The festive season is upon us! In fact, some might say we’re a little late to the party - our local supermarket has been selling mince pies since September… but we’ll ignore them.
This Christmas is going to be a little different to normal because of the new restrictions (thanks 2020 🙄). Families are onlyable to 'bubble' with two other households for five days and we aren’t allowed to go to the pub with this ‘bubble’ (or at all if you’re in a tier 3 area).
But maybe there are a few silver linings to this pretty dark cloud? You won’t be forced to see relatives you don’t really like for one, and we also won’t be able to hit the high street and mindlessly shop like we used to. Actually, it could be the perfect opportunity to do things slightly more consciously - creating a new Christmas, with new traditions.
This guide will cover everything from eco gift wrapping to sustainable decor, reducing food waste to picking the perfect pine tree (including the heated debate about whether real is more sustainable than fake), so hold onto your Santa hats...
Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Did you know that 75% of Brits spend £185 per year on Christmas decorations*? Now we love a bauble as much as the next guy, but there is such a thing as too many!
Here are our favourite zero-waste swaps for decking your halls:
- At home we have leylandii in the garden which is beautiful and green all year, for christmas we kill two birds with one stone by trimming it down and keeping the boughs for decoration! We bake some orange segments and attach them with string alongside some cinnamon sticks to make the house wonderfully scented too. This trick can work with holly or any other shrubbery you might have (just watch out for ivy as it’s poisonous to dogs!).
Swap tinsel for a popcorn garland! If you already have tinsel - don’t throw it away, but if it’s on its last legs and needs replacing, trythis neat trick instead.
- Reusable napkins are a great investment and they can be tied up with a little garland to make the table super festive.
- Ditch the crackers and replace with plastic free versions or ditch them altogether! We had crackers one year that contained 6 coloured bells with different pitches - now instead of buying new crackers every year - we get the Christmas bells out and play carols (badly - but it's a hilarious activity for the Christmas table whilst you're waiting for food).
- Reuse old wrapping paper or use scrap paper. Old newspaper tied with string can actually look great under the tree, or you could buy a roll of recycled parcel paper and print or draw your own designs on it if you’re really arty! Potato printing wrapping paper is a great activity to do with the kids too.
Use string rather than sellotape - it works really well and looks lovely and rustic. Here’s aguide from My Plastic Free Life on how to do it.
Arguably the heart of the home at Christmas, the tree is REALLY important. Obviously we are all about reusables and the idea of buying a real tree every year only to throw it away doesn’t sound particularly sustainable. A plastic alternative, however, is also not ideal. So which is better for the environment?
The Guardian dida handy run down of the carbon footprint of each, and the winner categorically is the real tree. Whilst a 6.5ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions, a real tree that ends up in landfill has half that and a real tree that is burnt has a carbon footprint that’s around 10 times less.
But even more sustainable than that? Most local authorities now offer a collection service for real trees which they shred and use on gardens and parks – the greenest way to dispose of your real tree. Or our favourite option - get a potted tree from a garden centre, plant it in your garden after Christmas, nurture it, then bring it back in next year!
Giving presents is a huge part of Christmas but also causes a huge amount of waste. Think of how many times you’ve been given something by a relative that sits in a draw for a few years unused before it ends up being given or thrown away. It’s so important that we’re not giving gifts just for the sake of it.
OurSustainable Gift Guide is packed full of presents that are useful, built to last, and that help you to live a low waste life. We’ve got gifts for foodies, outdoor adventurers, zero waste heroes, kids and more - perfect for even the most difficult-to-buy-for relatives (because everyone’s gotta eat and drink!).
If you need even more inspiration, here are a few other easy tips for sustainable gift giving:
- Visit your local charity shops. Buying second hand is better than new and charity shops have the bonus of being bargainous and a bit random - leading to some excellent finds that you wouldn’t find in more curated and manicured shops.
Go homemade! FromDIY Christmas ornaments to home-madeflavoured salts andsoaps and evenaprons made from old shirts, upcycled and hand-made gifts are always extra special.
- Gift experiences! A lot of your local pubs, restaurants, events, musicians, theatres and activity businesses will be struggling this year. Why not purchase a gift card for an experience you can share with friends and family when we can get back together again in spring?
Turkey with all the trimmings may be the centrepiece of the day, but it can also be an environmental disaster. The Soil Association states that a typical Christmas dinner can rack up 49,000 miles in imported ingredients, equivalent to two journeys around the world, and that’s not to mention all the food waste.
Here are our favourite tips to make sure you’re eating green this Christmas:
- Buy local or direct from farmers or producers where possible
- Go organic to avoid harmful pesticides (the animal welfare standards are often better too)
- Go veggie! One of the best ways to reduce the environmental impact of your dinner is to swap your turkey for a nut roast - and my gosh are they delicious. A typical turkey roast for a family meal of six emits 23.5 kg CO2e, the carbon dioxide equivalent of driving 78.5 miles, according to the findings from Humane Society International UK. In comparison, a nut roast, also for a family of six, emits only 9.5 kg CO2e, the equivalent of driving 31.6 miles.
- Recycle any foil used in cooking rather than throwing it in the black bin.
- Make the most of your leftovers. I look forward to the Boxing Day smorgasbord as much as the Christmas Dinner! Stuffing & roasted vegetable sandwich with cranberry sauce? Don’t mind if I do!
And if you have drastically over-catered? Share any leftover ingredients onOLIO - the free surplus food sharing app. You can use it for food nearing its sell-by date, spare home-grown vegetables, bread from your baker, or the groceries in your fridge when you go away - you can even use it for non-food household items. It’s super easy and absolutely brilliant!
That concludes our sustainable Christmas guide. Do let us know if you have any other tips!