Question: I need to decorate my restaurant for the holidays. How do I keep my Christmas decorations eco-friendly and energy efficient?

Answer: Ah, Christmas. The lights are twinkling, the mall sound systems are on carol overdrive, and decorations are everywhere.

It’s almost impossible not to acknowledge the holiday season with a change in decor—but there’s a way to create an inviting holiday atmosphere without blowing your budget or creating piles of waste.

Here are our restaurant decorating tips to get your customers into the holiday spirit:

  • Reuse restaurant decorations from season to season. And we’re not just talking about hauling the box of Christmas ornaments out of storage every year. Grapevine garlands and wreaths can be used throughout the year—just wrap them in green and red fabric, add some twinkly LED lights, and they’re Christmas-ready. Switch the fabric to something pink and green, incorporate some decorative bird figurines, and you can use them for Easter and Mother’s day. Make your decorations do multiple-season duty, and you’ll save money and reduce waste.
  • Use energy efficient lights. LED lights are far more energy efficient than standard bulbs, and last twice as long. White bulbs are your most versatile choice for multi-season decorating, but coloured lights add a distinctively holiday feel.
  • Choose natural holiday decorations, and get them close to home. Natural Christmas trees, garlands and wreaths are a far more eco-friendly holiday decorating choice than fake ones. Yes, the fake ones are reusable, but when they’re worn out, they end up in a landfill. The vast majority of trees and boughs that are used for decorating are grown on farms that re-plant their stock every year. Plus, they’re biodegradable. Just make sure to dispose of your trees in a way that will ensure they’ll get recycled. (Most municipalities have specific tree collection days.) Berries, dried fruit and pinecones are also good green decor choices.
  • Get restaurant decorations from unlikely sources. Garage sales and secondhand stores can be treasure troves of funky vintage Christmas decorations—meaning you’ll not only be able to create a unique ambience, but you’ll also be saving landfill space. (Plus, secondhand decor is usually cheaper than buying stuff new!) If you are going to buy new Christmas decorations, consider getting them from a store that specializes in goods from developing countries.
  • Use eco-friendly candles. Conventional candles release large amounts of soot and other air pollutants. If your budget allows it, sustainably sourced soy- and beeswax-based candles are the most environmentally friendly choices.
  • Go beyond baubles. Instead of decorating with stuff, how about commissioning an artist to create a festive (removable) mural or window painting? A photo collage of patrons? Or forego decorations altogether, but let your customers know that you’re taking the money you’re saving and donating it to a worthy cause.

How do you decorate your restaurant for the holidays? Does it impact your budget? Share your story in the comments section.

Image credit: timparkinson