Green Ideas for Decorating at Christmastime
Allison Smith and her daughter, Ashley, look forward to the annual traditions of the holiday season. Sure, the gifts are great, but the twosome really like the challenge of making recycled holiday decorations.
Nothing says it’s Christmas more for the Chapel Hill family than turning their kitchen table into a craft center for ornaments and cards. As soon as the weather turns cool, the mother and daughter duo grab their glue, glitter and greenery.
“I have always been an avid recycler,” Allison says. “When Ashley was born seven years ago, I vowed to pass this along to her.”
The holidays are an excellent time to practice the art of recycling and being environmentally friendly. And with families closely watching their money this year, recycling makes even more sense. According to the Use Less Stuff Web site, Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of the year.
Choose wisely when giving gifts
“During this time of the year, it is important to not only use less stuff, like wrapping gifts with funny papers, but also buying environmentally friendly products,” says Kelley Dennings with the N.C. Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance.
Ideas include giving home-baked goodies in reusable containers or “green” gifts that do not require wrapping such as gift certificates to restaurants, cooking classes or cultural events, she says. Gifts of time and talent such as pet sitting or housecleaning also can be extra-special during the holiday season. Making a charitable donation in the recipient’s name or giving a membership to a museum or other nonprofit organization is another holiday idea.
For really “green” gifts, consider giving a compost bin, can crusher, water timer, programmable thermo-stat, rain barrel, house plant, bird feeder, light timers or bat house, Dennings offers.
Reuse materials for holiday preparations
Each year, Allison and Ashley Smith prefer a more hands-on approach to holiday gifts and decorations. They enjoy cutting up old Christmas cards to make paper ornaments, gift tags and even new cards.
To make new cards, cut a piece of thick paper slightly smaller than the inside of the card. Fold the paper in half and glue it to the inside of the card to create a new one. For gift tags, cut out a decorative part of the old card, use a hole punch and then thread with a ribbon or string.
“We make a centerpiece each year from the limbs we cut off the bottom of our Christmas tree,” Allison says. “We like to put it into a flower pot and then hang small ornaments from the branches.”
You can also make recycled ornaments from throwaway items such as corks, smooth can lids, paper doilies, pine cones and more, she says.
Go green with the tree
For the ultimate recycling, buy a Christmas tree that can be replanted, says Jeff Owen, holiday tree specialist with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.
Living trees are usually purchased as “balled and burlapped” indicating that roots are left intact and bundled in burlap or other cloth-type material. Leyland cypress, Virginia pine and Eastern red cedar are all suitable for this area.
For those who prefer the more traditional Fraser fir holiday tree, it too can be recycled after the season is over. Smaller branches can be chopped into wood chips. In many Triangle cities, trees can be picked up or delivered to a common site and ground into mulch by city employees to be used in area parks.
Holiday trees also can be anchored in a pond to make a habitat and nesting ground for fish. And along the coast, trees often are placed sideways along a plastic fence to collect sand, which stabilizes dunes and reduces beach erosion.
This year’s holiday tree can be turned into a decoration for next Christmas too, according to Allison Smith. Once the tree is completely dry, the needles will come off easily. Once the needles have been removed, spray the tree with paint of any color, such as red, green, silver or white. Store the finished tree and use it again the next year as a centerpiece with lights and ornaments.
The Smiths also have purchased tiny potted evergreens from a local garden center. They wrap a piece of cloth around the base, put on a few small decorations and give them as gifts. After the holidays, the small trees can be planted or used as a houseplant, Allison says.
“We are always looking for new ways to recycle and be environmentally friendly during the holidays,” she says. “It is a lot of fun and a great way for us to spend time together making special memories.”
Jane Paige is a freelance writer and mother of three who lives in Cary.
Tips to Reduce Waste During the Holidays
Send e-cards instead of paper ones.
Take reusable grocery and shopping bags when shopping.
Eliminate disposable plates, cups and napkins for parties.
Save gift wrap to reuse later.
Give gifts that don’t require wrapping.