Eco friendly Christmas decorations

Eco friendly Christmas decorations

Putting up decorations is one of the joys of Christmas. But given that tinsel is made from PVC and so doesn't score highly on the eco points chart, how should we deck the halls?.. Kay Hill has some sustainable suggestions

fair trade candles, hand painted by cooperatives in South Africa

Christmas is a time to indulge in all things twinkling and sparkling, so move over minimalism and welcome to candle light, glitter and lots of red and green. But one can't let one's eco standards fall, heavens no, and the good news is there is an abundance of decorations that are long-lasting and sustainable. Pictured above: pretty fair trade hand painted Christmas pillar candles, made by social enterprise in South Africa for Nobunto, 14.90 euros for set of 3. ,  (Find full product information at the end of this article.)

Most of us like the idea of a real Christmas tree, don't we, even if needles all over the floor mean its charm swiftly palls. Yet real trees aren't necessarily the eco option.
 
A real tree?
 
Christmas trees are farmed and while they're growing they capture carbon dioxide as all trees do (but with the addition of lots of nasty agrochemicals). Most are then cut at the base of the trunk, meaning the death of a lovely tree for our enjoyment (feeling guilty yet?) and are carried around the country on trucks creating pollution. But when they are dead they can be recycled as compost, or will fully biodegrade (aah, that’s better).
Artificial trees often come from China and are usually made from difficult-to-recycle PVC that comes from petrochemicals (boo, hiss). But they are shipped once, collected from the store once, then re-used for an average of six to 10 years; while the real tree buyer rushes around using petrol up every festive season. Oh and nothing dies.
Deco suggests: If you have a garden, try to buy a real tree with roots that you can plant out after Christmas, that way you keep your tree doing its carbon sequestering job for much longer. If you need the convenience of an artificial tree consider buying a secondhand one, or consider a foldable wood design such as Habitree's Kebony wood tree.
 
Super deluxe..Made in Cornwall by lighting designer Tom Raffield, his set of 3 Limited Edition Christmas Decorations cost £245 and are hand-made from steam bent oak, ash and walnut
A wool felt dove for the top of the tree, from £5 at www.anthropologie.com
From Habitree, re-useable Kebony wood tree can be folded away after Christmas and stored. From 225 euros. www.habitree.dk
Tiny Christmas houses - wood decorations by Madrid's Mad-Lab, 41.20 euros for box of 8
Biomassbark pendant light by Jay Watson, £69. Made from fallen ash branches
Real Christmas trees come with a surprisingly high carbon footprint
Papier mache sprouts wreath, £31, from The Christmas Home. www.tch.net
Ceramic pine cones (closed ones avail too), £11 for 2, from Rowen & Wren www.rowenandwren.co.uk
Tinsel?
Originally, believe it or not, tinsel was made from real silver, and later on from lead. These days it is usually a metallicised PVC that is impossible to recycle. Vintage heavy metal tinsel and lametta does crop up on auction sites, but given that lead is highly toxic it's not a sensible thing to have in your home.
Deco suggests: Time to be creative. If you’re in the country get outside and pick some hollyivy and fir fronds to use as garlands. Make or buy paper chains and garlands (there’s a big Seventies revival this Christmas, so they're everywhere) or pop some corn and thread onto (organic) cotton for DIY recyclable “tinsel”. There, bet you hadn't thought of that one!
 
Fairy lights?
A report from the Energy Saving Trust and GoCompare discovered that a display of 100 traditional five-watt bulbs switched on for a rather conservative six hours a day over the festive period will consume 207 Kwh, the equivalent of 22.8 days of the average British household's electricity consumption.
Deco suggests: Choose LED lights – they are not only much less prone to breakages, but they use 90 per cent less energy than traditional filament lights. In addition, put your Christmas lights on a timer to shut off at night.
 
Tree decorations?
Thankfully, the trend for chucking out your decorations each year in order to buy a mono-coloured new set in whatever is this season’s “trendy” shade has died out in favour of a nostalgic, anything-goes when it comes to decorating a tree.
Deco suggests: Build up a collection of pieces you really love which will last for years. And keep some of those decorations your children make at junior school – wonky pine cone angels, cotton wool snowmen..as when they've flown the nest your heart will be warmed by those little mementoes.
 
