This year has been rife with large meetings and much deliberation around climate change and how much we as a society are contributing to the crisis caused by greenhouse emissions and global warming. This focus should be carried through into years to come, but it can be harder to stay green during the festive months.
Christmas is an incredibly busy time of year, and in amongst the hubbub of stressful last-minute shopping and thinking about where you will be and when, it is easy to forget just how much of a carbon footprint you may be leaving behind. Here we have compiled a short list of 10 ways in which you could have a much more sustainable Christmas, whilst keeping your focus on the environment and your waste.
Alternate wrapping paper
Each year, people will wrap up presents for their loved ones – sometimes haphazardly and sometimes beautifully. Either way, this paper will ultimately just get ripped off of the presents and usually placed in a bin bag, so why is it that each year people buy new, expensive paper? One of the biggest ways to start being more sustainable this Christmas would be to use easily recyclable or already recycled paper for your presents. More rustic present wrapping not only helps the environment, but actually looks more individual, and gives a larger sense of care to the gift, which both the world and your gift recipients will surely appreciate. Make sure that all paper ripped up on the day is recycled after use, and you’re already on the right track towards a greener Christmas.
Use more local products
Rather than buying brand new, corporatised products for gifts, or indeed anything else this Christmas, maybe think about what your local area may have to offer. Not only does this help you to support your community, but it could also help to open your eyes to more unconventional presents and products. We live in a culture where a supermarket or shopping online isn’t thought about, just done. The shipping and travel costs of many of the common products used at Christmas time can be easily mitigated just by taking a walk around town and seeing what gems you may find locally. Yet again, taking a step like this is incredibly simple, and could result in pleasant surprises too.
Make or rent a tree
Artificial trees are of course reusable, but come with the caveat of a carbon footprint in the form of shipping the product, and the manufacturing of it. A way around buying unsustainable trees is simply to go out and buy a real one for yourself. When looking for said tree, make sure that you try to buy a potted one that has an extended life, to avoid throwing it away sooner. There are also options to rent trees online, so that they can then be replanted at a later date. There are also some options to recycle used trees locally after their use, so it is always worth having a look. Alternatively, you could do away with a tree altogether, and instead opt for a different version, maybe decorating a small potted plant or making a rustic one out of painted sticks.
Second hand gifts and charity shops
Who ever said that all presents have to be brand new? Charity shops are some of the best places to go when Christmas shopping, as they tend to have a myriad of second hand items that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else, as long as you look hard enough. You are likely to find really unique gifts by just looking around local charity stores, and the money that you spend will also be going towards good causes. Clothing is especially great to search for here, as well as old books, decorative pieces, records, games or other trinkets and oddities.
When purchasing anything this Christmas make sure to think about whether you are likely to use that item again. It is a good habit to not give in to wants when there are alternative options available, especially when you may be buying a product that only has one specific use. Christmas is abundant with items and products that tend to only be used over the space of a few weeks or less, think party plates, table spreads, stockings, baubles, decorations etc. When buying these items, think about whether you are likely to use them again next year or at other points throughout the year. If you get a good product that you particularly like, make it a staple of your Christmas, and save it rather than throw it away.
Always consider how you travel and how often this Christmas – you can avoid overspending and over travelling by planning trips better and in more eco-friendly ways, such taking a train or bus instead of a car. This is something that most will be taking into account throughout the year, but the festive period is known to be when people travel around the most. People are likely to be less aware of their own carbon footprint when stressing about where they need to be this year, so it couldn’t hurt to plan trips ahead, in more eco-friendly ways.
Leftover food / more sustainable dinners
Arguably the biggest highlight of Christmas is the abundance of fantastic food at dinner. Most are already aware that using leftovers the next day for recipes or sandwiches is a surefire winner, yet each year there is so much food that is wasted at Christmas time. Food waste is one of the largest contributing factors towards greenhouse gas emissions across the globe, and any effort to try and lessen this waste should be taken all year round, but particularly at the end of the year. There are also more vegetarian and vegan options for christmas than there ever has been before, maybe think of trying something new. It is common knowledge that the meat industry is notorious for its pollution. Maybe take a look at trying something other than a turkey this year for a sustainable change.
This one should be a no-brainer, but please recycle as much as you possibly can, it's so easy! Christmas time is known to cultivate a whole heap of waste, and you would be surprised at just how much of the waste that ends up in landfills is recyclable. Any plastics, tins, and paper used should always be recycled; even if you do accrue a lot more than usual around Christmas season, there is no excuse to be lazy when it comes to recycling your refuse. It is the smaller, every day steps that eventually add up, and recycling is an incredibly important and ridiculously easy way to help reduce your effects on the environment.
Time means more than anything
It is easy to think that Christmas is all about giving, and it is, however you don’t always just have to give gifts. Sometimes, the best gift that you can give anyone is your time. The prevailing sentiment of this time of year is the aspect of togetherness, and it is something that we all strive for, whether that is alongside gifts or not. If you are really looking to have a more sustainable Christmas, maybe go and meet family and friends in person instead of sending them their gifts, it would mean a whole deal more to them and would be a lot more sustainable and memorable too in the long run.
Don’t get overwhelmed straight away, talk to friends
When thinking about having a Christmas that is more sustainable, it could be easy to get overwhelmed, but take small steps here and there and they will add up eventually. Maybe talk to your friends or family members about what they might be doing to be more eco-friendly this year to gain more ideas, or just spread the word about staying sustainable. It can be a big change for some to live more sustainably, and they may need more time, but small steps make a large difference. Conversation is key, just bringing up sustainability when chatting can do a lot to keep it in people’s minds, if people make the smaller changes now, they will become accustomed and be able to focus on more at a later date too.