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December 12, 2017

5 Steps Towards A Sustainable Christmas

Do you live in New Zealand? Check out the original version of this post on Consciously Living NZ. 

For most people, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year – seeing friends and family, indulging in amazing food and curling up by the fire under a blanket with a mug of mulled wine. And a lot of the time, we’re having far too much fun to think about the impact the festive season has on us and on the planet.

Yet every year, in the UK alone, we spend around £22.5 billion celebrating Christmas (around £820 per family), but buy £700 million worth of unwanted gifts, throw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper and bin 230,000 tonnes of food. Not only this, but we get through 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging and cut down 200,000 trees just for our Christmas cards.

This year, try to take a step back and think about the impact your Christmas will have on the planet. It’s easier than ever to make your Christmas more environmentally (and financially) sustainable – and with our five top tips, you’ll have no excuse not to have yourself an eco-friendly little Christmas.

1. Consider your Christmas tree
When it comes to your tree, the most important things to think about are where it comes from, and how and when you’re going to get rid of it. If you’re after an artificial tree, you’ll need to use it for around nine years for it to have the same impact as getting a real tree each year – but if you’re going for the real deal, try and get one with with roots so you can replant it, or get an FSC certified one that you can have chipped after Christmas to use as compost. Whatever you do, don’t drive for miles to get it as this can have more impact than the tree itself! 

You could also consider an eco-friendly tree- both Etsy and notonthehighstreet.com have lots of amazing alternatives like stickers and fabric wall hangings – plus don’t forget to check out Pinterest for lots of beautiful DIY inspiration.

For our full list of Christmas tree tips, check out our post on Mind Body Green

2. Use sustainable decorations
On average, Christmas lights are left on for 10 hours a day, producing enough CO2 to fill five balloons – so make sure your lights are LEDs! If you’re looking to light up the outside of your home too, try using solar options to save even more energy.

When it comes to decorating your home and your tree, repurpose what you already have – but if you’re after something new, avoid buying anything plastic. Try using natural decorations, like pine cones, fruit and cinnamon sticks. You could even get creative with a bit of baking or DIY – take a look at Pebble Magazine for lots of beautiful ideas you can try yourself at home.

3. Give zero-waste, ethical and eco-friendly presents (and ones they actually want)
Giving someone an experience (like tickets to a show or concert) rather than a physical gift can be a great way to show you really know them, and you’ll be able to make some amazing memories together.

There’s also plenty of zero-waste and ethical gift guides out there this year, so you’ll be full of ideas for years to come. Check out 12 Simple and Meaningful Holiday Gift Ideas from A Rose Colored World, or if you’re after a bargain, take a look at Flor + Cesta’s 20 Ethical (and quirky) Christmas Gifts under £20. We’ve also got some great ideas for reusable and plastic free gifts. If these aren’t quite enough, Zero Waste Nerd has 101 Zero-Waste Gift Ideas for you to chose from. You could pop your presents and homemade goodies into a beautiful hamper or box that your loved ones can use again and again. 

To avoid wasting your precious pennies buying unwanted gifts, you and your family and friends could also try doing Secret Santa, or sharing your list of gifts you actually want and need.

4. Use eco-friendly wrapping paper and cards – and reduce, reuse, recycle!
If all the wrapping paper we throw away each year was laid out in a line, it would reach all the way to the Moon – and if we did the same with our Christmas cards, they’d stretch around the world 500 times – so make sure you recycle all your paper and cards! To check if your paper is recyclable, just scrunch it into a ball – if it holds this shape then you can pop it into the recycling bin. You could also consider sending e-cards this Christmas instead – it’s much faster and cheaper, and doesn’t harm any trees in the process.

You could also go one step further and make sure you purchase recycled paper and cards. Re-wrapped is a London based company specialising in the production of ethically sourced, environmentally friendly and recycled paper, cards and more. There’s also Happywrap, a company offering Fairtrade and handmade ethical and eco-friendly wrapping paper options, as well as fabric wrap based on the Japanese idea of furoshiki (which you should also definitely try yourself!).

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You could also get yourself some plain recycled paper from Paperchase, and get creative making your own unique prints – or keep your wrapping simple and just add some string or ribbon and a sprig of holly or rosemary.

5. Cut down on meat (and food in general)
At Christmas, we eat 80% more food than we do during the rest of the year; the collective impact of our Christmas dinners alone is the equivalent of driving a car around the world 6,000 times. As the meat and dairy industry is responsible for more emissions than all the world’s planes, trains, cars and boats put together, try eating less meat this year to help reduce the impact of your festive feast.

Or, as Christmas Day falls on a Monday, go completely vegetarian or vegan for the day for #MeatFreeMonday – if you’re already following a plant based diet, encourage your friends and family to join you for the day. According to The Guardian, this year is the best year so far to have a vegan or vegetarian Christmas, with supermarkets offering an array of delicious meatless options.

If you’re hosting this year, try and cut back on the amount of food you buy – and always buy local and organic if you can. Each Christmas, we throw away the equivalent of 74 million mince pies in the UK alone – costing us around £275 million! Watch your waste (and your waist) this festive season, and serve food on platters and bowls, so people can serve themselves – leaving you with more leftovers and less plate waste. Check out Love Food Hate Waste for tips on what to do with your festive food post Christmas Day.

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