Most North Carolina homeowners are concerned about the environment and try to do their part with recycling, purchasing eco-friendly products and energy efficient appliances for their home. But what many homeowners don't realize all the waste that the holiday season can generate.

With the holidays just a few weeks away, there are some simple changes that you can do this holiday can help and even save you some money! Below are some ideas to help you go green this holiday season.

1. One of the best part of the holidays is gift giving. You may not have ever thought about it before, but some gifts are certainly more eco-friendly than others. Instead of another tie or gift basket, consider giving an experience, like tickets to a sporting event or concert.

2. When wrapping your gifts, consider recycling gift wrap. You can easily reuse gift bags, tissue paper, bows and even wrapping paper. For gift wrapping alternatives, think about using reusable items like scarves, or for a unique touch use old posters, maps, sheet music or even wallpaper scraps! Creative, free and good for the environment!

3. If you need to ship your presents this year, avoid Styrofoam packing peanuts and try the biodegradable kind instead. Another idea is to use dry, popped popcorn instead!

4. For many families choosing a real tree is part of their holiday tradition. You don't need to get a fake tree to be green, you can still keep that tradition alive and be conscious of the environment. Be sure to purchase your tree from a tree farm you're not damaging forests or consider purchasing a potted plant that can be enjoyed year round such as a Norfolk pine. Of course if you prefer to use an artificial tree they can be used each year! If you do choose a real tree, remember to recycle it so it can be converted to mulch rather than sent to a landfill.

5. It is easy to find holiday lights that are made with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. These lights have been around since 2001 and are ninety percent more efficient than traditional Christmas lights and can last about 200,000 hours. According to one U.S. Department of Energy study, if all families replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month. The savings alone would be enough to power 200,000 homes for a year!

There are many things we can do to help our environment and still have a wonderful holiday. As a responsible homeowner, it would be a shame to invest in the earth all year round only to clutter up landfills with garbage around the most wonderful time of the year!