Merry Sustainable Christmas
How to stop Christmas from literally costing the earth, without losing its seasonal sparkle.
Christmas is big business but it’s not just our bank accounts that feel the impact of the festive season. With the recent spotlight on COP26 putting climate change, sustainability, and the environment high on the agenda, there’s a new Christmas wish list for us to try this year: think more, buy less, and enjoy it just as much.
A huge part of the fun of the festive season is the build-up. Shopping for presents, decorating our homes – nothing is more exciting than setting the scene for the very first Christmas in a new home - and sharing the excitement with our families ahead of the big day. Working through December on the advent calendar sets the pace, and the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas keep us going strong into the New Year, so actually, that buys us time to think.
The season of goodwill is the perfect time to give some extra thought as to how we can put a new twist on the much-loved traditions and childhood memories that make Christmas so special, by creating some new ones for the future.
The holly and ivy
There are already plenty of great sustainable ideas out there, such as renting a Christmas tree that can be replanted when all the fun and games are over, as a step up from buying one with all those good intentions to relocate it to the garden. From making your own Christmas cards and Christmas tree decorations using recycled materials, to steering clear of the glittering wrapping paper and tinsel that refuses to be recycled after it’s served its purpose. From filling your own crackers – no more plastic keyrings and miniature toys that are destined for the dustbin - to joining forces with collective family presents so that you really think about the person you are buying the present for, cutting down on the shopping rather than ticking a name off a list to get the job done.
But how about this?
- If you’ve got a garden, decorate a tree or shrub outside using solar-powered lights instead of buying an indoor tree. It’s a big break from tradition but much more practical for Santa to leave presents there than to struggle down a chimney – especially if you haven’t got one!
- Bring some foliage inside to create an alternative to a festoon of tinsel. Holly and ivy are truly representative of all things Christmas, but you could use rosemary, bay and pittosporum. If you include evergreen plants when you create your garden, you’ll have the real thing on hand. It’s a snip!
- Use tissue paper to wrap presents. Most tissue paper has already been created from recycled paper and is biodegradable, so its next step is the compost bin rather than the rubbish bin.
- Use string instead of Sellotape to tie up your parcels. Green garden twine around red tissue paper is simply seasonal! Jute twine biodegrades as do Sisal and hemp though they take a little longer.
- Labels for less - make your gift tags from the cardboard from all those Amazon deliveries you’ve had!
Christmas lights silently compete with the night sky at this time of year. Our town and city centres, and our homes, are lit up in festive style. Everyone deserves to switch off and relax but before you switch on, give your fairy lights the green light.
How about this?
- Make sure you choose LED lights. They’re safer because they don’t get hot, and these energy-saving alternatives last longer than fluorescent bulbs.
- Choose sets of outside lights with integrated time switches so you can create a twinkling atmosphere without burning up electricity 24/7, and without having to dash outside in your slippers last thing at night.
- Buy solar-powered fairy lights. They use energy from daylight, so they’ll work even if there isn’t a bright sunny day. No extension cables and no fossil fuel emissions. Win-win.
We all want some figgy pudding
The Christmas feast is the highlight of the holiday and shop local has become a catchphrase in the great sustainability challenge. Of course, we don’t all have an organic farm shop, a weekly farmers’ market, or a greengrocer within walking distance of our homes for our Christmas fruit and veg, but we can buy unwrapped fresh produce at the supermarket, and we can use our re-useable supermarket shopping bags. It’s the environmental version of the economy of scale – if we all take a little step in the right direction every good thought will lead to another.
- Plan in advance and give the Christmas Eve supermarket sweep a miss. Instead, create a family’s worth of menus for your Christmas meals. It’s an effective way to avoid buying all the ‘just in case’ extras that you never use, and after all, the shops are open again on Boxing Day if you’ve forgotten anything.
- Give the chef a cookbook and give the sous chef a handheld food blender. These practical collective family presents mean that leftovers can be transformed into delicious soups or the sauces for a casserole - and you’ll all get to eat the rewards.
All of these ideas are just a change of mindset, not a change of heart. Have a wonderful Christmas, celebrate everything sustainable that you’ve been able to achieve, enjoy all the memories of Christmases past, and start some new traditions for all the Christmases to come.
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