Sustainable Holiday Guide
Tipps for a more sustainable Christmas
December is here and with it all the lights, decorations, and the mood for our favorite celebrations! Christmas is a season of giving and loving - as we like to say - but at what cost? Experts claim that holiday paper waste alone is estimated at 5-12 million liters of biofuel, which could fuel a shuttle to go to the moon 20 times.
Don’t you think that we can combine all the glitter and sparkle of the holidays with a more ethical attitude as consumers? The answer is: Of course, we can!
Let this be the year we see these holidays in a new light! Let this be the year that we approach them with more mindfulness, let us say "Merry Christmas" and “Happy New Year” with a good conscience and sustainable gifts of emotional fullness.
We collected some suggestions and ideas that let us enjoy the festive season while leaving the smallest possible footprint on society and the environment. Pick one or pick multiple – every little change you make to be more earth-friendly these holidays have a positive impact!
Avoid Plastic Packaging
The wrapping and unwrapping of gifts is one of the favorite activities around Christmas! Unfortunately, most of the wrapping items used - and especially those with glitter and other pretty decorations - have a high content of plastic. These items burden the environment during production and in most cases are not being recycled. And beware: Even the simplest wrapping papers have a thin film of plastic. Therefore, prefer packaging made from recyclable or recycled paper, or use your imagination and wrap the gifts with pieces of fabric or fabric bags!
Choose Environmentally Friendly Gifts
When making our shopping and gift list, it's a good idea to do some research beforehand and choose quality over quantity. Let's try to ensure that your gifts are environmentally friendly. Even for children, there are gifts that are made from environmentally friendly materials and are almost 100% plastic free! And usually, they are the ones that are most educational and constructive. Also, why not consider making gifts for your loved ones instead of buying? These gifts are going to have an even greater emotional value!
Consider Intangible Gifts
Christmas presents don't always have to take the form of physical gifts; sometimes gifting someone an experience can be more personal and meaningful. The options are unlimited: a day trip, an organized outdoor adventure tour or activities like hiking, biking, and rafting, a spa or massage session, theater, and cinema tickets or even a subscription to an informative, educational or entertainment channel. Think about what your loved ones like, and you will surely come up with many ideas for "intangible" gifts.
Buy a Real Tree
If you don’t own a fake Christmas tree but have been contemplating it, don’t buy one! You might be surprised to know that buying plastic trees for Christmas is not more eco-friendly than using a natural tree. Artificial Christmas trees need to be used for decades before they become more environmentally friendly than using a real tree. That’s because the way fake Christmas trees are produced makes them usually unrecyclable, and when being thrown away they end up in landfills.
Therefore, purchasing a real Christmas tree instead of a fake tree can reduce your environmental impact. The process of growing real trees is natural and by purchasing it you are most likely supporting a local tree farmer. When tree farmers cut down trees for Christmas, they’ll keep planting more. This helps to keep our forests growing which helps fight climate change.
Once the holidays are over there are various ways you can get rid of it in an environmentally friendly manner. You can recycle the tree, return it, compost it, mulch it, make potpourri, use the branches for decor, use it as firewood, and more.
Another option for a real tree is a living Christmas tree which is essentially a potted tree. Using live trees for Christmas is one of the most sustainable options for a Christmas tree, especially if you love having that real tree smell. Because honestly, real Christmas trees smell amazing. After holidays you may return it to the outdoors and plant it outside. Planting the living Christmas tree afterwards would be the low-maintenance way to extend the tree’s lifecycle as well. You’re simply letting nature take its course.
Get Creative with Eco-Friendly Decoration Options
The big chapter: we decorate the house! The options are endless. Without having to be a great artist, you can make beautiful ornaments from paper, cardboard, dried plants, and many other materials. All you need is to search a little online and you will find endless ideas and instructions for all tastes. If this isn’t an option for you, you can choose to buy ornaments made of natural materials or ornaments that have resistance to time and timeless style so that you can use them for years to come. You can also think about exchanging ornaments with family and friends. This way you can all change things up without having to buy anew.
When it comes to energy and emission saving, consider using a timer for your string lights, that automatically turns your lights off during the day and the late-night hours. This will save you money spent on electricity, but also reduce some of the major energy waste that happens over the holidays. For outdoor decorations try using LED mini lights and turn them off when you go to sleep. It’s also worth checking out if solar-powered lighting is an option for you.
Shop Locally and Support Sustainable Companies
Try to shop ethically and locally: prefer small businesses and your neighborhood shops to large chains. Support local businesses that need it more than ever. Also select companies with a clear environmentally friendly policy and products.
Make Sustainable Fashion Choices
We don't need to wear completely different outfits every year! Especially in the last years with the crisis of the pandemic and the lockdowns, we have had clothes left in our wardrobe that we haven't worn much or at all lately. Smart combinations or even swapping clothes with friends can solve our dilemmas and this seasonal "problem". Even if we end up shopping a new outfit, let's choose correctly where to buy it and what it will be.
Reduce Food Waste
An even bigger chapter: the food! First, choose to buy products organically and from certified companies regarding their environmental policy. Let's put aside the "better to have than not to have" mindset to avoid food waste. Consider choosing a menu that suits all dietary requirements and provide add-ons if necessary. Finally, if you can't escape your "urge" for large quantities, at least let's ask your guests to bring their own lunchbox (or equip yourself with some – made of environmentally friendly materials always!) so that you can give them a "package" to take home! And, of course, the all-time-classic and one of the basic principles in food management: be creative and use what is left of the previous days food to make a new, “fresh” dish!
Donate and Spread the True Meaning of Christmas
Teach yourself, your family, friends, and little ones about the power of sharing and donating! Ask them to put aside toys and books they’re no longer interested in, and the clothing and shoes that don’t fit so great anymore. By learning the impact that giving can have on others, we can all go into the holidays season with a greater appreciation for what we do have and maybe for the new presents we get. And remember, donating to others is important all year round, not just during holiday season!
Let’s choose to enjoy the holidays with mindfulness and love for the environment, animals and people! After all, isn't that the message of this season?
Author: Sofia Papakonstantinou, CreThiDev