9 Ways to Have a More Sustainable Christmas
Christmas is looming, many shops have started to advertise Christmas specials, someone on your Facebook feed keeps posting the up to date countdown to Christmas Day, and even though, your Christmas tree might not be up yet; chances are that your mind is already fully wrapped up in the planning of this very special time of year.
While Christmas is about the time spent with family and friends, and about the magic that comes with it; it is also a time that is used to push consumerism to the absolute maximum. There is always that must-have toy and a man-made expectation to create the best experience, the best-decorated house and the best meal of the year as well as the idea of giving as many gifts as possible in order to celebrate Christmas right.
In essence, there is nothing wrong with any of these things, however, together and in excess they have the potential to add a huge plus to our carbon footprint. The reason for it is simple: In order to offer all these things we apparently “need” as affordably as possible, they can’t be produced in a sustainable way. Instead, they are often made from cheap materials like plastic, in factories halfway across the world where workers aren’t paid a fair wage. Pretty much as unsustainable as it gets.
The good news is, there are plenty of alternatives out there. We can choose sustainable products and ways of doing things and still have a magical Christmas with all our loved ones. And even though at first glance a sustainable Christmas might look expensive, it will save us money in the long run!
9 Ways to Make Christmas More Sustainable
1. Source a Sustainable Christmas Tree
Christmas without a Christmas tree is unimaginable for many. It’s a much-loved tradition, for which trees are planted in monoculture plantation, which in combination with added pesticides impacts the environment in a negative way. Luckily, there are plenty of sustainable options that will allow you to enjoy the tradition of a festive tree without taking a toll on Mother Earth!
Sustainable Christmas Tree Alternatives:
2. Choose Eco-friendly Christmas Decorations & Lights
If you are anything like me, you are looking forward to getting the Christmas decorations out of the attic as soon as the summer is over. That box in the attic is possibly the most sustainable thing you can use to decorate your house year after year. Despite the materials used, reusing what you have is always the preferred choice.
However, sometimes things break or you just feel like you have outgrown your decorations and want to update them.
Before you head out to buy everything new on the highstreet, check out local selling pages on Facebook or similar. Often people are giving away fabulous decorations in pristine condition for just a fraction of the price you’d pay in the shop. Maybe you can offer your decorations to swap online or with a friend. That way you can change your decor without buying anything and give the same option to someone else. If you have to buy new, try and stay away from cheap & cheerful. Rather look for heirloom decor that can be kept in your family for more than one generation. Look for eco-friendly material from sustainable sources made in an ethical way and to cut down on carbon emission buy as local as you can! DIY decorations are another eco-friendly option that comes with the benefit of added family fun. Here are some suggestions for straight forward DIY Christmas decorations! For instructions or more inspiration have a look at Pinterest or Youtube!
DIY Christmas Decorations
The “use what you have” approach also goes for your Christmas lights! If you would like to invest in new lights, look for energy-efficient and good quality LED lighting. You could also get a timer switch for your lights, especially when you are (like me) prone to forgetting to switch them off. If you are using small little battery-powered lights, get a good set of rechargeable batteries to keep you going throughout the season!
3. Use Sustainable Wrapping Paper
Remembering my childhood Christmasses, I still have this image in my head of all those beautifully wrapped presents reflecting the lights of the Christmas tree. Wrapped presents evoke a magical feeling of anticipation and it is one of those feelings I loved about Christmas when growing up. Now as a parent myself, I want to give my children those memories as well, but have quickly discovered that this comes with the cost of mountains of wrapping paper – which I am not prepared to pay!
Once I started to look into eco-friendly wrapping paper, I found that there are so many fabulous alternatives out there to create an even better sense of magic.
Eco-friendly Gift Wrapping
Zero Waste Wrapping Tip: If you receive a gift wrapped in paper, try and be careful opening it and keep the paper to reuse it. This way you will always have a lovely choice of wrapping paper in different styles and sizes while generating no waste!
4. Give Sustainable Christmas GiftsWhen it comes to sustainable gift giving, the actual gift is of course more important than the wrapping. While we all want to choose gifts that will make our loved ones smile, we have the option to choose gifts that will also make the planet smile.
There is a beautiful selection of eco-friendly and sustainable gifts available that will make it easy to find the perfect gift for even the most difficult to buy for person. While trying to choose your present try and stick with the interests and preferences of the recipient, which will ensure your gift will be loved and treasured. Try and select items that are made from eco-friendly materials that have come from sustainable sources and have been produced ethically and as local as possible. If you are unsure you can always reach out to the retailer or manufacturer to ask about their processes. By supporting ethical and sustainable businesses you are helping them grow and reach even more people in the future!
