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It’s time to hang the garlands and wreaths again. But let’s take a green approach and give Santa a greener welcome this holiday season — with sustainable Christmas decorations.

The holiday season brings a special kind of magic, with homes transforming into dazzling displays of lights, colors, and cheer.

In my family, decorating for Christmas has always been a cherished tradition, a time when we come together to create a festive atmosphere. But as the years have passed, I've grown increasingly aware of the environmental impact of this beloved ritual. 

The glittering tinsel, the shimmering baubles, and even the twinkling lights — they all carry an ecological cost that can no longer be overlooked.

This year, I would urge you to pause for a moment before buying any new Christmas decorations and think about how sustainable they are. 

From crafting unique, upcycled ornaments to choosing energy-efficient lighting, let's discover together how sustainable Christmas decorations bring a jolly change!

Key Takeaways:

  • Prioritize Longevity and Quality: Choose sustainable Christmas decorations that are durable and reusable, reducing waste and environmental impact. Opt for quality over quantity to ensure decorations can be enjoyed year after year.
  • Innovative Eco-Friendly Decor Ideas: Explore creative approaches like renting a live Christmas tree, using recycled gift wrapping, and crafting decorations from upcycled materials. These practices not only add a unique touch to your holiday decor but also significantly lower your ecological footprint.
  • Energy Efficiency and Ethical Sourcing: Emphasize the use of energy-efficient lighting, such as LED or solar-powered options, and seek decorations with Fair Trade certification. These steps ensure that your festive celebrations are environmentally conscious and ethically responsible.

10 Sustainable Christmas Decoration Ideas for an Eco-Friendly Holiday

Here are the ten tips I have accumulated over the past few years that can make your Christmas a lot more eco-friendly. 

1. Rent a Christmas Tree Instead of Buying

sustainable Christmas Decorations tips

Christmas trees are actually one of the most environmentally damaging parts of Christmas. Real Christmas trees are cut down, and that ends up destroying natural habitats, even if they were planted only for that reason. 

But have you ever considered renting a Christmas tree?

The great thing is that you can actually rent real trees that come in a large pot. This saves all the polluting plastic of artificial trees, and you get the amazing fresh pine smell in your home. 

You’ll also find that these trees don’t shed, so there won’t be any mess. And once Christmas is over, someone else will take care of it until next year. 

2. Get Recycled Gift Wrapping Papers

Recycled Gift Wrapping Papers for Sustainable Christmas decorations

A few years ago, I collected all the wrapping paper after Christmas in one bag. I then weighed it to show my kids how important it is to always find recycled wrapping paper. 

The larger your household is, the more waste paper there will be, and the holiday season really shouldn’t be about being wasteful. 

Another great option is to invest in nice gift boxes and paper bags. You can reuse these many years over. 

3. Try Dried Orange Garland

sustainable Christmas Decorations tips

This has become a favorite tip for creating homemade eco-friendly decorations with a very festive spirit in mind. 

What you do is buy a few medium size oranges. Then cut some orange slices and place them on kitchen paper to squeeze out as much juice as possible without damaging them. 

Then, place the orange slices in the oven at 250 Fahrenheit until they are fully dried out. 

You can then feed the slices onto a string and decorate your tree or windows with it. The garland also leaves an amazing smell. 

4. There Are Many Ways To Use Cinnamon Sticks

cinnamon stick for Sustainable Christmas decorations

And since we’ve already started with scented homemade Christmas decorations, why not continue with another amazing idea to add festive smells? 

To create one of the most sustainable Christmas decorations, simply tie two cinnamon sticks together with some festive ribbon and then use them as tree decorations.

You can also use them as a great way to decorate the dining table on Christmas day. The smells are subtle and not overpowering and can really set a great mood this holiday season. 

5. Time To Get Eco-Friendly Christmas Crackers

sustainable Christmas Decorations tips

If you’re careful with wrapping paper and save a few sheets each year, then you can easily make your own Christmas crackers. 

But if you don’t have the artistic skills to do that, then make sure you shop for eco-friendly crackers. You’ll find a lot more of these that focus on using recycled paper. 

But you also want to make sure that everything inside is eco-friendly and not just some cheap plastic toy that is just going to end up in the trash. 

