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Be more conscious of the environment when you celebrate this year, and see what festive decorations you can find in the garden

Have you considered the environmental impact of the festive season? Holidays mean more spending and, ultimately, more food, travel and waste – elements which all have an impact on our environment.

Small changes in how you approach the festivities may make only a minor difference, but our combined efforts can have a big impact. It’s good for the planet and good for your wallet.

Consider these ideas for repurposing and recycling items around your home and garden for natural, eye-catching decor.

Green focal points

Take your festive display outdoors and build a holiday-themed focal point near your patio or outdoor entertainment area.

Focal points add interest and draw attention to a specific area of your garden. Challenge yourself to use as many of your current items as you can.

Save and reuse plastic nursery pots – just paint them a colour of your choice. If you have hen-and-chickens (Chlorophytum comosum) in your garden, split them and plant in red pots for an instant Christmas feel. You can also use succulents, herbs or salvia. Paint an old wheelbarrow green and fill it with pebbles and succulents.

Create an attractive centrepiece using materials from your garden. 
Picture: Gina Hartoog

Make a bird tree

Welcome birds to your garden with a special holiday season bird tree. Choose a tree that isn’t too far from your patio so you can see the birds, but slightly away so they feel safe to venture into the tree.

Cover unpainted pine cones with peanut butter and roll in wild bird seed before hanging in the tree. Add suet balls and seed bells. String up pieces of red and green apples to attract fruit eaters. Get the family to tally up the birds you see in the tree during a family gathering and keep a record to compare with next year.

Repurpose items for table decor

Your garden is full of items that can be used to make stylish table décor at a fraction of the cost of store-bought items. Get creative with simple yet striking pieces.

Place faux wood floor tiles or laminated floor planks (check the garage for extras) in the centre of the table and add springs of herbs or plants with variegated foliage.

Try the variegated mirror bush (Coprosma repens ‘Marble Queen’), variegated ivy, holly or even Duranta repens ‘Gold Mine’ in small bunches or jars on the table.

Try edible sprigs of variegated pineapple mint (Mentha suaveolens ‘Variegata’) or the tricolor sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’) on a festive table decoration. Tie bunches with rope or string and add a chalkboard label. Add a basket of red and green apples, dried fruit or nuts as an accent or use succulents like echeveria and crassula in jars.

The Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii), a popular Christmas tree variety, also makes a good décor, but is not edible.

Make a natural wreath

Purchase a grapevine wreath at your local arts and crafts store and get creative with ivy, yellowwood or eucalyptus leaves. Add pine cones, red big num-num fruit (edible), nuts in their shells or funky seed pods to decorate the Christmas wreath. You can also make a wreath using trailing ivy vines.

Think community

Get permission to plant a tree in your local park or school as a gift to your community.

Identify an area of your community that needs attention and get a team together for a suburban clean up. Ask members of the team to donate clothes and toys to a local charity on the day.

Use sprays of Cape holly (Ilex mitis) to add splashes of red to your festive decor. Picture: Carol Knoll

Reduce your carbon footprint

Lights are very much part of the magic of the festive season. Use solar-powered fairy lights to brighten your patio and the garden at night.

Use solar bollard lamps to light pathways for safety or decoratively to light flower beds as an attractive night focal point. Solar lanterns are relatively inexpensive and can be brought indoors at night for a magical display at no cost.

Consider solar products for sustainable gifts for your green conscious friends, like solar lanterns, hand-powered torches or a solar cellphone charger.

Choose organic candles made from vegetable oils like coconut, soy, reputable palm wax or beeswax.

Choose eco-friendly products to burn in your braai. They are much cleaner burning than coal.

Switch off fairy lights when you go to bed.

Make your own gift wrap and bags by recycling old newspapers and boxes. If you do buy paper, choose recyclable products.

Use leaves, acorns, seed pods and hard berries to decorate gifts rather than paper bows and ribbon.

If you don’t already recycle your waste, start now. Split all glass, plastic and paper to drop off at recycle depots.

Start a compost heap. It’s a gift you can give your garden throughout the New Year. Find a warm spot with good air flow. Begin with a layer of twigs, then alternate between green material like leaves, weeds, vegetable peelings, egg shells, flowers and brown material like dry leaves, dry grass clippings, straw or bark chips.

After the festivities, replant succulents in the garden and recycle all other used garden materials. Keep logs and pine cones for next year.

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