Eco-friendly Christmas Decorations

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There are lots of ways to have a green Christmas, but which decorations have the least environmental impact? Those that are natural, durable, recyclable and edible will lower your carbon footprint.

Eco-friendly Christmas: natural decorations

For years, my ‘wreath’ has been the trimmings off the bottom of the tree. I tie them together with wire and red ribbon, and then I hang it on the front door. Recycling those unnecessary lower branches spends no extra energy. After the holidays, the branches go in the brush pile for animal shelter.

When I lived on the east coast, pine cones were plentiful. I put them in a basket or bowl and topped them with a festive ribbon. For some reason, when I see pine cones on the ground, I’m compelled to pick some up, so I still decorate with them this way. Smaller pine cones can be hung on the tree with ribbon.

Durable green decorations

If your ornaments are good quality, they will last for decades. I still use some that I made 40 years ago! I have some of my mother’s decorations as well. I see no need to go out and buy all new ornaments every year. Some people do this, and it’s a complete waste of energy and resources!

I have always bought one new ornament a year as a tradition, and now my daughters do this. The holidays are about creating traditions and memories, but what we are buying now will carry into their family traditions with their children.

When you buy decorations, buy things that will last for a few generations, not a week.

Recyclable Christmas decorations

I once bought an ornament at an arts & crafts fair from a disabled man, who had made them. He took the lids of tin cans and made angels out of them! He scored and bent parts to make wings, a dress and hair. He added small beads for eyes, and then glued a piece of string on the back for hanging it. I was amazed at how simple this was and how anyone could do this! And material is kept out of the landfill!

For other ornaments, the obvious is to buy second hand at thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets. I recently worked a fundraiser for our animal shelter, and there were two huge tables stacked with holiday items. When it was over, most of it was gone!

My mother used to take my dolls and use them as folksy decorations on the tree. I did this with my kids’ dolls. I also save small boxes I use during the year, like those for aspirin or travel size toothpaste. I wrap them in scraps of wrapping paper and tie a small ribbon around it. An ornament hook slips right into the tie for hanging. I have seen trees with stainless steel cookie cutters hung with bright ribbon, too.

I have cut snowflakes and decorative borders from recycled paper and the funnies. These can be painted or colored and taped to a window. This is great for the kids!

Edible Christmas decorations

Who hasn’t strung popcorn or cranberries to drape around a tree? After the holidays, drape those strands on a tree outside for the birds to eat. Be sure to put it near a window so you can watch!

Aside from store bought candy canes, small cookies make wonderful tree decorations. They can even be attached to a package!

A few cinnamon sticks bundled in red string or ribbon make a tree or wreath decoration that you can use in hot chocolate later.

A little creativity and a little observation around your house will give you the most uniquely decorated house in the neighborhood!

Read about other ideas I have about making the holidays environmentally friendly as well as thoughtful, socially responsible gift ideas.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.