Green can be more than a featured color in your holiday decorating scheme. Green – as in natural, simplified, recyclable and reusable – can be a guiding force in creating a festive and feel-good home this season.
Consider these five easy eco-friendly ways to deck the halls.
1. Let nature help you decorate. Some of the most beautiful and festive decorations for your home can be found in your own backyard, on a roadside or at one of Long Island's many neighborhood nurseries.
Spread holiday cheer by spreading around your front door and throughout your home some red or green fruit such as apples and berries, pinecones, fallen tree branches, nuts, acorns, cinnamon sticks, stringed cranberries or popcorn and so forth. Ivy, holly and poinsettia plants add charm, just be sure to keep the latter two away from children and pets since they are poisonous if ingested.
Use beeswax or soy candles in your menorah or advent wreath rather than battery or electrically operated choices.
2. Use what you have. No need to go as far as that Charlie Brown-type Christmas tree set up in your college dorm festooned with paperclips, beer cans and candy-bar wrappers, but the idea of using what you have makes sense, particularly in this shaky economy. Purchasing new decorations will not only cost you, the items themselves will cost the environment in terms of the energy used to produce them, the petroleum consumption if manufactured of plastic and possibly both in the disposable packaging.
Whether a tree, a mantle or a dinner table, look at last year's decorations, family hand-me-down ornaments or flea market finds and group them in new ways – by theme (all snowflakes, all Santas …), by material (all glass, all metal …) or by color (all silver, all red-and-white …). Decorating with vintage family items may bring a remembrance of mantelpieces and trees past. Putting your own spin on them may start new traditions.
3. Make your own decorations. Although I appreciate crafts much more than I like making them, homemade decorations don't have to be complicated, or perfect, for that matter. That lopsided angel your sister made in elementary school or the hand-carved wooden reindeer your uncle made add warmth and character, and might even elicit a family story or two.
Other choices might include decorating your tree, evergreen garland or wreaths with pinecones and nature's other offerings, as listed above, or perhaps candy canes or other edibles such as cookies on a ribbon, raffia or string, or ornaments in the form of cut-out snowflakes from paper, or fashioned from recycled fabric, cards, wrapping and other paper, last year's calendar, extra copies of photos, old magazines, junk mail and the like.
4. Switch to energy efficient holiday lights. A modern-day Chanukah miracle in which one day's worth of fuel lasts eight would be inspiring – and if that happens on Long Island I hope to be the first to report it – but reducing the amount of electricity used for holiday lights can be a bit wonderful in itself.
If your home has not yet been switched to solar electricity (by the way, rooftop solar panels can withstand Santa's reindeer and sleigh!), trade those old incandescents for light-emitting diodes (LED) or solar-powered holiday lights indoors and outdoors, and use auto-timers.
Both types of lights come in a variety of styles and colors today. Solar ones include icicle strings, snowflakes, and even candy canes, available at major retailers. While solar lights use no traditional energy at all, according to the Long Island Power Authority, LED lights will cut energy up to 96 percent. A typical Christmas light string of old-fashioned incandescent lights uses 35 watts an hour, with a life expectancy of only 3,000 hours, while LED Christmas light strings use only 4 watts per hour and have life expectancies of 100,000 to 200,000 hours, or 20-plus years, and they run cool, reducing worries about fire.
5. Choose an ever "-green" tree. Putting up a non-biodegradable, petroleum-manufactured artificial tree that will sit in a landfill forever doesn't seem to be the environmentally responsible thing to do, but neither does cutting down a new evergreen every year, does it?
My take on this classic debate? If you have an artificial tree, use it, or reuse one someone else no longer wants. If you purchase a real tree, recycle it - in the Town of Hempstead, for example, put it curbside on Wednesdays, starting Jan. 5 and for a few weeks thereafter.
One last possibility, buy a potted evergreen; after the holiday is over, plant it!
Do you have a "green" holiday decorating idea to add? Have you gone "green" in other ways? Do you use or sell "green" products or services? Are you or your business taking steps to be green? Please let the Green Gal know!