Yes, you might need to pay a bit extra, but having something a bit more usable in crackers will make them more enjoyable for the whole family. This is one of the sustainable holiday tricks that I follow. 

6. Make An Advent Calendar Out of Cardboard

You probably have many chances during the year to save small cardboard boxes from deliveries or even food you buy. 

A great way to put those to good use is to wrap them in reused wrapping paper from last year and add numbers to them from 1 to 24. Then hang them up pieces of string and add small surprises to each one for a homemade advent calendar. 

I got this idea from PaperKawaii

You can add treats or small toys and even gift vouchers.

You’ll be surprised how much more enthusiastic kids can be about such a calendar than the store-bought ones with toys they really don’t play with. 

7. Try Upcycling Christmas Cards

sustainable Christmas Decorations tips

The best way I have found to upcycle cards from previous years is to cut the front off and incorporate them into homemade Christmas decor. You can further cut out different shapes and sections of the cards to make smaller decorations. 

I’ve also used old cards to decorate some gift boxes with a contemporary design that makes every single box completely unique. 

Another great idea is to use them as place settings if you’re hosting a party over the holiday season

8. Use Solar String Lights This Year

Solar String lights for Sustainable Christmas decorations

I already mentioned that it’s important to have LED lights as eco-friendly Christmas decorations. But another way to take your Christmas decor one step further towards maximum eco-friendliness is to look for solar-powered ones

Rather than plug them into a socket, they will have a small solar panel and a battery pack. If you place the solar panel in a south-facing window, you should get enough battery life to keep the lights on for many hours in the evening. 

You can also find other Christmas tree ornaments that are solar-powered to further lower your carbon emissions. 

9. How About Some Solar Christmas Decorations

Solar decorations for Sustainable Christmas decorations

And since we’re on the topic of solar power, you can find many other types of eco-friendly Christmas decorations and ornaments that rely on solar energy

My favorite addition from two years ago is a set of outdoor pathway lights for the garden. You can arrange them in different patterns along a footpath or even decorate furniture, patio areas, and trees with some sparkling lights. 

You can also get lights that come in the shapes of Santa, reindeer, and many other festive inspirations, all with solar power units to make them much more sustainable. 

10. Make Sure to Recycle Your Christmas Lights Afterwards

sustainable Christmas Decorations tips

Even if you buy eco-friendly Christmas decorations and lights that will last for years, there will eventually come a day when they no longer work. Or maybe you’ve gone ahead and replaced those old lights with new energy-efficient ones. 

In that case, make sure you go ahead and recycle your old lights in an ethical and safe way. GreenCitizen offers a convenient drop-off and mail-in service to take care of those old lights. 

They will then be stripped down into raw materials and either safely disposed of or reused as production materials in different industries. 

Are Traditional Christmas Decorations Sustainable?

When it comes to holiday cheer, decorations are a staple. But it's crucial to ask: Are these festive decors sustainable? 

Traditional Christmas Decorations Sustainability

Let's delve into this important topic, considering three key aspects:

The Plastic Predicament in Festive Decor

Most traditional decorations found in stores, from nativity scenes to window adornments, are predominantly made of plastic. 

This raises two major concerns:

Durability and Waste: These plastic items are often fragile, leading to damage and disposal after short-term use. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests that in the United States alone, holiday waste increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, much of it from disposable decorations.

Recycling Challenges: Most of these plastics are non-recyclable, adding to environmental strain. According to the World Wildlife Fund, around 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans annually, contributing to a global crisis.

Energy Efficiency: A Hidden Environmental Cost

Another aspect often overlooked is the energy consumption of traditional lights:

High Energy Consumption: Older Christmas lights can use up to ten times more electricity than modern LED alternatives. A case study indicated that switching to LED lights could save an average household up to 80% in energy costs during the holiday season.

Personal Experience: When I audited my household's old Christmas lights, the energy usage was startling. Replacing them with LED lights made from sustainable materials drastically reduced our energy consumption. This also aligns with findings from the U.S. Department of Energy that LED lights are significantly more energy-efficient and longer-lasting.

