In this post:
- Green Christmas trees
- Buy a living tree
- Buy a smaller tree
- Decorate your house plant
- Buy locally grown
- Make a tree out of pine needles and twine
- Make a tree out of branches
- Green Christmas ornaments
- Popcorn and cranberry strings
- Citrus slices
- Yarn, ribbon mardi gras beads
- Pom poms
- Felt ornaments
- Pine cones
- Second-hand decorations
- Green Eggs and Ham
- Have a very veggie Christmas
- East seasonal
- Reduce that food waste!
Green Christmas trees
1. Rent a Tree. Yes, you can rent a potted Christmas tree! This is more widely available in the UK, but companies within the US are starting to offer this service (Californians and New Yorkers, you’re in luck!). It is simple, convenient, and of course much friendlier for the environment. Keep your eyes peeled for more tree rental options as it catches on in the States.
2. Buy a living tree. Don’t do what I did and let your tree die after Christmas. The goal is to have it for many future Christmases! After Christmas, transfer your tree to a larger pot, or transplant it into your garden. Decorating and caring for your live tree can be the beginning of a special tradition.
3. Buy a smaller tree. Big trees require more resources to grow. The smaller the tree, the more environmentally friendly.
4. Buy locally grown. Plastic trees are not better for the environment than cut trees. And though cut trees are usually sourced from Christmas tree farms and don’t contribute to deforestation, it takes a considerable amount of resources to create these ornamental plants that will sit in your house for only a month each year. It’s still best to try the above options first, but if you are deciding between a cut or plastic tree, opt for a locally grown cut tree. If you already have a plastic tree, use it for as long as possible. Toward the end of its life you can even upcycle its branches for homemade garlands and wreaths.
5. Make a tree out of pine needles and twine. Christmas tree yards are usually happy to let you collect their spare pine trimmings. Tie these trimmings to a tomato cage and get creative! Or make a janky tree with rope like we did this year^ (add two more lines to make it tree-shaped).
6. Make a tree out of branches, like this gorgeous specimen of Bea Johnson’s (Zero Waste Home).
7. Decorate your house plant or a tree outside!
Green Christmas ornaments
1. Popcorn and cranberry strings. Thread a needle and string those things!
2. Citrus slices. A little citrus goes a long way: thinly slice your oranges or lemons and thread a string through each. Hang them on your tree to dry. Eat what you don’t hang!
3. Yarn, ribbon, mardi gras beads. Anything stringy can be thrown on the tree!
4. Pom poms. You can do a lot of things with leftover yarn bits, but one of the funnest activities is to make pompoms. One year I went bananas for these, making earrings, key chains, present-wrapping bobbles, and most of all, tons and tons of ornaments.
5. Dough. Mix 2 cups flour, 3/4 cups water, and 1/2 cup salt (a preservative) together. You can also add cinnamon for scent. Knead, and mold your dough into your desired shape. Cut a paper clip into three sections and insert one piece into your dough as a hanger. Cook at 300 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Once they’re cool, you can either hang them as-is, or paint them.
6. Cookies. My Czech grandmother used to hang pretzel-shaped chocolate gingerbread cookies on the tree for the kids to find. The combination of pine and gingerbread scent was one of the highlights of Christmas morning.
7. Felt ornaments. Run an old wool sweater (or one from Goodwill) through your washer and dryer. Now you have felt to embroider or cut into shapes.
8. Pine cones. Tie some twine around them and voilà—they’re an ornament!
9. Second-hand decorations. Goodwill and other thrift stores have great ornament selections during the holidays.
Green Eggs and Ham
Have a very veggie Christmas.
Most Americans are accustomed to eating meat with every meal, and for gatherings and celebratory affairs, meat is a must. But… what if it wasn’t?
What if you let your family know that this year you’re putting the environment first (and giving them the gift of health)? Or what if you do what I’m going to, and slip them some Impossible Meat in secret?
If you forego the Christmas ham, you might face some initial protest, but if your family is any kind of reasonable they’ll eventually relent to the mouthwatering veggie dishes you put before them. It’s admirable to start a new tradition that keeps up with the needs of our changing world.
What many meat eaters may not realize is that vegetarian and vegan meals can be absolutely delicious. Though meat is an easy punch of flavor in a dish, you don’t need meat to make food good.
Winter is the best time of year for the dabbling vegetarian. Hardy vegetables, such as winter squash, root veg, and dark leafy greens are not only healthy, but keep you warm and full. Drown them in olive oil and pair them with some protein, like quinoa, wild rice, beans, and/or roasted pecans, and you’re good to go.
To eat sustainably, you’ve gotta eat less meat, and you’ve gotta eat locally. Seasonal eating supports local farming and reduces the demand for carbon-heavy transportation and storage. But it also means your food will be fresher and likely more flavorful.
Reduce that food waste!
If you made too much food, send your family members home with leftovers. Give it to a nextdoor neighbor. Keep a small amount at hand in your fridge—enough to eat over the next couple days—and freeze the rest!
. . .
During the darkness of winter, we need space to relax and enjoy the presence of family. Being creative together can result in hundreds of dollars back in your pocket and free art therapy. Especially if you have kids, a sustainable Christmas will engage their artistic side, keep them busy, and teach them the skills of crafting, collaboration, and observation.