The holiday season is here and as always, our creative juices are flowing with festive decorating ideas. Trees adorned with ornaments, lights brightening the neighborhood homes, presents wrapped and ready—is there any decorating theme as fun as Christmas? The only element of modern Christmas décor that’s lacking in fun is the environmentally friendly one… landfills filled with bows and paper, way too much energy wasted from those flickering lights; nope, that is far from merry.

The good news is: there is a better decorating path to follow—one that’s sensitive to the planet and still as glittering and joyful as a tinsel-laden tree. Take a look at five eco-friendly Christmas décor tips that will make this your smartest, most forward-thinking, jolliest Christmas yet.

1. Get a Living Tree


There are a lot of people that assume an artificial tree that can be used multiple times is the most eco-friendly choice. Unfortunately, that’s typically not the case. The bulk of artificial trees are petroleum based, not durable and definitely not biodegradable. If you buy a living tree (from a small-scale sustainable grower, if possible), you can recycle it and have it turned into mulch or you can secure it in your backyard and give the birds a nice habitat to enjoy.  Another neat choice is to get a potted tree or rent a tree form a company like Living Christmas Company (they deliver the potted tree,  pick it back up on a specified date and place it back in the nursery to grow for another year!).

2. Go Natural with Tree Trimmings


If you have ornaments passed down from generations, then by all means, display them on those branches, but instead of topping off the décor with commercial tinsel and other enemies of eco-friendliness, try some earthy ideas. String popcorn and cranberries on cotton string, hang pinecones from branches and make beautiful fruit ornaments from apples and orange slices.

3. Use LED Lights & Buy Light Timers


Forget those old-school string lights and invest in long-lasting LED string lights for your tree and your outdoor lighting display. To make the most of them, it’s also smart to buy an outdoor light timer and indoor timer to easily manage how long your lights are beaming.

4. Use Soy-Based Candles


Nothing sets a cozy mood for Christmas Eve than the gentle glimmer of candlelight. So don’t ruin the happy thoughts by using petroleum-based paraffin candles (studies show they may pollute air with harmful chemicals). Instead, buy soy-based candles with cotton wicks and enjoy a healthier brand of Christmas candlelight.   

5. Gift Wrap Responsibly


When you walk into your local Hallmark or Target store, you’re instantly bombarded by hard-to-resist holiday wrapping and wrapping accessories. Glittery bows, Charlie Brown Christmas paper—so festive! But sadly, kind of wasteful. There are a number of better options to wrap your gifts. Use fabric to wrap or to make gift bags; reuse old paper maps, brown paper bags or even outdated calendars; or forget the wrapping altogether and reuse a gift box. To decorate, forego the bows and go earthy with natural twine adorned with pine boughs and pinecones.

What are your favorite eco-friendly ways to decorate for the holidays? Share your ideas in the comments section below!