Fairy lights and baubles. Mulled wine and sweet treats. Cheer and goodwill filling the air. These are a few of our favourite things at Christmas.
The 227,000 miles of wrapping paper used, the 54 million platefuls of wasted food and the 33 million trees used to create Christmas cards? Not so much. (source)
This year, we’re on the hunt for ways to keep the magic of Christmas alive without the attendant waste.
Care to join us?
The centre piece of any home at Christmastime is the tree.
If you already have a fake tree, extend its life for as long as possible to keep it out of landfill. But if a real tree is a non-negotiable, you have a couple of options:
> Buy a tree that’s been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to minimise the use of pesticides and protect plants and animals. It’s also more environmentally friendly to buy a tree that is grown locally rather than having to transport it over long distances. If you have a garden, plant it after the holidays
> Rent a tree from a nursery or farm shop. More and more tree rental businesses are popping up. And some will deliver and pick up the tree for you either side of the holiday.
> Decorate an existing house plant. If you already have a large tree growing in a pot, like a yucca, palm or ficus, use that as your focal point with some fairy lights and a few baubles.
Bring the outdoors in by foraging for winter decor. Rather than buying items that mimic the natural wonders just outside your door, go straight to the source!
You can make wreaths from foraged pinecones or holly.
Bark and driftwood can be fashioned into ornaments for the tree as can dried fruit and cinnamon sticks.
Pine boughs make lovely toppers for your mantle or a table.
Get your mood lighting just right with soy or coconut wax candles. Normal candles use paraffin wax which is derived from petroleum, coal or shale oil. They can also be full of toxic additives that can harm your health.
Go for something more sustainable with soy or coconut wax. You can buy these from a growing number of companies or make your own if you’re feeling crafty. Just remember to use 100% pure essential oils for the fragrance.
Traditional wrapping paper is often lined with plastic. Add in the glitter and foiling popular at Christmastime and you have a whole lot of ‘paper’ that can’t be recycled. A quick test to discover whether your wrapping paper is recyclable or not is the ’scrunch test’. Scrunch the wrapping paper up into a ball and release. If it bounces back, it’s likely covered with plastic and will need to go into your normal bin.
Why not wrap your presents with brown paper, old newspapers or magazines instead? You can ditch the sellotape for paper tape or simple string. An even classier option is furoshiki – the Japanese art of using scarves or other fabric offcuts to wrap objects. You can also use reusable gift bags made from fabric or hand-stamped paper bags.
We love the way people use natural foliage, small cookies and dried fruit as toppers for presents. And this example of someone drawing a ribbon instead of adding another element made us swoon.
We mentioned that 33 million trees are used every year to make Christmas cards. Opt out this year and send e-cards. Or at the very least, look for cards made from recycled paper. Like wrapping paper, make sure they don’t have foiling or glitter so they can be recycled again.
Gifts that keep on giving
Rather than buying something that may be used once or twice before being set aside, give your friends and family something they’ll truly value: time with you.
We’re all sprinting from one day to the next. So slowing down and having a cup of coffee with your nan or a walk in the park with your dad signals to that person how important they are. And meaningful connections and deep conversation can provide you both with a boost for your mental health.
Give your loved one an unforgettable experience – check out our ideas on our Sustainable Gift Guide post.
Make a charitable donation in their name that is aligned to their values. You can adopt an animal with WWF or plant a tree with the Woodland Trust. You can bring clean water to people around the world or provide micro-loans to women in developing countries to tackle poverty and hunger.
And if you want something for them to unwrap this Christmas, check out these t-shirts, hoodies and jumpers from Ecosia. They plant 20 trees for each item purchased. And the tops are designed to be sent back for recycling at the end of their life.
Your sustainable table
Tis the season for excess – both on our plates and in our glasses. So what can be done to ensure we’re not wasting food this year?
Only buy food you know you’re going to eat. If everyone hates brussel sprouts, don’t buy them. And you probably don’t need potatoes three ways to please the various factions within your family. Think about what you love to eat, and then buy just enough to satisfy you.
Rather than drowning in grocery store plastic packaging, try out a local veg box of seasonal ingredients or buy loose fruit and veg. This can also help you from overbuying and having to throw away food that’s spoiled.
Make a plan for leftovers. Grab a cuppa or a glass of mulled wine and plan out your menu for key days during the holiday period. Take a look at the ingredients you’re going to be buying, and make sure you have one or two recipes you can use those leftover carrots or bread.
Pace yourself. The shops are only closed for a day or two over this time period, so you’ll be able to pop back out and pick up smaller portions that will still be in date when you need them.
If you find you still have excess food, donate it to an elderly neighbour or take it to a food bank and help those who don’t have enough at this time of year.
Finally, one of the best ways to make your table more sustainable is to go plant-based for Christmas. There are so many delicious flavours and ingredients from the plant world that you and your loved ones won’t even miss the meat.
Here are five of our favourite plant-based cookbooks to inspire your holiday menu:
> Happy Vegan by Fearne Cotton
> More Plants, Less Waste by Max La Manna
> The Plant Based Cookbook by Deliciously Ella
> Vegan 100 by Gaz Oakley
> Meat Free Monday by Paul and Stella McCartney
What are you doing this year to make your Christmas more sustainable? We’d love to hear from you on social or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org