How to Spread Holiday Cheer without the Waste Pt. 2: Decorating

sustainable holiday decorations

By Malyce Collins

Welcome to the second part of our series on reducing waste during the holidays! Check out Pt. 1 here and enjoy these tips on decorating sustainably:


1. Use LED decorative lights

Did you know the U.S Department of Energy determined that if everyone replaced their typical holiday string lights with LEDs, then about 2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity could be saved in a single month? That’s enough energy to power 200,000 homes for an entire year! So, that’s an obvious win for the environment. It’s also a win for energy bills; LED lights use 90% less energy than conventional incandescent lights, which could save up to $50 over the holidays. Additionally, LEDs also don’t emit much heat and they last for 50,000 hours, compared to 1,000 hours for conventional lights, meaning you’d save even more in the long run because you wouldn’t have to keep replacing lights because one bulb went out. 

2. Use a timer for decorative lights

Okay, so maybe you just got new lights or you can’t be spending the extra money on LED lights. Or maybe you already have LEDs and you’re looking to decrease your energy consumption further. Well, here’s a solution: use a timer! Set the timer to turn your lights off at night when there’s no one out to see them anymore. Saves you the energy it takes to unplug all those lights, saves you money, and helps the environment! 

3. Or don’t use lights at all

There is also the option of not using any lights. There are many ways to decorate both the home (inside and out) and the tree without the use of lights, though just opting for no lights for one or the other would help a lot. It would save you a great deal of hassle, trying to unwrap and hang all the lights, figuring out where to plug them in, and investing the string for that one pesky bulb.

4. Use natural materials 

From glitter to plastic ornaments to plastic wreaths, the holidays are filled guessed it-- plastic. And these decorative items not only cost a good deal of money but can also be cheaply made, so they start falling apart after just a few uses, leaving you to throw them out and get new decorations. Why not consider replacing some of those decorations with natural materials? Be it pinecones, holly branches, logs, evergreen branches, leaves, winterberry branches, or cranberries, there is so much you can do with a variety of natural materials. And it saves you money! So get outside and get creative! 

5. Buy a locally grown tree

If you put up a tree in your home for the holidays, you might consider buying local. The average tree in the US travels 230 miles from its production site, to the nursery, to the farm, to the retailer, and then to the owner. Meanwhile, the average American travels about 5 to 7 miles to pick up their tree and bring back home with them. Though a natural tree’s carbon footprint is significantly less than that of artificial tree (which are worse for the environment), it still helps when people buy their trees as local as possible.