By Deirdre Sullivan
The holiday season has a naughty impact on the environment: We accumulate 25 percent more waste this time of year, and much of that can't be recycled. Fortunately, our nice ideas make sure that Christmas is more eco-friendly.
1. Christmas tree alternatives
Although cut trees are more earth-friendly than their fake counterparts (real trees are a renewable resource that can be regrown), not all Christmas tree growers support sustainable practices. Here are some alternative options:
Living trees: Skip the dead tree and rent a live one instead. Companies such as California-based LivingChristmas.com will supply you with a locally grown, potted Christmas tree that gets a new life somewhere else after the holidays.
A 5-foot-tall pine rents for $140; add $55 for delivery and pickup.
If you can't bear to see your living Christmas tree go away, start a brand-new family tradition by buying a live tree and planting it in your yard after the holidays. Just remember to acclimate the tree to the outdoors again before planting.
DIY trees: Ideas such as this light bulb tree from Instructables.com are pine needle-free, plus they repurpose discarded stuff. If you're interested in making your own tree, check out this post that has nine more DIY Christmas trees, all made from old household items.
A living DIY tree project: If you're feeling really ambitious, check out this living Christmas tree that was made out of 600 plants by an landscape architect. This tree is currently on display in Sydney, Australia.
2. Gifts and wrapping
It's easy to get carried away with our holiday shopping, from buying presents to the stuff we use to wrap gifts. This year, cut back on waste and clutter with these ideas that keep stuff out of landfills.
The gift of nothing: Sharing this "one less gift" certificate is a great way to let folks know you have everything you want, and that you're celebrating a stuff-free holiday. To download a copy to share with your loved ones, go to Miss Minimalist.
Alternative gift wrap: Wrapping paper and shopping bags account for 4 million tons of U.S. trash yearly. Much of this waste can't be recycled because the paper quality is too poor, or it was printed using foil and plastic materials.
But you don't have to place naked gifts under the tree. Check out this video on how to wrap gifts with recycled materials, such as scrap paper and fabric.
3. Yuletide cheer
Holiday lighting: Nothing says Christmas like lots of twinkling holiday lighting. Thankfully, there are LED options that use 90% less energy than incandescents; plus, they burn brighter (so they're extra-twinkly).
If you need a nudge to finally ditch your old Christmas lighting decorations, you can compare your energy savings by switching to LEDs with this Christmas lights electricity cost calculator (the savings might inspire you to set up a holiday light show).
An eco-friendly fireplace: We all love a Yule log this time of year, so why not swap out the cordwood or the artificial logs made with petroleum materials for greener options?
CleanFlame is an eco-friendly fireplace log made from old wax cardboard boxes that can't be recycled. The log burns so cleanly that it has a minimal air quality impact when compared to real wood. To learn more, check out this news clip.
Java-Log works with coffee houses to make eco-friendly logs that keep 12 million pounds of coffee grounds out of landfills each year. The logs, made from 100% coffee grounds, emit up to 78% less carbon monoxide and up to 66% less creosote than regular firewood.
Eco-friendly Christmas tunes: What's Christmas without a good carol? Here's an eco-friendly version of "O Christmas Tree" that'll keep your holiday spirits green.