Gold star cardboard lantern comes with 11ft cable, £13.99, at The Hanging Lantern Company
Honeycomb paper fox from Hema, £2.50 for pack of 5
Silvered glass tea light holders from Stuff of Dreams, £4 each
Pine cone heart wreath, £15, by Occa Home
Ceramic Holy family, fair trade, made in Brazil, £19.98 from Shared Earth
Nordic House birch wood candles, from £8,
Christmas cards?
E-cards may be green, but they don’t go on the mantelpiece and they take too little effort to mean much.
Deco suggests:Take the trouble to send real cards which being paper are recyclable. Buy direct from reputable charities where all the sales proceeds go to that charity. Note that charity Christmas cards from big stores vary enormously - last Christmas Which? found that Asda was the least generous , donating just 20p from the £3 sales price of its charity Christmas cards, while John Lewis came tops at 25 per cent.)
The trading arm of The Leprosy Mission www.tlmtrading.com is especially good for religious themed cards, while children’s charity Barnardo’s has a huge selection of contemporary, humorous and kids' cards. Oh and don’t forget to save last year’s cards to recycle into gift tags.
 
Recycled cardboard Christmas trees by Estonian Kristi Tamming, etsy.com
Recycled glass baubles by fair trade Devon-based retailer Nkuku, £14.95 for set of 4
Organic cotton napkins in Isabella Red from Cottage In The Hills. Made in EU
Re-useable wooden stars table confetti, Nordic House
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Here are some eco-friendly decorations we think are lovely:
 
1. Limited Edition Tom Raffield Christmas Decorations, £225, Tom Raffield
A set of three Christmas baubles inspired by Raffield's No.1 Lampshade. Each 'bauble' is handmade in Cornwall using 20m of steam-bent strips of sustainably grown ash, oak and walnut, finished with an eco-friendly, non-toxic varnish.
2. Design Ideas Alpine Reindeer, £8.95, The Scandinavian Shop
Made from sustainable birch plywood, these reindeer pack flat for easy storage and are biodegradable.
3. Recycled Brown Cardboard Christmas Tree, £81, Etsy
Designed and made by Kristi Tamming in Estonia, these 132cm high trees are created from waste packaging so are fully biodegradable and will fold flat for storage.
4. Itari Recycled Glass Baubles, £14.95 for four, Nkuku (nkuku.com)
These beautiful stars are made from recycled glass and finished with an antique silver effect and a swirl of rust coloured wire.
5. Ceramic pine cones (closed and open) £11 for two, Rowen & Wren
These charming ceramic pine cones are made in China and come ready to hang on Christmas trees or as stand alone decorative pieces.
6. Birch Candles, from £8, Nordic House
Made from natural wood, these candles have a minimum burn time of 20 hours and are biodegradable.
7. Paper Bunting, £12, Occa Home
More sophisticated than most paper decorations, this brown and red bunting from East of India stretches to three metres and is, of course, biodegradable.
8. Pinecones Heart Wreath, £15, Occa Home
In that perfect world you would make it yourself, but if your world isn’t perfect, let GreenGate make it for you – a lovely wreath from natural, sustainable, biodegradable pine cones.
9. Organic Cotton Napkins, £20, Cottage In The Hills
Paper napkins make unnecessary waste and are nowhere near as nice for the festive table as these Isabella Red organic cotton reusable napkins.
10. Silver Tea Light, £4 each, Stuff of Dreams
These handmade rustic silver tea Lights are made from recycled glass and sparkle as the etched silver finish catches the candlelight.
11. Set of Six Glass Heart Baubles, £8, Stuff of Dreams 
Made from recycled glass, these small glass heart baubles are hung up with brightly coloured African block print ties.
12.Bio Mass Light, from £69, Jay Watson
This striking pendant lamp is made from fallen ash branches, collected from around Jay’s Oxfordshire home, and would suit a simple Scandinavian-style Christmas to perfection.
13. Swazi Mini Christmas Candles, £12, www.tlmtrading.com
These bright and festive candles were made at a fair trade workshop in Swaziland, supported by The Leprosy Mission.
14. Ceramic Nativity Family, £19.98, Shared Earth
Fair trade company Shared Earth has a wide range of nativity-themed decorations, including this lovely Holy Family hand-made by Manos Amigas in Peru.
15. Honeycomb Animals (pack of 5), £2.50, Hema Shop 
The '70s revival of paper decorations is good news for the planet, as in the unlikely event of you getting bored with these fun chaps they will simply biodegrade.
16. Christmas Houses, 41.20 euros for box of 8, Antonio Serrano for Mad Lab
Charming hand-made miniature wood houses for hanging on your tree or on pins in the wall from Madrid-based Mad Lab.
 
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