Christmas time is fast approaching and if you are like me, you still have not decorated your house and have no idea what presents you are getting for your loved ones.
Christmas can be a very stressful time of the year for many reasons including arranging time to visit family in different areas, meal preparing/cooking, buying gifts, attending the festivities all while managing to find time to rest and relax.
For me though, I have added another kind of priority the past couple of years to my list: how can I be more sustainable during the holidays?
It is a question that has been bugging me a lot. Especially after coming to the realization that during Christmas an estimated extra 30 percent, i.e. 3 million tonnes, of rubbish is generated and disposed. Shocking, right? To be completely honest, I believe this number is actually higher. Think about it! How much wrapping paper is used during the holidays? What about ribbons, Christmas cards, other useless packaging, new pieces of clothing which will only be used once or twice during the year? And let’s not forget a big one: food waste. It all adds up.
So, I decided it was time I did something about it. It was time for me to change my Christmas habits, redesign my Christmas traditions and rethink my gift planning.
I am a big advocate of change and I naturally want to try new things and get rid of old habits that don’t work for me. However, it can be very daunting, especially when you don’t really know where to start.
If that is the case for you too, fear not, because I am here to help you make this the most sustainable festive season you’ve ever had.
Let’s dive in.
So this is a big one. We start with two options here, a natural or a plastic, reusable tree. There are pros and cons for either choice, and both can become eco-friendly choice. If you opt to buy a tree, make sure that it doesn’t end up in landfill, as some 7 million Christmas trees do. If you live in the UK this is –relatively- easy to do so. You can rent a tree which after the holidays will be picked up and get replanted, or you can replant it yourself in your back garden. Another choice is buying a locally grown tree, to cut down on its transportation emissions. The most important thing to remember if you choose a natural tree is to get it recycled after the festive season. In the UK you can do that through your council’s recycling scheme.
The option of an artificial tree is still a good one – I myself have one – but keep in mind that you need to take really good care of it, so that it lasts 10 Christmases or more. That is when, according to the Carbon Trust, its environmental impact balances out that of a responsibly-disposed natural tree.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could also try a new tradition. In Greece, for example, it is very common to decorate a little boat, or karavaki, instead of a tree. This isn’t only sustainable but it’s also unique.
I love giving gifts. It is such a lovely thing to be able to show your gratitude and love for another person, and let’s be honest here…who doesn’t love getting good gifts?
The main thing that bothers me nowadays about gifts is that we equate them to “stuff”, which is either plastic or wrapped in plastic, can break down very easily and has been shipped from miles and miles away. As a solution to this, I decided that this year I will be giving my loved ones presents that are a bit different.
To some I will be giving handmade gifts. I am most definitely not good at DIY but there are so many ideas and tutorials online. To my close family, I will be buying them spa passes, a service that I know they will enjoy and is very sustainable. To others, I will be buying locally-produced, eco-friendly gifts. (The links here are only meant as a guidance, not as an advertisement or reinforcement of any kind).
But most importantly, this year I will make sure I will be giving the most precious gift of all to my loved ones: the gift of time. In this fast-paced and sometimes chaotic world we seem to forget that time spent with family and friends is perhaps the gift with the most value and meaning.
The last thing I will be changing this Christmas is my clothes shopping. Everybody wants to look good and well-dressed during the holidays. Fashion trends have the power to influence a lot of people. During the holidays, especially young people tend to follow these trends so that they look their best.
This year I decided I will not be buying any new clothing throughout the holidays for any festive occasion. I will revamp a few old dresses and wear them instead. Wish me luck with all the DIYs, because like I said, I am not particularly good at it. There are other options for those of you who feel a bit more hesitant about this. For example, my sister exchanged clothes for the holidays with a friend of hers. Both will get to look glamorous all while wearing “new” clothes. Another option that is not only sustainable but also affordable is to buy second hand clothes. And last but not least, in some countries there is also the possibility of renting clothes for the holidays. Unfortunately it hasn’t come to Greece yet but it’s an option to consider for year-round!
Got other tips and tricks on how to have a sustainable Christmas? Share them in the comments below!