Happy holidays! It’s time for family, festivities, travel, and decorations. But unfortunately — it’s also time for excessive consumption and energy use. Stanford University’s Waste Reduction, Recycling, Composting and Solid Waste Program is said to quote that from Thanksgiving to New Years, the average amount of household waste increases by 25%. Sadly, that’s just from things such as wrapping paper and decorations. Christmas lights also use an enormous amount of energy and produce enough carbon dioxide to fill 15,500 hot air balloons, according to the Energy Saving Trust. The holidays, although happy, can be some of the most unsustainable events throughout the entire year.
It doesn’t have to be that way though, there are plenty of ways to make your holiday season more sustainable. So why not go eco-friendly with these holiday lights and decoration ideas!
LED, Battery, or Solar Lights
Standard twinkle lights are a huge energy consumer. Save yourself some money — and save the environment some pain — by using LED, rechargeable, or solar lights. LEDs save about 90% of the cost of standard bulbs, and can often have a crisper appearance. Solar-powered and battery-powered lights are obviously rechargeable, either by the sun, a USB plug, or actual batteries, so you’ll save the cost of having the usual constant power drain. You might also consider putting your holiday lights on a timer. This ensures that they aren’t running all day and causing your electric bill to spike. With advancements in technology, some holiday lights can now even be controlled through an app on your phone.
Do you have old sweaters or towels laying around your house that you’re never going to wear or use again? Don’t throw them out. It may sound odd, but they can actually be recycled into holiday decorations. Try cutting them up and sewing them together to make homemade stockings instead of buying some at the store. Get creative by using the fabric to sew together a new holiday wreath. If any of the items are sentimental, get tiny frames to showcase scraps of them and make them into tree ornaments. You can also use the fabric to wrap presents.
Christmas Tree Rental
Real Christmas trees aren’t always the best option — think of all those tree lots full of cut trees that never get their moment to shine in your home. Also, when you’re done with your real tree, it usually gets thrown out with the rest of the holiday trash. Instead of buying a real tree, try renting a real tree. Options to do it around the country are still a bit limited, but talk to the lot you’re planning to buy from and they may offer the option as well. Here’s how it works: You rent a tree for a fee, it’s delivered to your home, and after you’re done with it, someone comes to pick it up and replants it so it can be rented out the following year. Most trees will last for about seven rentals before it gets too large and is planted in the local landscape. You can also rent artificial trees if you’d rather not have pine needles scattered all over your floor.
It’s easy to bring nature inside for the holidays by making decorations out of plants, sticks, rocks, and other items all available in your backyard. You can make wreaths and centerpieces out of fallen sticks and branches; use dried herb sprigs to create garland; and fill decorative glass vases with pinecones and stones. Use what you can find!
Who needs new decorations when you can find perfectly good used ones at the thrift store? Hit the local Goodwill or Salvation Army to see what people have decided to get rid of. You may be able to find everything you need from artificial trees and ornaments to stockings and holiday plates. When you do this, you’re saving that stuff from a landfill and giving new life to something instead. If you don’t have thrift stores nearby, check with your neighbors to see if they’re looking to give anything away that you can use, or ask your friends and family for discarded decorations. There’s nothing wrong with hand-me-downs — sometimes they make for the most sentimental holiday decor.
In addition to using old fabric and bringing in nature, look and see what you have that you can repurpose and recycle into new DIY holiday decorations. Do you have a handful of small boxes? Turn them into a reusable advent calendar with a bit of paint and some fabric curtains. If you have leftover craft supplies, make new ornaments or use them to decorate old ones that need a facelift. Reuse wrapping paper and shoeboxes to wrap gifts (or use old magazine or newspaper pages) and cut some lengths of kitchen twine for ribbon. Make garland out of, well, whatever you can find that looks a little festive.
With a little imagination and thriftiness, you can have a holiday celebration that not only looks great, but saves the environment as well. And the best part is, you can get the whole family involved — especially if you’re pulling things in to use from outside or have an art day to create your own revitalized decor. If you’re looking to save even more than just your decorations, check out our other ways to save energy this winter.