Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations

Eco-friendly Christmas decorators choose carefully.

Is decorating for Christmas a highlight of the season for you? It is for me. I think holiday decorating can be environmentally friendly and fun.

If you read last week’s post, Free Yourself from Christmas Consumerism, you might be surprised by this one. One week I am urging readers to consider opting out of exchanging Christmas gifts and the next week I am promoting Christmas decorations. What is up with that?

I Would Rather Decorate than Exchange Christmas Gifts

From a purely environmental perspective, buying Christmas decorations and displaying them year after year is substantially less harmful to the planet than buying and exchanging gifts every year. In addition, exchanging Christmas gifts can be a stressful, exasperating, and expensive activity so opting out might be the best gift you can give yourself and everyone else on your list.

Decorating for Christmas is an activity that you can enjoy doing on your own or with other people. Be kind to the planet by shopping for decorations thoughtfully and buying minimally.

To some people it may seem like environmentalists are always trying to ruin everyone else’s fun by getting things stopped, banned, and prohibited. Others may think that environmentalists want everyone to deprive themselves of the things they find beautiful, delicious, or fun just to save some polar bears in a far distant icy land. Well, polar bears are cool and deserving of our consideration but so is every other living being, including people.

Everyone needs and deserves beauty and joy in their lives, even environmentalists. For some people, like me, decorating for Christmas fulfills that need in some small way.

December is a dark and cold month. In our small town, we do not have streetlights except on the main streets so when it gets dark just after 5:00 p.m. it is indeed dark. At this time of year, it seems like my hands are almost always cold so I often wear fingerless gloves inside. Getting out of bed on cold winter mornings is an act of fortitude. I am already yearning for spring, longer days, and wildflowers.

One way I cheer myself up and renew my spirit is by bringing some color and sparkle into our home in the form of Christmas decorations and a tree (which is the topic of another post). I think taking care of your own well-being is a gift to the people you love.

When January rolls around, I am refreshed and ready to begin a new year.

Below is my take on eco-friendly Christmas decorations. Please feel free to share your own ideas with other readers in the comments section.

Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorating Suggestions

Every time you reuse a Christmas decoration its carbon footprint becomes a little smaller because unlike manufacturing a new decoration, it requires no additional resources or energy and does not create waste. You can find these eco-friendly Christmas decorations in your own garage, antique stores, second-hand shops, and family attics.

Ceramic Santa Claus, Snowman, and Christmas Tree Figurines
Ceramic Santa Claus, Snowman, and Christmas Tree Figurines – Photo Credit iStock/PK6289

Making your own decorations is an environmentally sound and creative endeavor. Give yourself extra eco-credit if you make the decorations using things you already have on hand, recycled components, or foraged natural materials.

There are other ways that you can make your Christmas decorating more eco-friendly even if it involves buying new items that are made mostly with non-renewable materials such as plastic, metal, glass, ceramic, and synthetic fabric.

Minimize First

Unless you are in your first year of buying your own Christmas decorations, you probably already have a collection stashed in your garage or a closet. This month, evaluate what you already own, set aside the items you really, really love, and give away or sell everything else.

Over the past couple of holiday seasons, we have been paring down our Christmas decorations. Divesting ourselves of items that family members and friends have given us has been an agonizing and emotional process. At first, I felt guilty for considering getting rid of things that someone had given me; it was as if I was rejecting that person, which of course is not the case. In the end, I decided that things are just things and that it is okay for me to make decisions about my own belongings.

After you reduce your decoration collection, some vigilance is probably required or you might end up back where you started.

Be Prepared

To me, one of the most dangerous activities this time of year is to go shopping in a store or online unprepared. With so much stuff to buy everywhere, you can easily find yourself putting things in your real or virtual shopping cart that you did not even know you wanted until right then.

Christmas Tree in a Snow Globe
Christmas Tree in a Snow Globe – Photo Credit iStock/Wavebreakmedia

Deciding what you want to buy before you hit the stores or log onto the Internet may help you stay focused on that item, which could save you time and money, too. For instance, if you have decided to buy a snow globe, there is no need to be browsing in the wreath section of the store.

I grant you that it is not easy to walk by all the gaily-colored Christmas decorations calling your name, but you increase your odds of ignoring those voices if you are prepared and know what you want.

Be Choosy

Eco-friendly Christmas decorating involves doing it with as little environmental impact as possible, while still enjoying yourself. The more stuff the more impact.

Nutcracker Toy Soldier Christmas Decoration
Nutcracker Toy Soldier Christmas Decoration – Photo Credit iStock/Wavebreakmedia

Be very choosy about what you buy. Only purchase items that you really, really like and can envision yourself happily un-boxing and displaying for many years to come. Try to buy quality items that will last.

Beware of decoration churning, which is routinely getting rid of items you own so you can buy new decorations. I am not advocating never getting anything new just suggesting being mindful of what you buy.

Even though I am committed to minimizing the amount of stuff I own, including Christmas decorations, I admit it is challenging.

For instance, I just purchased items to add to my Dickens Village, which is a collection of small buildings, trees, and figurines that I arrange in our dining room bay window each December.

Fortunately, I had decided to buy a new building for my village before I left my house and of the more than fifty on display all saying, “pick me” I selected just one, the honey shop.

If I had walked to the checkout counter at that point, I could be all self-righteous about my shopping self-control, but that is not what happened.

Of course, the honey shop had a companion beekeeper figurine that was sold separately so I had to grab that. Then I noticed a set of four furry animal figurines that would look wonderful gracing my village’s forest so I picked up a box. My self-restraint finally kicked in and I put down the battery-powered streetlights I had been eying.

Why would I share this story of my own not so successful attempt at eco-friendly Christmas decorating? To point out that we are all human. Sometimes we make environmentally sound choices and sometimes we do not.

