Sustainable Christmas Tips

A version of this article was first published in the newsletter Towards Sustainability #5, November 2020.

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration but often also one of massive overconsumption and waste, but hey, it doesn’t have to be like that.

If you read Egle’s article in last month’s issue of TS or John’s article here from last year then you have plenty of food for thought about how to reduce the amount of unnecessary gifts that we buy and some great ideas for what to give friends and family, but that’s just the beginning.

Let’s start off with how to wrap those gifts. You don’t have to package everything in paper and ribbons that will be thrown away the minute they have been ripped open.

You could wrap presents up in organic fabric kitchen towels, a couple of simple knots and maybe a cinnamon stick and you have a package that looks nice, smells nice and can be used in the kitchen afterwards. Wax wraps made from old fabric would also work really well and are a great sustainable way of keeping food fresh later.

You can do something similar with scarves, especially if you know the taste of the person who is receiving the gift. You can use a nice scarf as packaging and it is like an extra little present. 

For sure you have many bags, bits of material and maybe some ribbon or lace at home somewhere, so just reuse it. You can use old magazines or newspapers, they are always a great fit if you are giving books. You can make things more exciting by adding some dry leaves, maybe a dried chili or orange slice.

You can make some reusable bags by yourself or buy them, they can be reused and useful in future for whoever receives them. A bit of creativity and imagination as well as a bit of advance thought will help you to wrap great looking presents. 

Once you have the presents out of the way, there are always decorations to think about.

Do you really need to bring home a big cut Christmas tree? Instead why not choose a small tree in a pot, one you can plant in your garden later and maybe in the future decorate it outside. Or maybe you can make your own Christmas ‘tree’ from pictures, books or just use branches.

You don’t really need to buy new plastic decorations or lights every year, use the ones you already have. Maybe create a tradition to make handmade Christmas decorations, even better if they are ones that smell of ginger and cinnamon and can be eaten after! Or, maybe add one new decoration each year, it will create a new memory.

Don’t go crazy with the Christmas lights, sometimes less really is more. Also, if you are buying new lights then choose the energy saving ones or solar if it is possible. 

Then of course there is the food, this is the season where we all traditionally overeat until we feel sick and can’t get into nice new clothes that we might have just received as gifts.

As well as eating too much we tend to throw far too much away. All festivals come with a lot of food waste, try to make sure you avoid it by conserving, repurposing or freezing leftovers, or just reduce the amount that you buy and cook in the first place.

Bring more ecologically farmed and organic food to your table, you are helping the environment, your tastebuds, and also supporting local producers. 

Finally, this year is a bit unusual because most of the world will still be living with some kind of COVID-19 induced restrictions. Keeping your physical distance doesn’t have to mean no talking, and a handmade personally written card can make someone’s day for sure. The personal touch is always important!

We wrote some tips last December as well, and titled it How Not to Hate Christmas, which is really the big thing, that it should be a time to feel good, fun, and not stressful. The key to a fun and sustainable Christmas season is really pretty simple. Less plastic, less packaging, less stress, less driving to the shopping malls, less presents and more quality time!

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