Reduce, reuse and recycle to make your holidays greener – and create an edible holiday tree the birds will naturally decorate.

As we deck the halls this holiday season, the overabundance of wrapping paper, plastic packaging and miscellaneous bits and pieces can be overwhelming. All of this will soon result in overflowing trash cans and more crowded landfills.

According to the Ecology Center, Americans throw away an additional five million tons of trash – 25 percent more than usual – between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. How can we reduce our waste while still enjoying the season? Let’s look at ways to make your holidays more eco-friendly.

Dina Manzo from HGTV sets up an edible tree on her back deck. The tree is festooned with ornaments made from apple slices, covered in peanut butter and sprinkled with birdseed, pretzels, and gingerbread men. Strings of peanuts, popcorn and dried fruit complete the decorations. Decorations like this share the season with feathered and furry outside friends. And what’s more beautiful than a tree covered in birds, natural decorations with no waste necessary?

Natural elements can also be used for decorating inside. Pinecones and eggshells are transformed with glue, paint and glitter. Baked and edible ornaments also lend freshness to your decorations, not to mention the wonderful aromas of gingerbread men and cinnamon sticks. String dried apples, oranges and lemons in place of your usual tinsel. Recycled items like old DVDS and CDs, burnt-out light bulbs and last year’s Christmas cards require little creativity to become cherished ornaments for years to come.

Christmas Trees
It takes seven to 10 years to grow a Christmas tree, whose useful life is about one month after it has been cut. Consider decorating a live potted plant that can be kept indoors or planted later.

When purchasing gifts, consider the excess packaging that comes with them. Look for gifts that are durable, energy-efficient, reusable, recyclable and rechargeable. Gift cards and gift certificates can provide experiences to be long treasured after other gifts have been broken or forgotten. Consider making gifts this year.

Gift Wrap
Recycle your holiday gift wrap and ribbons to be used again next year. Or be creative in how you wrap your gifts this year. Look around your house for unique gift wrap such as old maps, sheet music and colorful ads from old magazines, baskets, reusable tins, scarves and handkerchiefs, leftover fabric or fabric gift bags, lightweight wall paper, coloring pages taped together, newspapers and Sunday comic pages, a plain box decorated with glitter, paint, and markers, or a reusable cake pan or wooden box. Creative gift wrap can be just as festive and a great conversation piece.

Conventional holiday light strings are energy hogs, swallowing up 90 percent more energy than LED lights. LED lights release little heat, and they last about 200,000 hours. It is unlikely, but if one does burn out, the rest stay lit, releasing you from hours of frustration searching for the culprit on traditional strands of lights. Your electricity provider may offer rebates to help offset the purchase of LED lights.

We wish everyone happy, green holidays!