The holiday season is a joyous time of year, buoyed by the spirit of gift-giving, but what is the carbon cost of our holiday decorating? You may be surprised to know these facts about these seasonal décor staples:
Christmas lights: The United States uses over 6 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year to power holiday lights — enough energy to run almost 14 million refrigerators!
Wrapping paper: Over 2 million pounds of wrapping paper goes to the landfill each year.
Christmas trees: Cut Christmas trees have an average carbon footprint of 3.5 kilograms of CO2 expenditure. They are disposed of via a wood chipper or bonfire, and if they end up in landfills, the carbon footprint increases four-fold.
The good news is that you don’t have to turn into a minimalist Scrooge to decorate sustainably. It’s all about making conscious decisions based on materials, energy needs, and end-of-life scenarios for your decorations that will refuel your spirit for the New Year rather than deplete the earth.
This holiday décor is Mother Earth-approved!
1. Countdown With a Reusable Advent Calendar
Chalk marks on doors and flickering candles – that’s how German Protestants counted down to Christmas in the mid-19th century, laying the groundwork for today’s tradition of Advent calendars. While they were homemade back then, commercialization of the tradition has had us buying single-use versions ever since.
This year, go reusable with your seasonal countdown. Etsy has many versions from local artisans that will have you supporting the planet and small businesses. If you’re crafty, opt for fabric envelopes or small numbered bags.
2. Rent Your Christmas Tree
The plastic versus real Christmas debate has been alive and well for some time. While growing trees for the holidays helps sequester carbon, chopping them down and disposing of them has its own carbon footprint. Plastic trees have a much more sizable carbon footprint in the beginning but can be reused over time.
Possibly the best answer lies in opting for neither. Sort of. This Christmas, consider renting your tree. That’s right. A handful of Christmas tree rental services around urban areas will let you borrow a living centerpiece for the holidays and then return it to a nursery to keep doing the good work for the environment for up to seven years before being planted.
3. Swap Out Paper for Japanese Wrapping Cloth
We know. There’s something about the wrapping paper, the exquisitely tied bow, and the sprig of holly that levels up gift-giving. Unfortunately, once the receiver tears through your expertly wrapped gift, the natural resources that go into making them end up in the landfill.
This year, swap out the wrapping paper — often lined with plastic to give that extra luxe sheen — and go with Japanese wrapping cloth.
The concept is relatively straightforward — you can go the official route and order the reusable cloth online with retailers like Bento & Co., or you can upcycle a seasonal tablecloth to give this year’s gift an extra homey and sustainable feel.
4. Light Your Home With Solar Christmas Lights
December sees some of the highest energy bills across the nation. Why? The heater is on, cooking and baking habits are on overdrive, and entertaining is underway. Another culprit? Those mesmerizing Christmas lights. Why can’t we get enough? There’s something about the twinkling that just puts you in the spirit — but there’s also a huge energy draw.
Instead, opt for solar Christmas lights that harness the sun’s renewable energy. The Outdoor Solar Store offers a huge selection of low-impact twinklers for inside or outside.
5. Make Biodegradable Tree Trimming
Skip the plastic ornaments and instead use tree-trimming supplies that don’t cost the earth. Making biodegradable tree trimmings from food items such as dried orange slices, popcorn strings, or cranberry garlands is not only a beautiful alternative but can also be composted afterward or even used as bird feed in the trees outside.
Creating ornaments from natural materials like pine cones, twigs, and dried flowers can add a touch of rustic charm. For a sparkling touch, consider using biodegradable glitter or eco-friendly paint. You can also craft decorations from recycled paper. Instead of using synthetic tinsel, opt for raffia, hessian ribbons, or wool yarn. These are all compostable options that still bring festive cheer.
6. Skip the Plastic Christmas Wreath
Not only does this save you space in the attic, but it also gets the whole family outside and in the foraging spirit. Head to your local green spaces and look for fallen branches, pine sprigs, wild holly, pine cones, or other greenery on the forest floor, and make a wreath that is as meaningful as it is planet-friendly. Creating your own wreath can reduce the demand for mass-produced decorations, which often involve energy-intensive manufacturing processes. Decorate your handcrafted creation with compostable materials like raffia twine, and then compost in the New Year!
Eveelife is an eco-oriented lifestyle platform that helps consumers make more purposeful choices about how they live and what they consume. We do it by curating content and products that help them make more conscious, carbon-free choices while amplifying their EV ownership experience.