‘Tis the season to be sustainable. Evie Howarth explains how you can get in the festive spirit without harming the planet.
The festive season can certainly feel like a crazy time of year when it comes to all the things we consume, from food to gifts and decorations. If you’re starting to feel as though your Christmas could be a tad more planet-friendly, then you’ve come to the right place.
Settle in, grab yourself a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, and read up on everything you need for a sustainable Christmas this year…
Watch what you eat
We know Christmas is the season for over indulgence and we’re certainly not suggesting that you shouldn’t pile your plate high, but sometimes it’s good to think about exactly what it is that you’re tucking into.
Could you cut out the meat and introduce some plant-based options instead? You’ll find plenty of turkey alternatives in most supermarkets nowadays, or you could give a mushroom wellington a try.
While we know that meat is a big greenhouse gas contributor, you may not have considered the impact of shipping food across the world too. Eating seasonally and sourcing your food locally can help cut down the miles that your meal has to travel before it reaches your table too.
You might think the weather means very little is growing through the winter months, but you’ll find that most of your traditional festive foods can be found in abundance at this time of year.
Pop to your local farm shop and you’ll be able to pick up sprouts, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, leeks, turnips, cauliflower and so much more. If you’re willing to plan ahead and have space, you could even grow your own.
Buy second hand
This one goes for everything from your decorations right through to your gifting and can often save you a decent amount of money in the process. Charity shops stock last year’s unused gifts as well as unique clothing and accessories you won’t find on the high street.
Stop thinking that something has to be new in order to be special. Instead, focus on the thoughtfulness of a gift and whether the receiver will really value it. The same thing goes for decorations or your Christmas party outfit — if you love it, do you really care about it being brand new?
If you’ve got a creative streak, then you might want to give homemade gifts a go. There’s tonnes of things you can make and plenty of inspiration littering the internet, but some good places to start are with small food items like chutney and jam or fudge.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could try knitting a scarf or embroidery. You can even take your sustainability a step further here by using recycled materials such as old tablecloths and bedspreads to create new masterpieces!
If you’re not at all creative, then why not sponsor a charity in someone’s name instead?
Wrapping paper is probably one of the most wasteful things we use at Christmas. It can really only be used once before being ripped up and discarded, which doesn’t exactly scream sustainable.
A great alternative includes using fabric to wrap up presents that you can use over and over. There’s plenty of online tutorials that will show you how to make this even more of a showstopper under your tree than any paper-wrapped present could ever be. Furoshiki, for example, are traditional Japanese wrapping cloths – modern day furoshiki are popular as an environmentally friendly alternative to wrapping paper that looks great, and can be used time and time again.
If you don’t want to use fabric, then another option is the humble gift bag. While these eventually get tired, reusing bags from the year before is a more sustainable option.
For some presents, paper may still feel like the best choice, so if you’re buying a roll, ensure it’s fully recyclable. That means avoiding paper with foil patterns and if you can buy it without the cellophane wrapping, then that’s even better.
Finally, only wrap what you really need to wrap. That bottle of wine you’re giving to a friend probably doesn’t really need a bag…
Be clever with cards
While fewer people seem to bother writing Christmas cards nowadays, it remains a nice gesture that’s appreciated by those who receive them.
If you have to buy them, then get a pack that donates to a charity so at least there’s some good that’ll come out of them. Also make sure that they’re fully recyclable, so avoid glitter, foil and anything that’s basically not paper at all costs.
As for the ones you receive, before you throw them out, why not cut them up and use them for next year’s gift labels? With sustainability, anything you can get more life out of or reuse is a win in our books.
Walking through the shops is a dangerous game at this time of year when it comes to Christmas decorations. There’s always something out there to take your decs up a notch, but do you really need it?
We all know Christmas lights have a lifespan (that’s usually shorter than we’d like) and they also contain a lot of unrecyclable materials such as plastic too. So, think carefully before you buy a new set for your house and if you are in the mood for more twinkly lights, then ensure they’re LED bulbs to keep the energy use down too.
What about the Christmas tree, you ask? If you’re unsure whether a real or a faux tree is better for the planet, then you’re certainly not alone. The fact that you can reuse a faux tree year in, year out would usually give it a few points for sustainability, however, the fact that they’re mostly made from unrecyclable materials means that eventually it’s going to end up in landfill for a few hundred years — not so great.
Instead, many Christmas tree farms are now offering a rental option, which means receiving a tree in a pot and then sending it back to them after the holiday to be replanted. That way the same trees can be used over and over as well as doing the good job that trees do for the planet. It’s a win win.
You could even take this one step further and cut the transport to and from the Christmas tree farm by planting it out in your garden for the year and bringing it in the following Christmas (until it grows too big for your living room, that is).
We all know decs are so much more than just a tree, there’s ornaments, and other nicknacks too. Before you buy, think about what you can make — for example, oranges can be sliced and dried to make beautiful hanging decorations.
You can also collect winter plants such as holly, firs, or ivy to make your own wreath and garlands. The options really are endless and totally biodegradable at the end of the season.
We know that this is the season for indulging in everything from delicious food to gifts for friends — it’s all part of the excitement and that doesn’t have to change. What we can alter instead is how we can get the most out of what we purchase and get creative with reusing what we already have too.