Tips for Eco-Friendly Christmas Décor
By Thiyashi Koththigoda
Christmas is almost upon us and the decorating is about to begin. Although being eco-friendly is probably best saved as a new year’s resolution, you can actually start this season. Changing something as small as the way you approach your Christmas décor can make a positive ecological contribution. Here are some décor tips if you want a greener Christmas:
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree is the base and center for your Christmas décor. Usually, we would all use a fake tree for our adorning purposes but this may not be the most eco-friendly. Artificial Christmas trees are made with a combination of materials that include copper, steel and PVC. This mix of metals and plastics make it very much impossible for the tree to be recycled. You can decide to reuse your artificial tree annually. However, studies have found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for up to 10 to 20 years to even see any significant ecological impact. If you are looking to have a greener Christmas, opt to go tree free. There are many alternatives to a Christmas tree that you can come up with right within your home. Here are some ideas to get you started,
Dress up a houseplant - Pick any houseplant, big or small, to become your substitute Christmas tree. All of your usual décor like lights and baubles can be used to adorn the plants. If you have a variety of houseplants in your home, you can have multiple mini Christmas trees throughout the house.
Light up the walls - Utilize your string lights to make an impression of a Christmas tree on your wall. Simply hammer in some nails or attach some hooks on the wall in the silhouette of a tree. Then wind your string lights around it. This creates a simple, clean and minimalist ‘tree’ to be your centerpiece.
Some ‘light’ reading - This one is ideal for all the bookworms who have more books than they know what to do with. Stack your books to create a pyramid shape and string some lights around it. Cap off your book tree with a star tree topper. You could also stack the books similarly on your bookshelf to have your own personal bookshelf ‘tree’.
Take a new step - Everyone has a ladder around the house. So why not repurpose it for your Christmas needs to create a new and unconventional tree? For a rustic and unusual ‘tree’, string lights, hang baubles and tie some ribbons to the ladder. You can also suspend baubles with different lengths of string to create a beautiful, layered effect.
Christmas lights are a staple of the décor. Traditionally, incandescent glass bulbs are the go-to option. For a more environmentally friendly alternative, consider LED string lights. LED or Light Emitting Diodes use electrodes rather than the filaments in incandescent bulbs. This means they produce little to no heat, reducing the energy wasted. A majority of the energy is used for the light rather than the heat, unlike in traditional bulbs. In addition to coming in all the colours of the spectrum, they can produce the same level of lights and give better light distribution too. So, LEDs are energy efficient, using 80% less energy. LEDs also last six times longer than traditional lights and have no toxic chemicals. All of this makes LED lights eco-friendlier due to the reduced energy usage and minimized waste of resources. These lights can also be the safer option as there is no fire hazard from the bulbs heating up.
Gift-giving is an essential part of Christmas. It can be, however, a practice that produces a lot of waste. Conventional wrapping papers and gift decorations are not very green. Materials like glitter, foil and plastic that are commonly used to make wrapping paper are not recyclable. Such materials are notorious for being non-biodegradable. The simplest thing you can do is to just reuse wrapping paper from last year. To check if it’s recyclable, do what is called the ‘scrunch test’. Scrunch up a bit of the material in your hands and if it unravels, it’s most probably made of non-recyclable materials. You could also simply use brown paper or newspaper with some twine or fabric ribbon for a rustic and eco-friendly gift-wrapping option. Another option is to wrap presents with fabric, inspired by Furoshiki. Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese practice of wrapping gifts with cloth and fabric. It was used to wrap clothes, gifts and food for transport. Use recycled pieces of cloth or newly bought fabric to tie wrap up gifts with a simple knot. You can also refer to Furoshiki guides online for a variety of techniques and methods to wrap a gift of any shape.
Hanging ornaments is probably the most exciting part of decorating. But using tinsel or plastic baubles can be detrimental if you’re trying to be greener. As always, you can reuse baubles and tinsels for as long as you can to reduce wastage. You could even consider swapping decorations with friends and family for a change in décor. If you do plan to buy décor, make sure it’s made from eco-friendly materials like wool, hemp, wood, jute or recycled glass. Also try to make it a priority to shop from local and smaller businesses for environmentally handmade décor. And when in doubt, you can also make amazing decorations at home with materials you probably have lying around. Here are some options to get your creativity rolling:
Borrow from nature - Use twigs and branched that you have foraged to create rustic and nature inspired décor. Use twine to tie twigs together and create snowflakes. You can also use twigs as parts of centerpieces in combination with candles, dried fruit and ribbons. An entire branch can be repurposed by placing it in a vase or jar and then decorating with baubles or string lights. Wreaths can also be made with branches and some wire, with ribbons for some flourish.
Salvage glassware - Gather glassware like old jars and empty wine bottles for a bohemian twist to your handmade décor. Fill jars up with string lights or baubles. Add ribbon or twine around them for an extra decorative detail. Jar lids can also be painted or accessorized to be hanging ornaments. You can also use jars as candle holders for your dinner tables. The same can be done with empty wine bottles.
Good enough to eat - Edible decorations are the epitome of zero waste. You can bake biscuits and gingerbread to be strung up using twine. Candy canes and peppermints can also be used this way. They can be made into garlands or even individual ornaments. Any herbs like rosemary or thyme can be made into mini wreaths or just used in centerpiece décor for some greenery. You can add further fragrance with bundles of cinnamon sticks tied with twine. For a dash of citrus, dry out slices of lime or orange in the oven to create garlands with twine.
Having an eco-friendly holiday can be done with only few simple steps. You can take inspiration from the tips mentioned to start decorating in a zero-waste manner that can be fun and creative. It’s also extremely rewarding knowing that you’re doing your part to help the environment this holiday season.