Seasonal Sustainability: Festive fixings

Winter festivities bring great transformation to our spaces — indoors and outdoors — as they’re bedecked with lights and all things shiny and bright. As you meticulously plan your holiday decorations, remember the waste associated with your choices. Consider the following low-cost, sustainable ideas to bring cheer, warmth, and holiday spirit to your home.



Merry and bright means lots of light, but there are certain considerations to take when looking to illuminate your home.

Photo credit: Davidson Luna on Unsplash

String Lights

A staple both indoors and out, string lights are perfect for festive flare.

    • Switch to LED lights. They will shine brighter and last up to ten times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. If you’re looking for a softer light than the standard LED, check out “warm light” for an old-fashioned glow.
    • Set a timer. Your lights don’t need to be on all night. Setting a timer can save you electricity and money.
    • Use a power strip. As with all things you plug in, lights and other electronic decorations pull energy even when they’re turned off. By using a power strip, you can easily turn off all your decor at once.



If you crave the warm glow of candles, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Steer clear of metal wicks and cups and avoid petroleum paraffins. Instead, look for natural wicks and beeswax or soy-based candles. You can also try to make your own!

In general, whether you’re basking in candlelight or a masterfully lit tree, turn off ambient lights to enjoy it more fully. Decorating with mirrored and shiny items also helps reflect light and brighten a space even more.


Baubles and Do-Dads

Second to lights are all the other ornamental add-ons that show up year to year. Be selective with what you choose to bring into your home and find pieces that bring you joy.


This is probably a no brainer for most, but it’s important to reuse your ornaments from year to year. Slowly add meaningful and exciting ones to your collection for a truly spectacular tree and choose glass over plastic.

Garlands and Glitter

As with ornaments, try to reuse garlands from year to year. You can also construct paper ones or string together dried fruit and leaves. This post would feel hopelessly incomplete if I didn’t mention a personal favorite: cranberry-popcorn garlands. I have such fond memories of stringing (and munching) popcorn in the days leading up to the holidays. This is a perfect activity to bring the family together, and I’m sure extended family would love to be involved even if just through the phone.

Glitter is just shiny microplastics, so look for eco-friendly glass glitter or mica powder as replacements. You can also make your own DIY confetti by whole punching leaves or bits of recycled paper.



Looking to spruce up your home this holiday season? For me, nothing compares to the brightness (and aromatics) of vegetation. So, turn over a new leaf this year and look no further than our photosynthetic friends to provide you with holiday cheer.


Tree Trimmings

Although we enjoy greenery year-round here in Florida, nothing says the holidays like evergreen. If you’re looking for a fresh cut or live tree, try to buy local, and get creative with the extra limbs you may saw off:


An evergreen wreath brimming with additions. Photo credit: Corina Andrisca on Unsplash

Assemble branches into a wreath to decorate doors or other parts of your home. Alternatives to the classic spruce, pine, or fur include rosemary and other herbs, paper, fruit, cork, feathers; the possibilities are endless. Look to upcycle any unused items into a creative decoration.

Mantle Decorations

Just as you can use branches to make wreaths, you can drape them across mantles and around banisters.


If arranging them in the other formats is too much, you can place some into a vase, add a bow, and you’re good to go. Alternatively, you can forgo the vase and tie a bundle together and hang as such.


Potted Plants

Nothing says the holidays to me like the red blooms of amaryllis, christmas cactus, and poinsettia — not to exclude the lighter/white versions. Potted plants provide the perfect pop of color as decor around your house and make great gifts!

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) bloom. With a little maintenance these will bloom year after year, and they’re perfect for propagation! Photo credit: nylesmc on Pixabay
Poinsettia: A holiday classic that can be transplanted outdoors for yearly use. Photo credit: Jill Waring on Unsplash
Amaryllis: These subtropical bulbs are the perfect winter addition to your home and are resilient enough to thrive even without a green thumb tending to them. Photo credit: Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


Seasonal Scents

If the smell of pine doesn’t do enough for you and you’re looking for extra warmth around the house, check out the following ideas for aromatic ambiance.

Spices such as cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, anise, vanilla, and bay leaves are perfect for concocting a signature seasonal scent. Picture credit: Timothy Newman on Unsplash

Stovetop Simmers

An easy way to saturate your home with that warm, holiday smell is to throw some seasonal aromatics into a pot of water set to a low simmer. It’s the perfect way to put aging and unused ingredients to use, and you can strain out the add-ins to compost. The usual fixings include spices, rosemary, mint sprigs, orange slices, apple, and cranberries. This isn’t an exact science, so throw in whatever is available — even a single cinnamon stick can prove quite powerful. Make sure you monitor the water level so it covers the ingredients.


Pomanders are typically, an orange-clove combination. These winter perfumers serve a dual purpose both as fragrance and decoration. Get creative with your designs, carving off zest and carefully placing cloves.


The Finishing Touch

Now that your space is in tip-top shape, the only thing missing is company. Connect on the phone, via video chat, Netflix parties, virtual dance parties, and other synchronous activities. Send letters, express gratitude, and find ways to adapt your traditions to our current circumstances.



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Posted: December 15, 2020

Category: UF/IFAS Extension, Work & Life
Tags: Decoration, Holidays, Low-cost, Pgm_Sustain, Seasonal Sustainability

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