Experiences over Things
Instead of gifting things, experience gifts are also a great option. Tickets for a sports match, the theatre or cinema are always popular. The same goes for memberships for certain establishments like the zoo for example. If you would like to gift something meaningful you could always opt for a charity donation in the name of the recipient or choose from a wide selection of gifts that keep on giving that are available at Oxfam Ireland for example. Here you can gift support for a refugee family, a cow for a community that depends on animals, or a toilet for families in countries that live without sanitation.
5. Invest in a Reusable Advent Calendar
An advent calendar is one of my favourite Christmas traditions. Nothing builds up the excitement and magic more than opening a small treat every day. Nowadays there is such a massive range of pre-filled single-use advent calendars out there, that you don’t have to make your own. However, a DIY advent calendar is not just fun to fill, you are also in control of what’s inside. Instead of plastic toys or sugar-laden sweets; you can choose to include little wooden toys, healthy treats, or even essentials like socks, PJs, or a new toothbrush.
The design of your calendar is entirely up to you. Some of my favourites include beautifully crafted wooden calendars with refillable little boxes that can be used year after year. Some similar ones are available made from cardboard as well, which is still very sturdy but slightly more affordable. For my children, I have opted for little felt bags in different sizes that can be strung up and wrapped around a branch. This is particularly handy if you don’t have that much space. Add some Christmas lights and a bit of greenery and your advent calendar becomes a staple piece of your Christmas decor!
6. Cook a Sustainable Christmas Dinner
Christmas Dinner is certainly one of the most special dinners of the year. Traditionally we all know the menu here in Ireland, turkey with all the trimmings, ham, brussel sprouts, stuffing, potatoes, and so on. When trying to make your Christmas Dinner as sustainable as possible this year, ask yourself this: Do you and your family really LOVE this menu or are you just cooking it because it is tradition. If you love it, that’s fab as it means you will enjoy it. If you find you don’t really like it, change it! Personally, I believe, nothing is sustainable if it doesn’t work for you, so make sure you’ll serve something this Christmas that will be devoured and enjoyed!
Once you have nailed down what’s one the menu, here is how you can make it as sustainable as possible:
7. Avoid Food Waste (and Waste from Food) this Christmas
Food Waste at Christmas is a growing problem. It is estimated that in the UK the equivalent to 4 million Christmas dinners is thrown out every single year. Imagine that mountain of food! All of it had to be grown or reared, produced, transported, and sold, only to end up as waste!
This food waste problem is mainly due to the excess we buy at Christmas. At the end of the year, we tend to splurge, to make the holidays as special as possible and a big part of that is food, or so we think. There are a few small things you can keep in mind when trying to avoid food waste this Christmas.
How to Avoid Excess Food Waste this Christmas
Reduce Packaging Waste
In addition to the actual food waste. The food we buy for Christmas often creates another mountain of packaging waste. When you are choosing your ingredients for Christmas dinner, try and avoid excessive packaging and opt for loose food or food packaged in recyclable or compostable packaging. Zero waste online shops are a great option if you don’t have access to unpackaged goods on markets or in local shops. At Eco Annie Pooh or the Minimal Waste Grocery you can order dry foods in the amount you need and it is posted to you in compostable packaging.
8. Shop for Sustainable Christmas Jumpers and Fashion
Christmas jumpers, matching Christmas PJs, or festive clothing are another big part of the festivities for many families. After all, we want to look the part when we spend this magical time with all our loved ones. However, novelty jumpers and fast fashion garments are quickly adding to our carbon footprint.
Many ethical fashion companies have been steadily increasing their collections of festive jumpers and fashion. It’s a great way to invest in a good quality sustainable piece you can wear and cherish for years to come. If you opt for something that is not distinctively Christmassy, you could also wear it all year round.
Why not have a browse of the NEW Sugar & Storm Collection in which your little ones feel cosy and yet stylish not just for Christmas!
If you are looking for novelty jumpers and just want to wear them on Christmas Day, your best bet are second-hand shops or online selling pages. Since Christmas jumpers are usually only worn for a very short amount of time they are often in perfect condition and can be passed on many times!https://www.sugarandstorm.ie/collections/collection-2
9. Send Eco-friendly Christmas Cards
Christmas cards – some people love them, others hate them. I must admit, I rather love sending some good wishes to family and friends abroad and also enjoy receiving cards all through December. However, I always thought less is more and I would only send Christmas cards to people that are a part of my life.
I also realise though, that many Christmas cards are simply thrown out in the new year, which is an awful lot of waste. So here are some options for making your Christmas wishes more sustainable this year.
Sustainable Christmas Cards