Sustainable Alternatives: A Path Forward

Fortunately, there are eco-friendly alternatives:

Durability and Sustainability: Opting for decorations made from natural materials or durable, recyclable components can significantly reduce environmental impact. Consider handcrafted ornaments or decorations made from wood, fabric, or metal, which are not only sustainable but also add a unique charm to your decor.

Energy-Saving Lighting: Embracing LED lighting is a smart move. These lights are not just energy-efficient; they also have a longer lifespan, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Even better, opt for going for solar Christmas lights. 

What Makes a Christmas Decoration Sustainable?

Understanding the importance of sustainable Christmas decorations is the first step. When selecting or creating your festive adornments. 

Here's what you should consider:

Prioritize Reusability

reduce reuse recycle

The cornerstone of sustainable Christmas decorations is their longevity. Opt for decorations that you can use year after year. This often means choosing quality over quantity. 

Remember the times you found broken pieces in your decoration boxes? 

Investing in durable, reusable items not only reduces waste but also enriches your holiday tradition.

Seek Fair Trade Federation Materials

fair trade

For truly sustainable Christmas decorations, look for the Fair Trade Federation seal, especially on natural materials. 

This ensures ethical sourcing and production. 

For instance, if you're eyeing edible decorations like candy canes or advent calendars, check for the Fair Trade Winds logo to ensure sustainability in ingredients.

Embrace Upcycled and Recycled Decorations

Upcycled And Recycled Christmas Decorations

The most eco-friendly approach is to upcycle materials you already have. 

In my household, we dedicate weekends post-Thanksgiving to transforming old cardboard and recycled paper into unique decorations, from origami stars to handcrafted tree skirts. 

When purchasing new items, prioritize those made from recycled materials like plastic, glass, or metal to align with sustainable Christmas decoration practices.

Look for Energy Efficient Certification

energy efficient Christmas Decorations

When it comes to light-up decorations, energy efficiency is key. 

Opt for items with an Energy Star rating or, at a minimum, LED lights. LEDs are a hallmark of sustainable Christmas decorations, offering over ten times the energy efficiency of traditional bulbs and lasting much longer. 

Plus, their variety in colors can add a new dimension to your festive decor.


What is the most ethical way to have a Christmas tree?

The most ethical way to have a Christmas tree is to keep a live tree or rent a tree. This will avoid unnecessarily cutting down a tree that will then just die. If you have the space in the yard, then plant a potted pine tree and simply bring it into your home for Christmas.

What can you put up instead of a Christmas tree?

You can put up large Christmas ornaments instead of a Christmas tree. People who live in small apartments often put up a cardboard tree on the wall and add simple decorations and a garland to get the same effect.

Is it more environmentally friendly to have a real or fake Christmas tree?

It’s more environmentally friendly to have a real Christmas tree that you keep alive. Rather than cut it down, simply keep it in a pot in your garden. Fake Christmas trees have huge carbon footprints, and you’d need to use one for over 15 years to make that pay off.

How can I decorate my Christmas without spending money?

You can decorate your Christmas tree without spending money by upcycling household materials. If you spend a couple of months collecting paper, glass, and cardboard, you can then use different arts and crafts techniques to create your own decorations.

What is the five-gift rule for Christmas?

The five-gift rule is about giving someone something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read, and something they don’t know they want or need. It’s a great way to make a huge impression, and ideally, you would find locally sourced gifts.

Embrace a Greener Celebration with Sustainable Christmas Decor

Transitioning to sustainable Christmas decorations is simpler than you might think. It's about reusing what we have, like upcycling candle holders, and enjoying creative moments with family, making our own decorations.

 These small actions have a big environmental impact.

Before you start decorating, evaluate what you already own. Could these items be creatively repurposed? Choosing energy-efficient lighting, like solar-powered or LED lights, further enhances sustainability.

Remember, every choice matters. Instead of discarding unused items, consider recycling them. Our choices not only reflect our holiday spirit but also our commitment to the planet.

This festive season, let's celebrate responsibly and joyfully, knowing our sustainable choices contribute to a healthier, more mindful world.

Samira is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, but deep inside, her heart is a nomad! She's a state champion debater, a public speaker, a scriptwriter, a theatre actress, but most importantly — A GREEN CITIZEN! She thinks of herself as a storyteller who thrives on enjoying the life at fullest and telling everyone the tales of life.

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