Dreaming of a green Christmas, but not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas for making the holidays a little more environmentally friendly.

You can easily save electricity by replacing those old lights with LEDs, and remembering to unplug the tree and the outdoor lights before you go to bed.  Or you can forgo the outdoor lights altogether this year, and decorate your front porch with greenery from a sustainable tree farm.

You can save paper waste by sending e-cards or going caroling instead of sending traditional greeting cards, or by wrapping gifts with magazines, calendars or recycled newspapers–especially the comics section.   Try cutting an old paper grocery bag to size and let your kids finger paint it for color, or dip cookie cutters in paint and let your kids use them as stencils.   You could also wrap gifts in fabric, Japanese-style.

Give waste-free gifts this year by avoiding toys or games with a lot of packaging.  Or give a gift with no physical footprint such as a yoga or cooking class, a massage, or tickets to a play or concert.

It is never too early to teach your kids to recycle, and you can start by hosting or organizing a toy swap.  Gather up toys that your kid doesn’t play with anymore, and invite other parents to do the same. Meet for a parent playdate, serve wine and cheese and take home a few novelties to spark your tot’s interest.  Some parents like to involve their children in selecting which toys to recycle, and feel comfortable inviting them to the toy swap, and some parents know the whole thing is best done in the dead of night.  Do what works for your family.

There are many ways to go green with your Christmas tree, including buying from a local tree farm, or buying a tree that can be planted afterwards.  In fact, try to buy local whenever possible by looking for local merchant craft fairs.

Making things yourself is a great way to be environmentally conscious, while teaching your kids the value of handiwork.  Christmas is a great time to teach this lesson, because there are so many fun things to make.  Try making simple Christmas tree decorations out of paper or old holiday cards. If you are feeling really adventurous, check out this clay ornament recipe.    Homemade presents mean so much more than store-bought ones, especially if you let your kids help you bake and decorate cookies for friends and family.   Here are a few more ideas for craft projects.   Learn more at www.recyclenow.com

Be extra-kind to the planet this Christmas and your kids will learn a powerful lesson about saving Mother Earth for the children of the future.   Happy eco-conscious holidays to you all.

—Annie Sheldon