Christmas is a truly magical time of year, but it can also be an incredibly wasteful one.
We are all too familiar with the days directly after Christmas, when your living room floor is littered with colourful, glitter and foil-laden wrapping paper, unrecyclable sticky tape and multi-coloured plastic ribbons. Your kitchen bin is overflowing with polystyrene and bubble wrap, your food caddy is full to the brim with waste from the indulgent feast, and your recycling boxes are bulging at the seams with toy boxes, minced pie tins and empty wine bottles. But how do we make this year a little (or a lot) more eco-friendly?
Make better choices when choosing gifts
Christmas gifts (or any gift for that matter) do not need to be purchased from big retailers to be special, and they certainly do not have to be made of plastic!
We are lucky that in this day and age we have a wonderful array of websites and Etsy stores available online where we can buy hand-made, unique and eco-friendly gifts; free of plastic and other polluting/unrecyclable materials.
You can buy natural, zero-waste toiletries and sweets, upcycled hair accessories, beautiful handcrafted gemstone jewellery and plant-dyed soft furnishings from local and sustainable shops. All you need to do is spend an extra 5-10 minutes in the ‘About’ section of these websites to check their ethics and sustainability policies and you’re good to go.
Rent a Christmas tree
Everyone’s heard the argument before; which is better, a real or artificial Christmas tree? Someone has finally given an answer.
According to Tim O’Connor (executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association) “There’s absolutely no contest” that real trees are more environmentally friendly than artificial ones. So, if you need to choose, opt for a real, natural tree. However, there is an even better option. You can rent a tree!
You can choose a tree from a Christmas tree rental shop and pay the fee, they then deliver the tree to your house and you decorate it to your liking. You keep your tree for an arranged period, then you send it back to be used again the following year by another festive family.
Nothing is shipped from China and a perfectly good tree isn't chopped down and thrown away after a few weeks of standing in your living room. Now that’s festive!
Before we move on I think it is important to mention that if you already own an artificial Christmas tree, please don’t rush to replace it. It’s always better to use what we already have to hand!
Opt for compostable gift wrap
Why not get creative and crafty with your wrapping this year? Say no to the wrapping paper littered with ocean-polluting glitter and non-recyclable materials, and opt for humble (but aesthetically pleasing) brown parcel paper. You can add festive prints and patterns yourself if you want to jazz it up a bit, and you can tie your parcels with natural twine string. Why not add some cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices and holly leaves for a bit of extra Christmas magic! You can even buy plastic-free and compostable sticky tape!
The main thing is to ensure, once your wrapping paper has done its duty of hiding your gifts from loved ones' eyes, that you can pop it on the compost heap to biodegrade.
Make your own Christmas sweets and treats
Not only will it be healthier and tastier to make your own mince pies ad yule log this Christmas but you’ll also avoid all the unnecessary packaging that comes along with shop-bought items. Check out this recipe for delicious, vegan mince pies by Madeleine Olivia.
Another benefit to making your own sweets is that you naturally avoid ingredients and additives such as palm oil, harmful to both wild habitats and wildlife. Do the orangutans know it’s Christmas time at all?
Grow your own Christmas dinner
It’s actually becoming pretty cool to be green-fingered these days. How will it make you feel to know you planted, tended to and grew all of your Christmas veggies? Ok ok, it’s too late to plant your carrots and potatoes for this year’s dinner, but get started in the New Year and you could be tucking into an incredibly prideful dinner in 2021!
Choose reusable Christmas crackers
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of cheap, useless Christmas cracker gifts and a mess of glitter and rubbish on my floor every Christmas dinner. So I say “NO MORE!” to the dreaded Christmas cracker.
My mum made her own Christmas crackers last year and they worked just as well as regular shop-bought ones. She wrapped beautiful fabrics around cardboard tubing and added the token snapper ribbon for the full affect. The best part was that the gifts inside were thought through, useful, unique, and we can use the crackers again this year. “What about the hats?” I hear you say! It’s easy enough to cobble together your own Christmas hats with some brown paper and a pair of scissors.
Not gifted with a needle and thread? There are lots of options for reusable and plastic-free crackers on Etsy!
The Four R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
None of us are perfect, there has to be some room for error as we embark upon a more sustainable festive season, however, you can use the four R’s as a reference for any of your Christmas plans and purchases.
When you like the idea of something, whether that be a gift, food item or other, first think to yourself this: Do I need this? Is it necessary? Is it sustainable/eco-friendly? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, refuse to buy it.
If you answer “yes”, ask yourself: How much do I need? Only take/buy what you need; avoid the temptation to bulk buy things that will inevitably eventually end up in landfill.
Also ask yourself: Can I reuse this item? It’s always a cheeky bonus when you can use an item more than once or give it a brand new purpose in your household!
And finally ask yourself this: Is this recyclable in my area? Even if an item says it’s recyclable, the facilities to recycle it may not be available at your local centre and therefore, will not actually be recycled.
So there we have it, that's Christmas sorted!
I hope that I have given you plenty of alternatives to make this festive season far more sustainable than the last.
If you found this post insightful and/or useful, please let us know by leaving a comment and ensure to share it with your friends and family so that year on year, we can have an increasingly eco-friendly Christmas!