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Energy-efficient decorating

Green ideas for the holidays
While lights are an obvious place to start greening your holiday season, here are some more tips that are good for you and the planet:

If you're buying consumer electronics or a television, look for the Energy Star symbol on the package, which identifies products that use less power while in standby. Better yet, consider buying gifts that don't require electricity or batteries (non-rechargeable batteries are toxic in landfills and rechargeable batteries require energy-heavy chargers).

When shopping for stocking stuffers, consider giving compact fluorescent light bulbs, known as CFL bulbs, or a power bar with a timer. For kids, look for a funky LED nightlight.

Try to cut down on impulse buys -- ask yourself, will Auntie Bertha really love that funky handbag as much as I do? Make a list before you set out and stick to it. You'll save money, time and gas, and you'll cut down on the number of trips to the mall.

Stuck for ideas? Buy gift cards or certificates or tickets to an event. Or, for the gift that really keeps on giving, donate to a favourite charity on someone's behalf, such as Unicef's Gifts of Magic.

While shiny new tinsel and garlands add a certain amount of bling to your home, they're not so pretty when they end up in landfill. Try decking the halls with natural tree trimmings that can go into the compost pile come January. They cost less in the long run and add a traditional, old world Christmas feel to your decorating.

Resist the urge to follow the latest tree decorating fads and stick to your family's tried and true baubles. You'll feel good about the memories they represent, the money you save and the garbage you don't produce.

While many of us get excited about receiving an envelope in the mail that isn't a bill, save money and trees by sending free e-cards (visit Hallmark or Evite) instead of paper greeting cards.

Ditch the wrapping paper -- it's one of the biggest sources of money and paper waste each Christmas. Use reusable cloth or paper bags, recycled brown paper or craft your own personalized wrapping paper from old maps or glossy magazine pages.

If you're having a party or large family gathering, avoid using disposable plates and cups. They're costly to you and the environment. (consider how long they get used compared to how long they sit in a landfill). Use ceramic or china plates instead. If you don't have enough, borrow some from friends or rent them (which may cost a bit more money, but there's no washing dishes!).

-- Posted: Dec. 12, 2007
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