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Decorating for Christmas, the eco-friendly way!

Proudly broadcast by... Love Bytes Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Decorating for Christmas, the eco-friendly way!

Christmas doesn't need to be the most commercialised, resource hungry celebration of the year, if we just think outside the square for a bit.

Let's start with decorating! We all want our homes to ooze festiveness. Let's face it, it just never feels like Christmas until that tree is up and sparkling. But how can we enjoy all that Christmas has to offer and be good to the planet and our consciences too? In the first half of 2007, the US alone, imported over $140 million worth of Christmas ornaments, most of which came from China. There's something to make you think!

Too many of the products on the market are made from non-renewable, often toxic and unrecyclable materials that are not only unhealthy for our families, they’re casting a less-than-festive glow on the earth. They require loads of resources, energy, and water to make and distribute, and often end up in the trash where they’ll take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to break down.

So let's get back to basics. Why not look at those infamous Three R's, in a different context to what we are used to?

Reduce: We all know that "less is more" in many instances. Think about this with decorating too! Do we really need to have so many ornaments on that tree? Do all of those lights really make a difference to your celebrations? Why not try to have just a few environmentally friendly focal points in your home? A beautiful welcoming wreath on your front door, the tree (of course!), and a beautiful table centre piece, will still give that joyous atmosphere for all to enjoy! Oh, and don't forget a spring of mistletoe over the door!

Reuse: Choose decorative items that can be reused multiple times or in new, unique ways. Start a tradition of "collecting" special decorations and ornaments and reuse them over and over - passing them onto generations to come.

Recycle: If items cannot be reused as decorations, recycle them appropriately, or use recycled materials to MAKE your own decorations!

Ideas for Eco-Friendly Decorations

Try to avoid overly "trendy" decorations. Choose ones that won't date too quickly so that they can be reused for many years to come. Regardless of the types of decorations you choose, they can be stylish, sophisticated, and eco-friendly.

Old CDs and DVDs: Apply some paint, beads, and ribbon to an old CD or DVD to make it into a snowman or Victorian-styled ornament for the tree or your windows.

Choose organic cotton linens such as table runners, and napkins rather than cheap, synthetic fabrics and/or throw away paper serviettes.

Decorate with potted plants instead of artificial or cut flowers.

Use natural elements: Decorate the tree with plain or painted pinecones, wreaths made from foilage and wildflowers, decorated eggshells, or dried herbs. Add a bit of glue, some ribbon, and other crafty elements to create angels or some earthy garland. Just be sure to compost your leftovers at the end of the holiday.

Grow aromatic herbs as part of practical and eco-friendly holiday decorations. These will give an aromatic, natural atmosphere all round and have the added bonus of being able to be added to that yummy Christmas feast!

Choose solar garden or LED Christmas lights in your displays and keep in mind the "less is more" approach.

Last year’s cards: Turn old Christmas cards into fun folded or glittered ornaments, or use them as place cards on Christmas day! Or why not try your hand at folding some beautiful origami using last year's wrapping paper?

Avoid synthetics and chemicals: Opt out of Mylar tinsel, which isn’t biodegradable, and spray snow, which is full of toxic chemicals. Instead, use durable tin tinsel and ditch the snow altogether - we are Aussies people - it doesn't snow at Christmas here!

Unwanted books: Got a paperback you’re never going to read again? Get folding and painting and turn it into a shiny mini tree for your table or mantel.

Reusable crackers: Enjoy the fun of Christmas crackers by making your own! But instead of using disposables like new wrapping paper or cardboard tubes, recycle old toilet paper or paper towel tubes, fill with special treats and a snap, and finish with cloth covers (old napkins or pieces of fabric) so that you can reuse them again each new season.

Opt for edible decorations: such as carved fruits and vegetables, decorated cookies, fruit bouquets, and artisan breads for a beautiful menu. Hang gingerbread people, popcorn, small lady apples, cinnamon sticks, cranberries, and candy canes. Or make-up some inexpensive salt-dough to create star- and tree-shaped ornaments. Add icing for detail and hang with a ribbon from year to year. Or get the whole family involved in a gingerbread house-making event and use that to grace your table for the rest of your time together.You can also create garlands using dried apples, oranges, and lemons strung together. And when they break, simply compost with your other kitchen scraps.

If decorating with candles, opt for environmentally friendly soy or beeswax instead of paraffin.

A note on saving money when decorating...

It is untrue that eco-friendly decorations are more expensive than mass produced, less sustainable options. Some organic products may be more costly with their initial outlay, they are also more durable and will last longer than less ecological options. Your dollar stretches so much further. To save even more, comparison shop between different retailers, and try to select locally made decorations to save on shipping costs and the carbon cost of transportation. This also boosts the economy in your local community! Consider making decorations yourself to limit processing waste and cost, and purchase items in bulk whenever possible to save money with quantity discounts.

With clever design and smart purchasing choices, eco-friendly decorations can be just as beautiful and budget-friendly as any decorative choice on the market, and will do your pocket and your conscience a world of good too!

Most of all, have fun decorating with your kids, I know that we will! And, don't forget to compost everything that you can when it is time to pack it up in readiness for next year!

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