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5 guidelines for sustainable, seasonal decorating

Posted by Meg Stout on Oct 29, 2010
Tags: green tips

I recently found myself frozen in the aisle of a crafts store, staring blankly at a shelf of candles. There were countless scents, and many of them—“mulled cider,” “eggnog,” “pumpkin spice”—were deeply evocative of the coming holidays. This is my favorite time of year, and like many people, I want to celebrate it by decorating my home and reveling in the sights and sensations of the season.

But as I stood there, surrounded by plastic Halloween masks, tinsel Christmas garlands, and everything in between, I was faced with a dilemma. Does holiday decorating have to incorporate commercial, plastic, artificially-scented items? Or can I nurture the same holiday cheer with things that don’t harm the environment or sit in a box during the rest of the year?

In that spirit, here are five tips for decorating in a more sustainable way. By incorporating locally sourced, natural items instead of visiting the store, you’ll reduce your impact on the earth and avoid toxins in your home.

1. Visit the farmer’s market

Your local market probably has more fall colors than any crafts store. Have you ever seen the deep, burnt orange skin of a kuri squash? What about the green, menacing hulk of a Hubbard (perfect for Halloween)? And of course, nothing says fall like a bright arrangement of different-sized pumpkins. If you don’t have a local market, try growing autumn-colored, native plants at home.

Project ideas: Create a centerpiece of multi-colored mini gourds, or transform your porch with a bale of hay and carved jack ‘o lanterns.

2. Decorate with multiple purposes in mind

I live in an apartment, and one of my primary issues with seasonal decorations is that they take up space. The last thing I want is more clutter, nevermind plastic knick-knacks that go in the trash when they break. So this year, I’m looking for natural items that can be used at the end of a season instead of shoved in a box or discarded.

Project ideas: Hang dried corn cobs on your walls or front door—in shades ranging from blue, to yellow, to deep brown, they make stunning decorations. When the season ends, simply make popcorn! Similarly, squash arrangements don’t just look pretty; they also make delicious, healthy meals. Check out this great recipe for Creamy Kuri Squash soup.

3. Local, local, local

Local products carry more meaning, since they are connected to your hometown and community. At a farmer’s market, you can meet the person who grew your food—and directly compensate them for it. Likewise, by buying local crafts, you connect directly with the artist and support their vision and efforts.

Project idea: Before going to a chain store, visit local markets and galleries for seasonal, unique art.

4. Scavenge your garden and backyard

Who needs artificial candles when real scents are available right outside your door? I recently transplanted herbs from my garden to indoor pots. So far, the rosemary, lavender, and parsley have thrived. Not only is it a fun experiment (especially for someone who loves plants), it also means that I’ll have fresh, delicious-smelling herbs for holiday meals.

Project ideas: Transplant your hardy garden herbs into holiday planters. Or, make wreaths and garlands out of fragrant evergreen branches, fallen leaves, or grasses from your backyard.

5. Be creative

Sure, it might take more forethought to create a Halloween costume out of household materials than to pick one up at the store. But it will also be more satisfying when everyone admires the cleverness of your costume.

Project ideas: Scour your recycling bin, art supplies, and closet for costume materials.


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