01/08/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Have Yourself a Greener Little Christmas: Simple Ways to Save Money and the Planet this Holiday Season

From Thanksgiving to New Years Day, Americans spend more money and generate more waste than at any other time of year. In these tough economic times people everywhere are trying to cut back and simplify their holidays, while many others are looking for more environmentally friendly ways of celebrating the season.

The good news is that the environment doesn't have to be the enemy of the economy.

I've dedicated my life over the past several years to finding the simple shifts of habit that are good for the environment, as well as for household budgets. Here are a few you can keep in mind this holiday season:

Shop Online: With online discounts, coupon codes, and free shipping, you could save up to 10 percent or more on purchases over the internet than if you'd bought the same item at the brick-and-mortar store. Since online retailers streamline their delivery processes, it can be better for the environment for you to have gifts delivered by mail than to make roundtrips to and from discount stores to buy the gifts yourself. Estimated household savings: $80

Decorate with LED lights: The initial cost of light emitting diode (LED) lights may be a couple of dollars more per strand than incandescent lights, but they're 10-times more energy-efficient and are rated to last up to 20 times longer. Replacing standard-size incandescent holiday lights with LED mini-lights will save the most electricity (and money) in the long run. Estimated annual energy bill savings for five strands of LED mini-lights: $75

Send E-Greetings: Once considered in poor taste, opinions regarding the appropriateness of sending holiday e-greetings have shifted drastically over the past couple of years as more and more people communicate exclusively online. Online e-greetings are virtually free and can involve much more creativity in terms of design and photo inclusion than store-bought cards. Estimated savings for 50 e-greetings sent: $50

Buy Rechargeables for Battery-Powered Gifts: Contrary to what certain commercials might claim, there's only one type of battery that keeps going, and going, and going. Over its lifetime, a rechargeable battery can keep you from having to buy hundreds of single-use batteries. They not only save money in the long run, but also keep hazardous materials out of the waste stream and environment. Estimated annual savings with four AA rechargeable batteries: $40

Send Electronic Invitations: The millions of individuals and companies that still snail-mail invitations to their annual holiday parties could save paper, time and money (from stamps and printing costs) by using Evite or Socializr. Estimated savings for a list of 50 guests: $20

Skip the Gift Wrap: Instead of buying sheets and rolls of wrapping paper this holiday season, consider some creative packaging for your gifts like old scarves, old maps, old calendars, newspaper, or even simple brown paper from grocery bags. Estimated savings: $10