Most Environmentally Unfriendly Holiday Decor

To some, it might be the most wonderful time of the year. But for environmentalists, the holiday season exacts a high price on the planet. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, household trash increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Tons of trimmings end up tossed into landfills, and electricity consumption generally increases 27 percent, according to Green Mountain Energy Company, an Austin, Texas, company that sells carbon-offset credits. How can you celebrate the season without trashing the planet? It helps to know which decorations do the most damage. Here are some of the worst holiday offenders:

Artificial Christmas Trees. While the upshot of fake trees is that you can use them for many years, when it comes time to toss them, they're tough to recycle. Most are made of nonbiodegradable polyvinyl chloride (PVC.) It's better to buy a real tree, says Lori Bongiorno author of the environmental guide "Green, Greener, Greenest." But she warns that not all live trees are equally eco-friendly. "Buy live trees from a farm as close to home as possible so you cut down on emissions for transportation. If you can find a tree that's both local and organic that's even better," she says.

Tinsel. This shiny silver stuff needs to be removed before you can recycle your tree, but it can be tricky to pick all of it off the branches. "Christmas trees are composed or mulched and tinsel won't break down in this process," says Bongiorno. "If you send a tree that still has tinsel on the branches … your tree will probably go straight to the landfill."

Conventional Incandescent Lights. These traditional outdoor bulbs burn up to nine times more energy than light emitting diode lights (LEDs.) Though they cost a bit more, LEDs produce less heat, last longer and shine brighter from one holiday to the next.

Store-bought Ornaments. Those shiny new glass balls and plastic reindeer figurines might be relatively cheap to buy, but when you tally up the raw materials, manufacturing and (usually international) transportation they require, they're environmentally costly. If your tree is bare, you're better off buying local, trimming the tree with homemade ornaments or scouting for natural decorations by hanging painted pinecones or berries.

Wrapping Paper. It's may be pretty, but it's wasteful to spend a lot on something that ends up torn and crumpled on Christmas morning. Some alternatives to fancy wrapping: use newspaper or old cereal boxes to conceal gifts. Danny Seo, author of "Simply Green Giving" suggests using brown paper bags decorated with red, black and white electrical tape. With a little creativity and craftiness, he says "the end result looks like Burberry gift wrap."

Electric Window Candles. These need to be plugged in, so they burn energy all through the night (especially if you have lots of windows.) And they're a dangerous if placed too close to curtains. Bongiorno suggests using LED candles instead. "They're difficult to break, last a long time, and they don't get as hot as conventional bulbs so they're less likely to cause fires."

Spray-On Snow. Even if you're yearning for a white Christmas, frosting your windows with faux snow can contribute to air pollution. "[It comes in] an aerosol can and is made from chemicals," says Seo. Need we say more?

Inflatable Lawn Ornaments. Kids love them, but these giant billowing figures require a constant stream of electric-fan power to remain upright. According to the nonprofit green consulting firm, Efficiency Vermont, it's best to cut the electricity when dark falls, let Santa deflate overnight, and plump him back up again in the morning.