly doesn't have to be costly or inconvenient. Try incorporating some of these simple decor ideas to help reduce your carbon footprint this season.

LED lights

There's nothing like a street filled with twinkling holiday lights to get us into the holiday spirit. Unfortunately, all those lights dramatically increase our electricity usage. Brandon Stephens, president of Christmas Decor, a national holiday lighting and decorating company, recommends using LED lights for your holiday decorating. He says, "They use 80 to 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights, so they use less electricity and cost less to operate. In addition, they require fewer power sources — so you can plug more in on a single run." Stephens also adds, "They last longer — 25,000 hours plus, which is 10 times longer than incandescent." He also recommends using a timer to have the lights turn on at dusk and then turn off three to four hours later.

Go thrifting

Make your holiday decorating greener by shopping at your local thrift store, Salvation Army or Goodwill. Juli Lundberg, Goodwill's public relations manager, says, "We have people come in over the holidays all the time to find gently used and inexpensive holiday decor items. Last year, a shopper came in for wine goblets for her home. She then gave them a festive look with permanent markers." She says another great gift idea is making a decorative quilt out of gently used clothing in red, green and white. "DIY people also grab up artificial trees that have been donated to Goodwill and create themed trees with them using all sorts of knickknacks," explains Lundberg.

Be smart with your tree

Choosing an artificial tree that can be used year after year is one way to go about reducing waste during the holidays. But if having a real tree is a must, there are some ways to be more eco-friendly about it. Kate Hendrickson of the National Aquarium, an organization that works toward conserving our aquatic treasures says, "Choose a potted or balled Christmas tree and replant it after the holidays. You can create a year-round habitat for local wildlife." She explains, "If you purchase a cut tree, recycle or mulch the tree for use in gardens and playgrounds. Avoid discarding it in a landfill."

Christmas lights
Photo credit: Christmas Decor

More green holiday decor tips

  • Upcycle items you already have (or that you know will be reused) when wrapping presents. Use a pretty dishtowel around that hostess present or wrap grandma's gift with your child's recent art project.
  • Trim your tree with edible ornaments like popcorn, cranberries or gingerbread cookies. Later, move your tree into the yard to give the birds a holiday treat.
  • Use soy-based candles rather than petroleum-based paraffin candles. Soy candles last 50 percent longer and are nontoxic.

More eco-friendly holiday ideas

Eco-friendly stocking stuffers
Eco-friendly gift wrapping for the holidays
Green holiday gifts for kids