Photo: Khrystyn

THIS CHRISTMAS, take some simple eco-friendly measures to reduce waste, protect the environment, and save money in the process.

The tree

The first step to a green Christmas is picking the right tree. For years, artificial trees were considered the best option as they saved real trees. However, the production and disposal of artificial trees cause much damage, utilizing and emitting harmful chemicals and ending up in a landfill.

A better idea is to source a real tree from your local organic tree farm. These farms continuously plant and replant trees, negating worries about deforestation and environmental damage. Furthermore, many of these farms offer other organic produce as well as tree recycling options.

Another option is to rent or buy a potted tree. These trees come with living roots, which means you can return the tree after the holidays or keep it for the next few years. Once the tree outgrows the pot, replant it in your yard or donate it to a local park or farm.

If you’re up for something more creative, recycle assorted scrap lying around the house and fashion your very own tree. Empty bottles, beer cans, coat hangers, cardboard, whatever you fancy. Need some inspiration? Look at these ideas over at Eco Friend.

Whichever tree you end up with, be sure to recycle it once it’s run its course. If you have a garden, turn the tree into mulch, a great way to supplement soil nutrients. If not, find a shredding center in your area or an organic farm that will turn the tree to mulch. In case of artificial trees, call the local recycling center for the best possible options.

Decorations

The holidays are a time for family, so gather around and bond as you transform old magazines, pieces of fruit, empty bottles and bits of lace into Christmas decorations.

Upcycling is the process of transforming out-of-commission items into something useful. This means you can create unique Christmas decorations out of scrap materials like expired light bulbs, old CDs, empty tins and used cups.

Our 10 ways to reuse wine bottles article also falls in this category.

You can also go DIY by playing with cardboard, origami, old jewelry, and organic materials like fruits, pine cones, dry branches, and flowers to create festive displays. These are small, simple decorations — sticks of cinnamon tied with gold trim as place settings for the big family dinner, painted pine cones on the coffee table, or your own wreath — that add to the festivities.

And don’t forget to switch from conventional Christmas lights to energy-efficient LED lights. You’ll have lower electricity bills and a brighter Christmas. Also, replace petroleum-based candles with eco-friendly natural-vegetable-based varieties, like soy candles.

Gifts and cards

Make sure your gifts and cards work for the environment. There are a number of eco-friendly gift options to choose from. Add a personal touch by attaching handmade cards, using papers and other recycled items, to your gifts.

When gifting, especially within the family, use fabrics as wrapping material instead of paper. Pull out unused scarves, left over fabric and cloth bags to wrap Christmas gifts. If this idea appeals to you, look up the art of furoshiki, a traditional Japanese gift wrapping technique using fabric.

Similarly, make use of eco-friendly bags, old wrapping paper or create your own personalized collage wrapping paper.