Monday, December 10, 2012

Easy Ideas for a Merry Green Christmas

Are you tired dealing with a Christmas season that is stressful, commercialized and consumer-oriented?

Have you been trying to live a simpler, greener lifestyle, but you are not sure of how to go about greening the holiday season?

This year you can make your Christmas more eco-friendly and meaningful for you and your family.

Make Your Own Holiday Magic

One way to add more meaning into the holiday season is to slow down and make time for the ones you love. Shop less. Spend more time not money on your loved ones.
A great way to make memories that last is to create holiday traditions that you look forward to doing as a family: like making and decorating Christmas cookies, decorating the tree together or wrapping gifts together. Other traditions could be reading Christmas poems and stories, such as "The Night Before Christmas", as a family.

Another way to make holiday magic is to celebrate the true meaning of the holidays by doing something meaningful for someone else: Donate to charity or volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter for a day. Go through your closets and donate unused, un-needed items to charity. Get the kids involved too, have them find things they no longer need, and donate the items to charitable organizations or local churches that distribute items to the needy.

Decorate Green

A fake tree can keep real trees from being cut down but artificial trees are not usually made of earth-friendly materials, yet once you buy one it lasts for years. Even experts are divided on whether it is better to buy a fake tree or purchase a real one. My pick is if you already have a fake one stick with it but if you need a tree then opt for a live one. Preferably a real tree that is purchased from a local tree farm (organic if possible) and have your tree mulched afterward. Many communities are now providing tree-recycling services during the holidays.

Once you have a tree, light it up with LEDs. They use 90% less energy than regular lights, which means you’ll be green, and you’ll save some green at the same time. They also don't emit as much heat, therefore helping to reduce the risk of fire. LEDs have other benefits as well: one LED light can outlast 60,000 regular incandescent bulbs and last up to twenty years longer than a regular bulb.

Another way to decorate green is to purchase decorations of good quality that will be used over and over again for years to come. You can also decorate with vintage ornaments or ones made from recycled and natural objects.

How about an old fashioned popcorn string that can be fed to the birds or composted after the holidays?

Just make sure to skip the disposable stuff that will only be thrown away. Save your ribbons, bows, bags and boxes and use them again next year. If it can't be saved, recycle it.

Greener Gifts

You can green up your Christmas shopping habits, too.

One way is by purchasing eco-friendly gifts. These could include organic, sustainable, reused, recycled or fair trade items. Examples include organic bath and body products, natural beeswax or soy candles, or clothing and household linens made from organic cotton, hemp or bamboo.

Another way to shop green is to purchase items from nonprofits. Many of them sell great Christmas gifts and donate the proceeds to charity. Like the NWF (National Wildlife Federation) and WWF (World Wildlife Federation) both offer wild animal “adoptions” where you donate money to help an endangered animal and in return you get items like a certificate and stuffed animal-which would be the perfect gift for a child on your list.

Give green by giving gifts that are sure to be used. No one ever lets gift cards or gift certificates to someone's favorite store, tickets to a concert, movie passes or cold hard cash go to waste.

Shop for unique gifts for the collector on your list. Treasure hunt at local thrift stores, consignment shops or antique stores for one-of-a-kind fabulous finds.

Edible gifts are another eco-treat (except the fruitcake). A box of cookies, a cake, crackers and gourmet cheeses or fine chocolates are sure to be enjoyed. A wine lover would enjoy a good bottle of wine. Other options could be jars of do-it-yourself mixes for cookies, cakes, brownies and even soups. Homemade jams, jellies and canned vegetables or fruits are also a good choice and a way to extend your bountiful harvest.

A very green gift is one that you know someone really wants or needs. That way, you know it won't sit around unused, be returned or end up in a landfill anytime soon.

Other ideas for eco-friendly gifts include multipurpose, practical gifts that are likely to be used over and over again.

If you can’t come up with a great green gift idea you can always give the gift of yourself. Make up handmade certificates or coupons for your time or talent that may be needed. Could your best friend use some time by herself? Give her a coupon for a night of babysitting. Does your mom need some help with housecleaning? Would grandpa like a home-cooked meal? Is there a special event your daughter would love to go to with you? How about a night on the town with that special someone?

Wrap It Up

Once you have the gifts you are going to need to wrap them up green.

You can make your own holiday cards, presents and gift wrap out of scrap materials, used items or recycled materials.

Get the kids involved. Children love craft projects, and they’ll feel like they have more input in the holidays beyond asking for what they want from Santa. Let them paint, stamp, and decorate plain boxes, bags and paper and transform it into fun holiday wrappings.

Here are some tips for wrapping gifts the green way:

Use unique reusable items for wrapping paper, such as the comic section of newspapers, pages from magazines, colorful maps or paper you make yourself.

Plain brown or white package paper can be completely transformed with stamps, paint, markers, stickers or anything else you may have laying around the house. Have the kids use finger paint and stamp their little handprints on the paper, which grandparents will love.

Make the present part of the package by wrapping a gift with another gift. Are you giving a blanket as a gift? Put another present inside the blanket, and use the blanket as the wrapping. Tie it with a ribbon, and you are all set. Roll up sweaters, and stick items like socks and underwear inside. Tie gifts up with curtain tiebacks, shoelaces or hair ribbons. That way everything gets used, and nothing gets thrown away.

If you are handy with a needle and thread you could make reusable cloth gift bags to wrap up your green gifts.

If you like the idea of cloth gift bags but can’t stitch to save your life, check out for a nice selection of hand crafted, reusable cloth gift bags.

No time to make creative eco-wrappings? Then make sure you at least purchase wrapping paper that is made from recycled paper or tree free materials. offers a cute selection of wrapping paper made from 100% recycled paper and printed with soy based inks. has some snazzy wrapping paper also made from 100% recycled paper and is printed with vegetable based ink.

Interested in learning more about greening the holidays? Check out I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Gifts, Decorations, and Recipes that Use Less and Mean More by Anna Getty. It is full of crafts, recipes, gift ideas and so much more to help you have the best, and greenest, Christmas ever.

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