How To Have A Green Christmas

by heather

A cursory glance at that title and you might think I’m talking about banning snow for this year’s Christmas. But of course, I’m not. I’m talking about having an eco-friendly “green” Christmas.

Us holiday revelers don’t do the earth any favors this time of year. According to Newsweek magazine, this year Americans will send almost 2 billion Christmas cards, use over 38,000 miles of ribbon, and leave millions of Christmas trees out on the curb, waiting patiently for the landfill.

Yikes.

Making the transition to a more eco-friendly Christmas isn’t hard to do. It simply requires making a few different choices, and being conscious about the things you’re buying.

I’m making the transition myself. This year I’m giving eco-gifts (list toppers include reusable grocery bags

Photo courtesy ReusableBags.com

Photo courtesy ReusableBags.com

and cotton produce bags), not putting up a ton of lights, and ditching the wrapping paper.

But, there are other ways to go green this Christmas and ease the environmental impact of our celebrations. Here’s a few tips to get you started…

1. Transition To LED Christmas Lights

LED lights use 80% to 90% less energy than traditional lights, so this is an easy way to go green and save money.

Now, LED lights usually cost more than traditional ones. But the good news is that you’ll make this up in energy savings. Plus, LED lights will last 100,000 to 200,000 burn hours (depending on the brand) when used indoors.

It’s also advisable that you not connect regular lights to an LED string. Doing this can cause a fire hazard.

LED lights don’t get hot, however, so you can bunch them up together without worrying about them damaging your tree or wreath.

2. Use A Real Christmas Tree

People can go back and forth on this question: which is more eco-friendly, a real tree or a fake one?

Here’s the rundown:

On the one hand, a fake tree can be used over and over. Once you’ve made the initial investment, you’re done. From a saving money standpoint, this is good news.

Now, the bad news about fake trees is that they’re made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride). PVC, in the English language, translates to “no recycle”. PVC is vinyl. Vinyl is very bad.

Plus, most fake trees are made in China. And they often use lead and other poisonous chemicals to put the tree together, which means bad offgassing in your home. And the energy used to create and ship those trees over here is pretty significant.

Real trees are a great option because they’re grown for years to reach the proper height and fullness. This means that there’s one more tree getting rid of our carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen into our air. And when you cut it down, another is planted in its place.

If you decide to use a real tree, please recycle it after the holidays. You can visit Earth911.com to find local recycling centers in your area.

If you happen to have a pond or lake on your property, sinking your tree can offer a safe haven for fish. This is only a good idea if you know your tree hasn’t been treated with a ton of chemicals, however.

Want to get greener?

Buying a live, potted tree is a great option because, well, that’s one more tree that gets to keep living when you’re done with it. You can find more information at LivingChristmasTrees.org.

If you live in a city, have a small yard, or simply can’t afford the more expensive potted trees, however, this option isn’t going to work for you. So what can you do?

Well, why not share a tree with your neighbors or family members? All this entails is agreeing on one house to host the “present opening”. If that house already has a tree, great. If not, perhaps other families could chip in a small amount to buy one for the group. Then, on Christmas morning, everyone could open presents together at one house. This would not only save everyone money, but it would also allow you to spend Christmas with a larger group, which is often more fun anyway.

3. Ditch The Wrapping Paper

According to National Geographic, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is garbage overload. Americans throw away one million extra tons of garbage during this time period, and much of that is wrapping paper.

Danny Seo, a green blogger and author of Simply Green Giving, has some truly wonderful ideas for eco-friendly gift wrap. You can try:

  • Wrap presents with old grocery bags, magazine pictures, or newspapers
  • Dress them up by using old christmas light strings instead of ribbon (don’t forget to recycle the lights after the gifts are open! See my article on “Surprising Things You Can Recycle” for recycling resources)
  • You can also dress up wrapped gifts by ransacking your junk drawer. Shoelaces, tape measures, bandanas, clothing scraps, or old cassette tape can all be used with some imagination to create a really unique, fun look.
  • Another idea is to make the wrapping part of the gift. Reusable canvas shopping bags are perfect for this.

I highly recommend Danny Seo’s blog because he comes up with ingenious, fun ways to reuse old things and live a greener life. You can find his blog here.

4. Ditch The Holiday Cards

This is a great way to have a green holiday. Think about it: by not sending cards you’re saving time filling them all out, money on cards and stamps, and trees by not buying a ton of cards (remember up above, that shocking 2 billion number? Think of how many trees that is…).

Instead of sending out a ton of cards, why not just call your friends and family? Or, send e-cards.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Re-Gift

I love re-gifting! I’ve never understood why so many people consider it bad etiquette. To me, it just makes perfect sense. Re-gifting allows you to:

1. Declutter your house

2. Save money

3. Give new life to something you don’t want

4. Consume fewer resources

Is there anything bad here? I wracked my brain and couldn’t think of anything negative about regifting. This is a great way to have a green Christmas!

If any of you have any tips or strategies for going green this Christmas, I’d love to hear them!

You also might be interested in reading “Frugal Christmas Tips“, and “Eco-Friendly Gifts for Under $40“.

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{ 6 comments }

Kate November 30, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Love this topic!

Have you seen the site (and new book) http://www.CelebrateGreen.net?

I love, love, love their suggestions and their book is amazing. I didn’t expect a how-to to be such a fun read. And unlike Seo, these authors walk the walk – their book is printed on 100% PCW paper.

heather December 1, 2008 at 6:28 am

Hi Kate,

Thanks for the heads up on that book! I’ll definitely check it out.

-Heather

Carla December 8, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Great post! I am actually re-gifting too a little this year. I agree that we dont need wrapping paper. Its totally unnecessary.

Steve January 11, 2009 at 11:17 pm

I bought LED lights to replace my halogen MR16 bulbs the other day from a website called Eaglelight.com that I would recommend enthusiastically. They had good service (good phone and email support), great FAQs so I knew what I needed, and competitive prices; also, their shipping was fast and the LEDs were as good as advertised. http://www.Eaglelight.com. Highly recommended.

heather January 12, 2009 at 8:26 am

Steve,

That’s awesome! Thanks for the great tip; I’ll definitely give them a looky-loo.

Ara December 20, 2009 at 9:15 am

Now, now, I truly realized that having a green Christmas is very beneficial. =) Aside to the fact that we can save more than spend more, we can also experience a different aura of Christmas, more eco-friendly and economical. For me, all I want for Christmas is happiness for all and good fortune. I’m not after with gifts from the people who I love. But anyway if you like to have another earth-friendly gift idea, you might love this: why not get a stainless steel container that has unique style and design? If you like that idea you may visit Happy Tiffin There are a variety of cool and fabulous steel containers which you can afford to buy.

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