Whether you’re one of those unbelievably organised people who have already bought all their presents, or you’re a last minute Larry who races round panic-buying on Christmas eve, there’s no denying that Christmas is almost here.

There are less than four weeks until the big unwrap, until our streets are filled with piles of torn wrapping paper, spent batteries and empty boxes.

Tis the season to be merry.  And wasteful.

But it doesn’t have to be.  Be an angel this Christmas and make a few simple changes to your routine and give the environment a gift that it will remember forever.

Here’s part 1 of preparing your home and gifts for a green Christmas in 2011.

natural christmas decorations, green xmas, ethical christmas1.  Bring the outside in

Tinsel, baubles and plastic beads are not the only way to bring sparkle into your home this season.

Plastic decorations often take a lot of energy to produce, are made of materials that don’t bio-degrade, and are imported from countries far far away – not very green at all.

Instead, add a touch of contemporary style with sprigs of holly and ivy, mistletoe, and pine cones, which you can use to adorn your fireplace, and almost anywhere in every room.

And decorate your tree with cinnamon, dried orange slices and bay leaves threaded onto cotton or string – they smell gorgeous and look great.

how to be green at christmas, an environmental christmas, ethical christmas2.  Think outside the gift box

82 sq km of wrapping paper will end up in UK’s bins this Christmas.  That’s almost twice the size of the city of Exeter in Devon.

You can recycle most of it, but why create a whole new load of recycling when you could reuse something you already own?

How about using an old map, a dress pattern, even newspaper or a sheet of music to wrap your presents in this year?

Add extra finishing touches with more of nature’s accessories – pine cones and berries with twine look beautiful.

how to have a green christmas, ethical xmas3.  The lighter way to enjoy Christmas

Traditional fairy lights are energy guzzlers – but you don’t need to blow the budget and the planet this year.

Choose low energy LED lights to decorate your tree – they’re widely available, affordable, look fab, and don’t cost as much to run – which is good for your wallet and the planet.

Switch lights off when you’re not in the room, and get energy efficient bulbs for every room (saving you £3 a year per bulb, and lasting longer than your car – up to 20 years!).

And why not have candles at the dinner table this Christmas?  They’ll add a real festive touch, save on your lighting costs, and produce fewer hazardous gases than traditional bulbs.

Being green doesn’t have to be about compromise – it can be the excuse to make this Christmas more beautiful and memorable than ever.

Part 2 of the Green Christmas guide looks at how to minimise your impact on the environment during the festivities.

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas (apart from the LED fairy lights…)?  Share in the comments below.

And join the Daisy Hill eco-community on the Facebook page to share your top tips on ethical living this Christmas.  Ho ho ho!  See you next time.