This holiday season, I hope you will consider minimizing your decorations, preparing before you go shopping, and choosing new decorations carefully.

Merry Christmas!

Featured Image at Top: Christmas Gnomes Wearing Knitted Sweaters and Hats – Photo Credit iStock/amerto4ka

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Free Yourself from Christmas Consumerism

Make this the year you opt out of exchanging Christmas gifts.

If Christmas shopping makes you feel stressed, anxious and exhausted, imagine how Earth feels about it. Maybe a change is in order.

I doubt I am the only American who believes that exchanging gifts at Christmas is a custom that has gotten way out of control. Luckily, you still have time to free yourself from Christmas consumerism this year.

Are you wondering why I am broaching the subject of consumerism during the holiday season when people are supposed to be feeling festive and generous? Well, for two reasons. The first is that the trappings of Christmas consumerism are surrounding you right now, which gives you the best possible vantage point for evaluating how you really feel about all of it. Secondly, if you curtail your Christmas shopping or better yet, skip it all together, you have the whole of December to celebrate Christmas in ways that are meaningful to you and to have some fun.

Does the United States Really Have a Christmas Consumerism Problem?

My definition of what constitutes a consumerism problem and yours are likely to be different. Since you are reading this post, it probably signifies that you have at least an inkling that there might be a Christmas consumerism problem.

Lined Up Shopping Carts for Christmas Shopping

I found 2017 Christmas shopping forecasts and trends dismaying. Here are a few examples.

  • Of the people who incurred credit card debt during the 2016 Christmas shopping season, 14% are still paying it off.
  • Consumers (I hate that word) in the United States are expected to spend a whopping $678.8 billion to $682 billion during the Christmas shopping season. This is a 3.6% to 4% increase from 2016.
  • 32 million people were planning to shop on Thanksgiving (I wonder how many did).
  • Retailers have increased their efforts to make it easy for you to tell your family and friends what you want for Christmas via online wish lists, social media, and in-store apps.
  • I could not find a statistic on how many Christmas gifts are not wanted, needed, or liked by the recipient. However, I did learn that two-thirds of holiday shoppers return at least one gift that they received, making the day after Christmas one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Okay, you get the picture. Now, you might be thinking something along the lines of “What about family Christmas gift exchange traditions?”

Christmas Gift Exchange Traditions

The environmental zealot in me can easily say, “There is no Christmas tradition in the world that is worth jeopardizing our children’s chance to have a habitable planet to live on in future years.”

That said I realize that family traditions are important to many people including myself. Generally, a tradition is a way of passing down customs, values, and beliefs from one generation to the next. Traditions give people a sense of continuity, belonging, and ways of creating and sharing memorable moments.

Fortunately, family traditions are malleable and not set in stone. For instance, previous family traditions undergo modification and adaptation when two families merge into one. I posit that a Christmas gift exchange tradition can be retired without spoiling Christmas, but you are the judge for your own family.

My spouse and I gave up our Christmas gift exchange tradition in 2013. Four years later, we are looking forward to another delightful stress-free holiday season.

The Year We Opted Out of Exchanging Christmas Gifts

In 2013, with Thanksgiving approaching, I realized that my own internal Christmas shopping button had malfunctioned; somehow, it had been switched off, broken, or repurposed.

Green Buy Button on Computer Keyboard

My spouse and I talked it over and decided we wanted to stop exchanging Christmas gifts, period.

We let our family members and friends know that we had decided to stop exchanging gifts and why. To ensure there were no misunderstandings, we made it clear that we did not intend to give any Christmas gifts and did not wish to receive any.

When I wrote the post entitled Let’s Take Back Thanksgiving – Opt Out of Consumerism, we had just broken the news.

Most everyone accepted our decision with equanimity and I think a few with silent relief. If I remember correctly, my mother objected to the not receiving gifts part saying she enjoyed giving gifts. One of my friends pointed out that I could graciously accept a gift if someone wished to give me one without feeling obligated to reciprocate (good advice).

In the end, opting out of exchanging Christmas gifts was a non-event. Of course, you may have a different experience if you opt out of exchanging Christmas gifts, but chances are your family and friends will still love you.

Is This the Year You Opt Out of Exchanging Christmas Gifts?

If the idea of opting out of exchanging Christmas gifts is even remotely appealing or intriguing, reading the ten statements below may help you assess your own readiness to take the plunge.

Green Christmas Gift Box with Red Ribbon and Bow

  1. I dread Christmas shopping.
  2. I worry about the environmental consequences of Christmas consumerism.
  3. I am tired of going into to debt to buy Christmas gifts.
  4. I feel stressed out trying to come up with gift ideas for the people on my list.
  5. I cringe when a friend or co-worker asks me if I want to exchange Christmas gifts.
  6. I am concerned that my children are focusing too much on acquiring stuff.
  7. I cannot relax until I have bought, wrapped, and shipped all the gifts on my list.
  8. I feel disturbed by the amount of waste generated during the Christmas holiday season.
  9. I feel obligated to give a gift to everyone who gives me a gift.
  10. I wish someone in my family would suggest we stop exchanging gifts.

Do one or more of these statements ring true for you? If so, perhaps it is the season to rethink your own Christmas gift exchange traditions. Now is as good a time as any to just, stop.

Imagine what you could be doing if you were not searching for a parking space near the store, walking up and down the aisles in search of the perfect gift, standing in line at the checkout counter, surfing the web looking for the best deal, or waiting in line at the post office.

I can see you smiling and I hear Earth sighing with relief.

Merry Christmas!

Featured Image at Top: Little Blue Car Overloaded with Christmas Gifts on Top – Photo Credit iStock/Sergey Peterman

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