Popcorn, Pine Cones, and Cloves: Here Are Some Easy Ways to Green Up Your Holiday Decorations

November 13, 2018

By Lori Melton

There’s no better way to ring in the holidays than by decorating your home to reflect the magic of the season. It’s easy to make things merry and bright while also being environmentally conscious. Follow these tips for simple ways to “green up” your holiday décor.

Limit Lighting and Use LED Lights

Holiday lights make every home more festive, but they can also drive up energy usage over the winter season - a time when the utility bill is already climbing from heating costs. To curb usage and save money, hook up your tree and outdoor lights to an outlet timer. It will ensure the lights are turned off when not in use.

Exterior and interior Energy Star LED lights will use 75 percent less energy and last longer (up to three years in many cases) than old school incandescent lights. And because they don’t have filaments (meaning they don’t become hot), aren’t made from breakable glass and are shock-resistant, they’re also safer.

Use a Real Christmas Tree

It may seem hard to believe, but using a real Christmas tree is more environmentally friendly than using a fake tree. Clint Springer, Director of Environmental Science and Sustainability at Saint Joseph’s University, explains that using a real tree reduces your carbon footprint. And since Christmas tree farms plant them for the purpose of being cut down, new ones will be planted in their place each year. It’s not the same as cutting down trees in the rainforest and leaving a gaping area. Additionally, artificial trees can contain harmful chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which can act as a lead stabilizer. If you’re really concerned about cutting down a tree, try to get one with the roots attached so it can be replanted after the holiday season.

If you already have an artificial tree, to reduce waste, you should aim to use it no less than 10 to 20 years.

Use Natural Decorations

Our grandparents may have been ahead of their time using homemade popcorn strings, pine cones and clove-injected oranges to decorate Christmas trees. You can also tie cinnamon sticks together, use real evergreen branches and evergreen wreaths or make a pine cone wreath for more natural decorations. Birch logs, pine cones, chestnuts and greens grouped in a wicker basket also makes a beautiful holiday arrangement. Putting cranberries in a glass jar or around an LED candle in a glass holder makes holiday red “pop” and is a lovely centerpiece. Using recycled paper ornaments is another eco-friendly option.

Recycle the Tree and Decorations

When the holidays are over, be sure to recycle your tree and recycle, reuse or repurpose your decorations. With some research, you can find out if there is a tree recycling service in your community. Contact city or township officials or your local recycling facility to find out. Before you pitch out your decorations, consider replanting, re-purposing or returning anything to the outdoors that you can. Some of your décor may even serve as a wonderful outdoor habitat for small wildlife creatures and birds.