Alongside the wave of love and joy that sweeps over the world around the Holidays and Christmastime, there’s an inevitable avalanche of consumerism: gifts, wrapping paper, and festive snacks that no one can finish. This one side of the Holiday season is sometimes overlooked and it shouldn’t be - especially not at a time when reducing our carbon footprint has never been more important.
As so many of us are rethinking our lifestyles and our impact on the planet, enjoying this time in a more mindful way has become a necessity during the festive season - traditionally the period of peak consumption. From the gift wrapping to the food we eat, it can all make a huge difference.
Read on for ideas to help you make each aspect of the season meaningful while creating a more ethical and sustainable Christmas.
1. Go for ethical and sustainable gifts
Christmas is usually a time for sharing gifts. Not falling into the excesses of consumption it’s the hardest part, but there are many options that make it possible to keep the tradition within the sphere of sustainability.
If you're choosing to give physical gifts this Christmas, make sure they're good quality and designed to last, so they won't end up in the landfill in a month or a year. At the same time, purchase things with meaning, such as a locket that boosts one’s energy, a letter initial necklace, or a lucky number necklace. Jewelry - from ethical and sustainable brands - is always a great gift, because it’s personal, unique, can be personalized and passed on due to its durability.
On this note, don’t forget about the importance of shopping locally and supporting small businesses. By doing so, you’ll be helping boost a strong, sustainable local economy, plus chances are the person doesn’t already own that special gift, that’s 100% made with love and care.
Homemade gifts are also another amazing sustainable option. Creating a gift for someone means making something special and unique. Artwork, a personalized song or short story, embroidery pieces, a cake, candles, lotions… the options are endless and always thoughtful.
Last but not least, choosing to give an experience works both as a way to build precious memories and help the environment. Take them on a picnic, enroll them in a class you know they’ll love, give them a hand-written voucher for something they would appreciate (a special bubble bath or a home-cooked meal); take them on a horse ride. Self-care is so important and it should never be overrated.
2. Rethink gift wrapping
According to an article in The Guardian entitled “I'm dreaming of a green Christmas ...”, Defra estimates that enough wrapping paper is used each year to gift wrap the island of Guernsey. Paper that contains non-recyclable elements like foil, glitter, or plastic and will most likely end up in rubbish bins.
To prevent this from happening there are plenty of alternatives. Reuse gift bags, boxes, paper, and ribbon kept from last Christmas. Go for reusable wrapping bags and if you buy wrapping paper, choose one that’s free of foil or glitter as these cannot be recycled - brown eco-friendly paper is a great option. With a few twigs of eucalyptus tucked into the string, it will look beautiful.
Opting for fabric wrapping is also an idea. Resembling the traditional Japanese method Furoshiki, ditch the paper altogether and wrap gifts in fabric. You can even choose to use a pretty fabric scarf to wrap your gift in and make a 2-in-1 present.
3. Plan your Christmas and Thanksgiving Day dinner
To plan an ethical and sustainable Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day dinner there are so many aspects we need to take into consideration, three of them being: minimize food waste; cook less meat; and avoid disposable cutlery, crockery and cups when hosting.
A shocking amount of food goes to waste every day, especially during the Holidays, so writing a grocery list and sticking to it is a must before hitting the grocery store. If you even then end up with leftovers don’t just throw them in the bin. Make your guests take some with them, give leftovers to neighbors, charity, or homeless people. You can also freeze food and try new recipes later on.
The amount of meat cooked for Christmas dinner is also worth considering. Meat is considered one of the prime factors contributing to the current biodiversity loss crisis and it’s one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases. There are many delicious veggie options out there but if that’s not for you, you can always go for organic or local meat. It’s not just about the food we eat but where we get it from. The farmer near your home will most certainly thank you.
In a similar way, disposable cutlery, crockery, and cups may seem an easy solution if you’re hosting but it’s far from being the most ethical and sustainable choice. Many of those plastic items are non-recyclable and end up going straight to landfill. You can either go with affordable biodegradable dinner plates made from palm leaves or stick to reusables - they are always the safest way to go.
4. Look into alternative Christmas trees
Artificial vs real Christmas trees have always been a subject for discussion and their impact on the planet twice as much.
If you’ve decided on a real tree, look out for FSC Certification as only this will confirm that your tree has been sourced sustainably. Once the Holiday season is over, dispose of your tree in the best way possible. Find out about drop-off points in your area, where your old tree can be recycled into chippings for local parks and woodland areas.
If, on the other hand, you go for an artificial tree, think about buying either second-hand or one that will last a lifetime. Renting a tree locally is also an option.
5. Make Christmas travel greener
People tend to travel a lot during the Holiday season: Christmas gift shopping, grocery shopping, visiting family, and then of course… a thousand last-minute “quick” shopping trips.
Why not share shopping trips with family and friends? Public transportation or online shopping are also great options for a more ethical and sustainable Christmas. If you are traveling to see family choose a train or lift-sharing whenever possible and reduce your carbon footprint.
6. Go for a reusable advent calendar
For many of us, advent calendars make up a big part of the build-up to Christmas Day. Pick a reusable advent calendar and have fun while making amazing little handmade products. A few examples are body scrubs, bath bombs, lotion bars, lip balms, facial masks… You can even treat your pet to a calendar too. Be creative.
7. Consider your Christmas card
The majority of people do not write Christmas cards anymore, yet about 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK households each year, according to Imperial College researchers. Luckily, there are beautiful ways to send them without costing the planet.
Plantable cards are one of those ways - when the biodegradable paper is planted in a pot of soil, the seeds will grow, and eventually, the paper will decompose. There are a few embedded with wildflower seeds, others with carrot seed … the options are endless. What truly matters is that we’ll be saving them from landfills and transforming them into something brilliant.
Avoiding sending physical Christmas cards is another simple option for reducing waste. Since we already do so much online, why not send e-cards instead? You’ll be saving resources and people will love them just the same. You can always use a free design app like Canva if you want to get creative.
8. Rethink your decorations
Decorating our home for the holiday doesn’t need to be costly or wasteful. Decorations made from recycled wood, fabric, and glass make great alternatives to plastic. Go for classic designs so that you won’t get tired of them easily and if you do you can easily upcycle just by repainting it. Also, for candle lovers: choose eco-friendly soy or beeswax varieties rather than paraffin. These are way more sustainable.
Here are two more suggestions: create your own ornaments from reused items and personalize them - little kids can join you on this task and you’ll all be creating fun and lasting memories together. Also, borrow or swap decorations with friends and family to give them a new life in a different location.
9. Switch to LED Christmas lights
When it comes to eco-friendly Christmas decorations, LEDs are far better than traditional twinkling incandescent lights - they use up to 80% less energy, they last longer, and you'll also save on your energy bills. It’s mind-blowing how the simple gesture of swapping a string of incandescent lights for its LED equivalent can save more than 29,000 tonnes of CO2 just over the 12 days of Christmas.
10. Don’t forget to gift mother Earth
Since Christmas is a time of celebrating, appreciating, and giving love, we must not forget our mother Earth. Simple gestures can make all the difference.
Plant a tree or buy from brands like Wonther who plant trees when you make a purchase. Use water mindfully, say no to plastic and repurpose things whenever possible. Most importantly, don’t forget to educate yourself on the impact we have on a daily basis. We’ll leave this short video as a suggestion: One Planet | Our Planet by Netflix.
Keep the planet in your mind every time you make a decision. Following these 10 ways to create a more ethical and sustainable Christmas is a great way to start. Have the Merriest Christmas. :)