Now that turkey (and shopping) is safely behind us, we can finally give in to our urge for all things Christmas. But wait a minute . . . are you pulling out those same old boxes to begin decorating the house this year? Since going green is a big part of every other aspect of life, isn’t it important to make sure your holiday decorations are good for the environment and the health of your family (and pets)? Before you start putting up your holiday decor this year, take a moment to get some ideas for making this the “greenest” Christmas season yet!

1. Buy new ornaments? How about handmade? Get your kids involved in making salt dough ornaments (for younger kids), clay ornaments (for older kids), or handmade ornaments of recycled materials, old holiday cards, art materials, or natural materials . . . pine cones are great for this!

2. Light up your home safely and efficiently. If you are using regular holiday candles, you might want to think about switching them for soy candles, which burn clean, or flame-less LED candles. The LED candles last up to 1,000 years on two “D” batteries, and they are designed to look like (and flicker like) real candles!

3. Make recycled wreaths. While natural pine bough wreaths look beautiful, it’s not good for the trees to have random branches cut off just for our holiday whims. Take a new approach to wreaths this year by making your own. Use recycled or re-purposed materials (old coat hangers, anyone?) to form the shape, or even cardboard (it will all be hidden). Decorate your wreath frame with natural found materials such as pine cones or acorns, photographs, dried fruit, interesting found objects such as metal . . . the list is almost endless!

4. Ditch the fake pine. While faux pine decorations can look beautiful, and very real, they often contain PVC, which gives off harmful dioxins. Look for decor made with PE or polyethylene, which is a plastic alternative that is better for the environment and is also recyclable.

5. Consider LED lights. When LED light strands first came out, the price tag was more than most people were willing to spend. But the newest take on LED’s are more affordable and very energy efficient. Plus, the makers have worked to make the lights look more natural. You’ll pay less on your electricity bill, use less energy to operate them, and the bulbs don’t burn out or break.

6. String your tree naturally. Tinsel and garland may be the stuff of classic Christmas movies, but they’re not so great for the planet. String your tree with something more natural this year. It’s fun to do and the results are beautiful and home-y. Consider popcorn, candy, dried apples and oranges, cranberries, pine cones, fabric or cinnamon sticks.

7. Deck the halls with an eco-friendly tree. If a live tree is your thing, you can either go with a cut tree or a potted tree. A live tree can be recycled at the end of the season, and a potted tree can be kept alive after the holidays or planted in your yard. Artificial trees are reusable, but many are made with oil-based PVC and may contain lead. Plus, when people are done with them, they often end up in landfills.

8. Don’t throw out your old decorations just yet, even the broken ones. Check to see if there are parts you can save to reuse or to create new decorations. Maybe the old wreath is falling apart but the ribbon or bow would be perfect for another use. Retro ornaments and decorations are back in style, so those could be incorporated into your new decor.

Most important of all, use your imagination, and you’ll surely capture the wonder of the holiday season with your green and beautiful holiday home!