1. Light up with LEDs. LED lights use at least 75% less energy than conventional holiday decorations, according to Energy Star. That saves the average family about $50 on energy bills during the holiday, says Avital Binshtock of the Sierra Club in San Francisco. Or douse the lights and use soy-based or beeswax candles; their emissions are cleaner than those from paraffin candles.
2. Make your own decorations. Save money and keep your kids busy by hand-crafting eco-friendly decor—strings of popcorn or pine cones—instead of buying mass-produced holiday flare.
3. Wrap with stuff you already have. Get creative with reusable shopping bags, magazines, and newspapers instead of using wrapping paper. Even gift bags that recipients can pass on make for a more eco-friendly Christmas, says Brian Clark Howard of The Daily Green.
4. Buy a real tree. Real Christmas trees, wreaths, and garlands are renewable and recyclable, Binshtock says. Real trees mean an annual cost, but that may be a wash if you tend to buy a faux tree several times a decade.
5. Say “no” to glossy paper decorations and wrapping. Shininess and color come from chemicals not easily recycled. Alternative: Decorations or wrapping papers that use soy inks or natural dyes.
6. Package it in cardboard. Plain, corrugated cardboard is good for packaging because it’s easy to recycle. If plastic factors into your holiday plans, look for No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, the easiest to recycle, says Ben Champion, director of sustainability for Kansas State University.
7. Create precious moments that don’t leave a trail of debris.
- Do something experiential like taking the family to a museum.
- Give a gift certificate or donation to an organization meaningful to the recipient in the receiver’s name. Happy holidays to you: No sales tax.
- Buy fair-trade, organic, or locally made products, which are often one-of-a-kind and may not need as much packaging and shipping, Champion says.