Christmas is an amazing time of year to bring some light, celebration and joy in to the darkest months of Winter. However, our excessive consumption and mindless traditions mean celebrating this special day can have a massive impact on the planet.
30% more waste is produced and discarded over the festive period compared to the rest of the year. But here are 5 ways sustainable changes you can make to celebrate consciously that aren't detrimental to the planet.
After the year we've all had, supporting small local businesses is more essential than ever. Most small businesses will have taken a massive hit due to the pandemic and you will make the business owners Christmas by choosing them over Amazon. Most of the time the thought behind a gift means more to the person than the gift itself, so explaining you chose to put money back in to your community by supporting a local business, will surely impress your loved one. Handmade presents are a bonus! Any presents that don't create an impact on the planet also wont leave the person having to deal with packaging they can't recycle or the guilt of an unethical supply chain. If you are crafty, DIY a gift, there are hundreds of Youtube tutorials for quick to make presents or if you can bake, make them an edible gift. Don't exclude secondhand/thrifted presents, they can hold real value and individuality. Experiences are some of my most treasured gifts I have received and if you can't do that specific experience currently, like a theatre show or a meal at your favourite restaurant, buy them a voucher! That way you are supporting the establishment even if they aren't open and you have something exciting to look forward to. Donate to a charity, adopt an animal or plant a tree! Think outside of the box or back to basics.
Did you know, in the UK we use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper that can't be recycled? That's right, traditional shiny wrapping paper can't be recycled! So this year, switch out the sparkly paper for recyclable brown paper, newspaper or sheet music. You can still make your presents shine without the glitter. If you are like me, you will have a special box filled with all the xmas ribbons you've ever received, now is the time to use them and ask others to reuse them or gift them back. I clearly got my resourcefulness from my Nan, who would carefully open her presents without ripping the paper and then iron the wrapping paper ready to use next year!
If you want to go up a level try out Furoshiki, an old Japenese wrapping technique. Head in to your local charity shop and pick up any nice scarves, blankets or shirts and start wrapping.
I will never stop shouting about how amazing charity shops are, especially at Christmas time. If you are someone who doesn't have time to DIY their own orange garlands, get yourself to Oxfam and you will be surprised how many tasteful or tacky (whatever you fancy) decorations you will find! However, if you do have time and want to keep your little ones entertained there are endless crafts you can try from paper chain/snowflakes to salt dough decorations. Use up whatever scraps you have in your house, get searching on YouTube and I promise you will find something to suit your style.
REAL TREE vs ARTIFICIAL TREE
After lots of research and consideration, my two eco-recommendations are either get a secondhand fake tree or a sustainably sourced real tree. Now when I say sustainably sourced, I mean from an FSC Certified supplier, as local as possible. The great thing is 100million more trees are grown in the UK due to the Christmas trade, that wouldn't be normally! If you can go and pick your tree from a local farm, it is likely they will plant a few trees in its place, which keeps the ecosystem alive and thriving. A lot of councils will now collect trees, recycle them and distribute the chipping across parks and gardens. However, I am now seeing some amazing companies that allow you to rent a tree for the festive period, keep it in it's pot and then return it to the woodland to be used year after year. After 20 years they will be removed from the cycle and planted out in the wild, to mature.
The issue I have with artificial trees is they are made from plastic and we all know now that plastic never leaves the planet it just breaks down in to smaller and smaller pieces that are called microplastics. Microplastics can now be found in rain, snow and even our organs. So, although it may seem like you are doing the planet a favour by not cutting down any trees unfortunately you are doing the opposite, especially as most artificial trees will have the added journey from China. A 6.5ft plastic tree has a carbon footprint of about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions, that is twice that of a real tree that ends up in landfill and 10 times more than a real tree which is burnt.
One of the biggest ways we celebrate Christmas is with food but unfortunately a lot also gets wasted! 1/3 of all the food we produce each year gets thrown away and if food waste was a country it would be the 3rd largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, behind USA and China. So, the easiest step to having a more sustainable xmas meal is creating no waste! Use your leftovers to cook meals the following days, advertise them on the food sharing app OLIO and compost them. But before you think about waste I guess sourcing the ingredients is another decision you need to make mindfully. Source local, seasonal ingredients and select as many plastic free items as possible. The best way to do this is through local veg box deliveries from local farms. In Plymouth we have Veg Box Fresh and I love them! Now, probably the most controversial thing I will say in this blog but the most ecofriendly swap you can make, is having a vegan Christmas dinner.
If that is a massive stretch for your family, consider switching out meat for meat alternatives because the University of Oxford found going vegan can reduce and individuals carbon footprint from food by 73%. There are some incredible alternatives out there and if everyone went
vegan for one day the amount of water saved and land erosion prevented would incredible.
This year I am treating my family to a beautiful vegan hamper from The Hedgerow Hound from Plymouth. I highly recommend, they have award winning vegan food, locally and lovingly created.
Last but not least is considering what to wear on the special day. I know we have lived the majority of 2020 in our pajamas and are looking for any excuse to dress up, but when it comes to celebrating the most sustainable outfit you can wear, are the clothes you already have! It is mad but on average we only wear 20% of our wardrobe, think of all that money sat in your wardrobe just getting dusty. If everyone wore a pre-loved outfit on xmas day this year the CO2 emissions would be equivalent to taking 56 million cars off the road! If you are desperate to wear something new, definitely consider shopping secondhand, depop, ebay, Facebook marketplace and charity shops are all amazing and save perfectly good garments from going to landfill. My biggest recommendation is DO NOT BUY FAST FASHION, the items are not made to last and don't cost enough to pay the person making them a realistic livingwage, plus it's often had to travel across the world for you to wear for one day.
Pull out that Christmas Jumper from 2016 you wore to one christmas party or consider a clothes swap with friends! Or if you are really fancy, consider hiring an outfit from websites such as Hurr or Dressbox.
This Christmas we need to create new traditions that benefit ourselves, the creators of the products we buy and the planet. Don't overwhelm yourself with trying to change everything at once because Christmas is stressful. Pick a few elements you know you can change and add on to these practices each year. Share with your family why you decided to home bake treats instead of dealing with plastic sweet wrappers, proudly show off your thrifted outfit and give with joy, knowing your Christmas presents purchases funded another families Christmas.