For many of us, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year – seeing friends and family and indulging in lots of amazing food and beverages. And in the past, many of us were having far too much fun to think about the impact we’re having on the planet – but in the last year, there’s been a huge rise in public awareness of environmental and sustainability issues, with programmes like Blue Planet II and Drowning in Plastic bringing our consumption obsession into the spotlight.
With Christmas traditionally the most wasteful time of all (us Brits generating an average of 30% more waste than during the rest of the year), it’s time to get serious about having yourself an eco-friendly little Christmas.
1. Consider your Christmas tree
When it comes to your tree, the most important things to think about are where it comes from, and how and when you’re going to get rid of it. If you’re after an artificial tree, you’ll need to use it for at least ten years (some estimates suggest up to twenty) for it to have the same impact as getting a real tree each year. If you’re going for the real deal, try and get one with with roots so you can replant it, or get an FSC one that you can have chipped after Christmas to use as compost. You could even consider renting, if that’s available in your area. Whatever you do, don’t drive for miles to get it as this can have more impact than the tree itself!
You could also consider doing something completely different this year with minimal environmental impact. Etsy has lots of amazing alternatives like stickers and fabric wall hangings – plus don’t forget to check out Pinterest for lots of beautiful DIY inspiration.
For my full list of Christmas tree tips, check out my post on Mind Body Green.
2. Use sustainable decorations
On average, Christmas lights are left on for 10 hours a day, producing enough CO2 to fill five balloons – so make sure your lights are LEDs! If you’re looking to light up the outside of your home too, try using solar options to save even more energy.
When it comes to decorating your home and your tree, try and repurpose what you already have. If you’re after something new, avoid buying anything plastic, and opt for more sustainable materials like bamboo or organic cotton instead (Etsy has some beautiful decorations, and you’ll be supporting local makers and small businesses too). You can always use natural decorations, like pine cones, fruit, holly and cinnamon sticks, or even get creative with a bit of baking or DIY (check out this post for inspo!).
3. Give zero-waste, ethical and eco-friendly presents (and ones they actually want!)
Giving someone an experience (like tickets to a show or concert) rather than a physical gift can be a great way to show you really know them, and you’ll be able to make some amazing memories together.
To avoid wasting your precious pennies buying unwanted gifts, you and your family and friends could also try doing Secret Santa (only buying for one person and setting a budget), or sharing your list of gifts you actually want and need.
4. Use eco-friendly wrapping paper and cards – and reduce & reuse (only recycle as a last resort!)
Why not consider sending e-cards this Christmas instead? It’s much faster and cheaper, and doesn’t harm any trees in the process. Paperless Post have an absolutely beautiful range you should check out if this sounds like your thing.
When it comes to wrapping presents, consider reusable paper, like the ones pictured below from Wearth London. If you’re after something to keep the kids busy, why not get creative with some plain recycled and make your own unique prints? Or just keep your wrapping simple and add some string or ribbon and a sprig of rosemary (less is definitely more!).
If you want to try something a bit different this year, you could always try wrapping gifts in fabric cloth, like traditional Japanese furoshiki – your gifts will look beautiful, and you can use your cloths over and over. Wearth London also sell these, here.
Whatever you choose, make sure you reuse or recycle your wrapping. To check if your paper is recyclable, just scrunch it into a ball – if it holds this shape then you can pop it into the recycling bin. Remember, anything with glitter on can’t be recycled.
5. Cut down on meat (and food in general)
The meat and dairy industry is responsible for more emissions than all the world’s planes, trains, cars and boats put together, so try eating less meat this Christmas to help reduce the impact of your festive feast. If you’re already following a plant based diet, encourage your friends and family to join you for the day – and if you’re after some ideas on what to serve, check out BBC Good Food’s Guide. The Vegetarian Society also has some great tips on being vegan or vegetarian at Christmas, with lots of information on what to avoid.
More food goes to waste at Christmas than during any other time of year – so if you’re hosting this year, try and cut back on the amount of food you buy (and always buy local and organic if you can). Watch your waste (and your waist!) this festive season, and serve food on platters and bowls, so people can serve themselves – leaving you with more leftovers and less plate waste. Check out Love Food Hate Waste‘s tips on what to do with your festive food post Christmas Day.
Veg boxes are a great way of getting local veggies (mostly) plastic free; if you’re London based, considering signing up to Oddbox, the wonky fruit and veg delivery service. If you’re based outside their delivery zone, have a look at Abel & Cole or Milk & More.