I am not a zero waste guru or a green living specialist, but I generally do try to be conscientious of the choices I make and how these choices affect not just myself but also those I love, other people around me, and my surroundings. Considering the enormous collection of waste that piles up every holiday season and the huge impact that Christmas has on the environment, this Christmas season I wanted to try to be a little more thoughtful in the way that I am affecting the environment through my choices and actions. I have been “dreaming of a [green] Christmas this year,” and although I wasn’t able to follow all of these steps myself, I wanted to share some of the small changes and steps I came up with to make the holiday season a little more green.
Although for many people oranges are not grown locally, using food and decomposable materials as decoration is a generally green way to celebrate the season of Christmas. The ways in which you can use oranges to decorate are vast, but some of my favorite ways includes sticking cloves into whole oranges and displaying them in a bowl with some pine surrounding them, drying orange slices and stringing some twine through them to either make a garland or separate ornaments, or drying the peel and then stringing it through to make a garland or ornaments.
2. Use the forest to provide decoration for your home!
When I was younger, the larger part of November would be used in the forest collecting pine cones, pine, moss, twigs, and berries that we would then use to make decorations for our home during the holiday season. Usually we would use a slab of clay as a base on top of either a plate or inside of a pot, then we would stick a calendar light (a light with the numbers 1-24 written on it) into the clay and cover the clay with the moss, twigs, berries, pine cones and whatever other treasures we found in the forest. I am a huge fan of bringing the outside inside, and if you have a small forest near your home, it doesn’t get much more local and sustainable than using some of its contents to decorate for the Christmas season!
3. Use recycled paper to make ornaments and garlands!
Another tradition I have brought with me from childhood is that of paper crafts. During the holiday season I usually take some time to fold hearts and stars to decorate with and to cut out paper snowflakes to use as ornaments or decoration. Another great idea might be to use old newspapers or other recyclable paper to make garlands. There is an endless variety of paper crafts that you can make for the holidays (check out pinterest for some more inspiration!) but in order to make it green try not to use glazed or shiny paper as this kind of paper often can not be recycled.
4. Buy a locally grown or potted christmas tree!
This year my husband and I decided to get a potted Christmas tree. It came with a potted base of dirt and after the holiday season is over we will go to a nearby forest to plant it. Often if you buy potted trees you are also able to keep it in the pot, bring it outside once the holiday season is over, and then bring it back in the next. If you are planting it after Christmas it might need a few years to acclimate to the new dirt and environment, so keep that in mind. I wouldn’t suggest planting it and then un-rooting it again every year as this might be too much stress for it to handle. This is the first year that I have had a potted tree, but I also think that having real trees instead of plastic trees in general is more sustainable and is the greener option of the two, especially if grown locally. If you do decide to buy a plastic tree (my parents have several and I love those too,) try to buy one thrifted as this is a more sustainable way of purchase.
5. Use LED lights and beeswax candles!
I love stringing up lights around the apartment, especially during the holiday season. During a season that is usually marked by cold and darkness is is nice to bring some light and warmth into the home. Aside from the fact that LED lights are the only kinds now available in Germany for general use, they are also extremely energy efficient and have a longer life-span than other bulbs, so they are definitely a greener version than other alternatives. In addition to electric lighting, I also really enjoy candle-light, especially during the colder darker months. Most candles nowadays are made up of primarily paraffin wax and they can actually cause several health risks. Beeswax candles are natural, clean and renewable and even though they are more expensive, they actually burn longer than paraffin wax candles. I have a lot of paraffin wax candles in my home because I love candles, and because I don’t want to be wasteful I am planning on using them up, but I would like to do more research into the use of wax candles and hopefully replace my paraffin wax candles with beeswax candles over time as I run out of my supply.
There are many ways and options for making your Christmas a little more green, but these are some of the ways I have thought about lately. I would love to hear some of the ways that you have attempted to go green over the holidays, or some of your thoughts on the ideas that I shared! Like I said, I am no “green-guru,” but I do love learning about more sustainable or natural ways of living, so please do share!
A Passionate Perfectionist