How to decorate Green this holiday

The holidays are one of the best times of the year, but can also be among the most wasteful. Here are some tips for making the season a little greener:

Switch to LED lights – I was in holiday lighting hell last weekend. I think every strand I took out of the box and plugged in was half lit. Or worse, worked initially and then burned out the instant I had it up on the tree. The exception – all my LED lights worked like a charm. Many strands we have had for four or five years now and not one light was burned out! LED lights cost a little bit more initially but are totally worth it. They last forever (well not literally forever but up to 100,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours for incandescent bulbs) and use about 10% of the energy of regular lights. As my old strands burn out, I’m replacing them with LED exclusively. I’m done with the half-lit strands.

But don’t send your old non-working strands to the landfill – you can recycle them! Here are two companies that will recycled your old holiday lights: Holiday LEDs and Christmas Light Source. Both will send you coupons for new LED lights and Christmas Light Source uses the recycling proceeds to benefit Toys for Tots.

Think beyond poinsettias – Instead of filling up the landfills with these “throw-away” plants once the calendar changes to 2010, consider other longer-lasting plants (like Norfolk pine, gardenia, or even a Christmas cactus) that will get you in the holiday spirit as much as the poinsettia, but will be around much longer. See “6 holiday plants beyond poinsettias” for some great alternatives.

Use soy candles –The problem with most candles is that they are made from paraffin wax. Paraffin wax is petroleum-based and produces carcinogens and soot when burned. Research has shown that the soot from a paraffin candle contains many of the same toxins produced by burning diesel fuel.

Soy candles are a great alternative, and more affordable than beeswax. Compared to paraffin candles, soy burn slower and cooler (helping to better distribute fragrance), are non-toxic, less likely to trigger allergies, clean up with soap and water, and produce very little soot. They also last up to 50% longer than paraffin candles. Unlike paraffin, soy wax spills can easily be cleaned up with hot soapy water. Finally, soy candles are all natural, made from a renewable resource and are totally biodegradable.

Rethink the inflatables – My least favorite holiday decoration is the inflatable lawn ornament. You know, the giant Santa, snowman, or my favorite, the manger scene – because nothing celebrates the birth of Jesus like a giant inflatable made entirely from nylon (i.e. plastic) that requires a constant stream of electric power to remain upright. I know, I know, kids (and many adults too) love them, so if you do have one, please cut the electricity when it gets dark, let Santa deflate during the night, and plump him back up again the next day.

In general with holiday decorating, to go green, go for natural decorations rather than artificial, and old (reused, passed down) rather than new. But here is my holiday “ecofession”- my favorite decoration at my house is far from eco-friendly. Here it is…

I know that this little tree is made from petroleum and contains PVC (yes, the poison plastic), but this tree needs our love, and we give it anyway. Because really the holidays are about tradition, family, and joy – what makes you joyful is good – and if you can make it green too, even better.

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