Going Green for Christmas

LED lights, natural decorations, and real trees are some great options

Real Christmas trees are always a better choice over the store-bought plastic fakes. Once Christmas is over, the tree can be left out for collection by the city where it will chipped and turned into mulch. (Photo: Wikipedia.)
Real Christmas trees are always a better choice over the store-bought plastic fakes. Once Christmas is over, the tree can be left out for collection by the city where it will chipped and turned into mulch. (Photo: Wikipedia.)

Despite the snow melting and temperatures being above freezing the past few days, the Christmas spirit is alive and well. Trees are going up, lights are flicking on, and the malls and downtown shops are starting to see a surge in business.

The warmer temperatures have many people outside taking advantage of the favourable conditions to put up lights and other outdoor décor. These days, everything imaginable is available, from inflatable Christmas characters to lights of every colour and shape and size.

Lights are key to just about any Christmas display and are one of the most popular decorations. In the past, some retailers have offered exchange events where you can bring in your old strands of Christmas lights with inefficient incandescent bulbs and exchange them for a coupon for a percentage off a new string of LED lights.

Despite some incandescent varieties still being on store shelves, moving towards LED is the way to go. While they cost a bit more upfront, the energy savings can really add up over the course of the holiday season. In addition to the energy and cost savings, LED lights last much longer, with some going as long as 25,000 hours, which is equivalent to 12 holiday seasons. Chances are a string of traditional incandescent bulbs won’t last nearly as long.

When it comes to buying decorations, source green-themed Christmas decorations in local stores. These can include recycled items such as eco-friendly Christmas crackers and fabric gift bags to reusable boxes made from sustainable bamboo. Other green items include fair-trade stockings, recycled wrapping paper, recycled glass or metal ornaments, or recycled party supplies.

Another option for decorations is to go back to nature. Rather than spending money on artificial Christmas decorations that won’t biodegrade, nature offers lots of beautiful mediums to decorate your home. The GreenUP Store is currently featuring beautiful Christmas décor made from natural elements like acorns, bird’s nests and other items, shaped into art pieces.

Other all-natural ideas include using popcorn, cinnamon sticks, bows, gingerbread, seasonal berries, organic fruit and vegetables, ivy and evergreen branches, pine cones, and painted eggshells. The great part about this is that many of these items can go right into your compost after the Christmas season is done.

When it comes to buying a Christmas tree, the real deal is always best. Not only do they help remove carbon from our air while growing, once our use for them is done, they can be chipped and turned in to mulch for gardeners. Real trees also support an industry of their own right here in Ontario. In Peterborough, Christmas trees are collected in early January — providing all the decorations have been removed and they’re set out by the curb.

Candles are popular during the holiday season. Did you know that beeswax candles are better for the environment than all other types of commercially produced candles you find in stores today? Traditional candles are made from paraffin wax, which is a petroleum product. In addition to being made from a non-renewable resource, they also release soot when they burn, which contains a number of known or suspected carcinogens and can blacken walls and ceilings over time. Beeswax candles are completely renewable, there are no harsh chemicals in them, and they can be obtained locally.

What about all of those Christmas cards? If you planned ahead for this year and saved some from years past, they can be put to many good uses. Many people cut them up to make gift tags, but if you’re especially crafty they can also be made into ornaments as well.

Buy homemade and local. These items may cost a little more than a plastic Santa that was shipped in from China, but check out the holiday craft fairs for handmade ornaments and other pieces that are created from natural materials. We have many wonderful events in the coming weeks that feature locally made crafts and decorations, and you can also find these items at local farmers markets. Locally produced crafts come in little or no packaging, which is another bonus in this season of excess.