Dreaming Of a Green Christmas

Find out what's hot in environmentally-friendly Christmas decorations.

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LED lights save energy and come in a variety of colors.

We're not just talking green as in garland and trees - this year Christmas decor is going eco-friendly with energy-saving products and manufacturing processes. Got a faux tree in the basement? This is the year to go greener with a real Christmas tree, fresh garlands and the latest in Christmas lights.

Forget that tangled mess of Christmas lights that blow out year after year. LED Christmas lights are brighter, cool to the touch and, if one goes out, the rest stay lit. Plus, they're entirely eco-friendly and save money on your electricity bill.

LED lights are brighter because the light actually comes from inside the chip itself, which is manufactured in a particle-free environment to prevent impurities. A colored cap surrounds the LED, giving off the colored glow. Look for trendy colors of warm whites and purples this year in the faceted cone and berry shapes.

While they may cost a little more, LEDs tend to stay lit for the lifetime of the product, which means fewer to no replacements. Plus, there's no heat transfer so they're safer to use on any living or faux foliage.

Fresh, Not Faux Garlands

Traditional decorating incorporates live wreaths and fresh garlands this year - both indoors and out. "When it comes to holiday decorating, people get very traditional," says Jennifer Sypeck, director of trend and product development for Smith & Hawken. "The holidays are not just about the visual, but about scents and smells that also evoke good memories."

Smith & Hawken's popular sellers include basic spruce, eucalyptus, pepperberry and magnolia. And the square wreath is making a comeback, highlighted with eucalyptus. Sypeck is seeing nontraditional uses of fresh greens, such as a wreath around a hurricane vase as a centerpiece for a table or on the backs of dining room chairs. She also suggests filling an unused fireplace with lights and greenery as an unexpected landing for Santa.

Contrary to popular belief, cutting down a Christmas tree is not bad for the environment. Trees can always be replanted, but the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) released during the manufacturing of faux Christmas trees can't be removed from the atmosphere or soil.

According to the Children's Health Environmental Coalition, PVC creates and disperses dioxins, which include the most toxic manmade chemical known. The dioxins accumulate in fatty tissues of both people and animals, causing risks for cancer, lowering immune functions and impairing children's development.

Kids will be safer playing around a real Christmas tree, and with 35 species to choose from, there's sure to be one that will suit your decorating needs. Rick Dungey, public relations manager for the National Christmas Tree Association, says an estimated 40-45 million new trees are planted on farms in the U.S. and Canada each year. Plus, after the holiday is over, your Christmas tree can be mulched or naturally decompose outdoors, while artificial trees are relegated to the dump.

Christmas produces much waste each year in wrapping paper, shopping bags and packaging for store-bought Christmas presents, so it's good to know some companies are taking this to heart.

Department 56 packs all their villages in eco-friendly plastic foam, which doesn't have petroleum.

The nature of Smith & Hawken's business is green, so they focus on holiday gifts that give back to the environment. Their "gifts that grow" bulb kits come in white, red, deep burgundy and pinks with stylish vases. Red is the bestseller by far for the holiday, says Sypeck.

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