Christmas is a special occasion that brings family and friends together to celebrate joy and create unforgettable memories. During this time, offices, shops, and homes are decorated with sparkling lights and shiny ornaments to mark the festive season. However, this period is also characterised by overconsumption and wastefulness.
In the UK, 3 million tonnes of waste are generated, 1.7 billion cards are sent- equivalent to 200,000 trees- and 83 sq. km of wrapping paper end up in bins during Christmas. But it doesn’t mean we cannot be environmentally friendly.
Let's make our holiday celebrations eco-friendly by taking conscious steps and following some handy tips.
- Christmas Tree Alternatives
Every year, families are split between a real Christmas tree and an artificial plastic one. Around the debate, there's still a lot of confusion about which type is better for the environment. It's easy to believe that artificial trees are eco-friendly since they save real trees from being cut down. However, fake trees are usually made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which can take hundreds of years to break down and have a massive carbon footprint.
So, what are the options for a sustainable Christmas tree? Here are some ideas:
- Rent a Christmas tree: some companies grow trees for years, and you can hire them when they are big enough. Workers carefully remove your chosen one from the ground, so it says alive, and at the end of the holiday season, the tree is replanted for the next Christmas.
- Decorate a plant or tree you have at home: get creative and turn a houseplant into a modern Christmas tree by adding lights and handmade ornaments. Or dress up a tree in your yard to spread the magic outside,too.
- Grow your tree in a pot: bring it indoors to decorate. Afterwards, move it back outside until next year.
- The ladder tree: bring out your ladder, last year’s ornament, some lights, and strings for a non-traditional option.
- The memory tree: you just need a wall, some strings, pegs, tape and many photos and cards! This alternative option gives you more room for your friends and family.
- Transform your passion in a tree: are you a book lover? Or a wine passionate? You can impress everyone with a wine cork tree or a book tree! Wrap some lights around, choose a topper and celebrate your eco-friendly achievement.
- Go for organic FCS-approved: locally sourced Christmas trees that can be recycled for wood chip or composting. This way, you can have the real deal but with a more environmentally friendly touch.
Extra tip: If you already own a plastic tree at home, treat it carefully so you can reuse it yearly for as long as possible.
These eco-friendly Christmas tree alternatives reduce the demand for fresh-cut trees and decrease your environmental footprint.
- Use sustainable holiday gift wrap
Most mass-produced wrapping paper and gift bags are not recyclable due to unsustainable inks and shiny foils. They are used for just one occasion, thrown away and end up in landfills. So, even the smallest step towards sustainability matters.
Let’s have a look at 4 eco-friendly gift-wrapping ideas to try this year:
- Kraft Paper: it is biodegradable and recyclable. To give the gifts a rustic look, use natural materials like pinecones, dried plants, and dried orange slices for decoration.
- Newspaper, magazine, or comics: with this idea, you can quickly transform your wrapping into something special. Look for interesting or funny articles to complement the gift, or find an unsolved crossword puzzle.
- Gift bags: you can use a multi-purpose bag or create a personalised tote for many years.
- Wrapping fabric: you can find it in some stores, or if you’re into crafts, you can use scarves, bandanas, pillowcases, or dish towels to elevate your presentation.
Whatever option suits you better, get creative and wrap all your gifts with your creative touch. And don’t forget to create your bows from strips of colourful paper and accessories with twine, pressed leaves, and pinecones.
- Gift experiences
Many people enjoy giving gifts. However, this practice has become unsustainable due to the excessive number of unnecessary items purchased each year, often not needed or used. To be truly sustainable, consider gifting an experience instead of a physical item.
Gift experiences are sustainable because they generally don't require any production, so there's no waste, and you can usually buy them from local or small businesses, companies, artists, and teachers. They are also thoughtful and personalised, require active participation and can be inspirational, educational, or fun.
Here are some ideas for a gift experience:
- Get tickets for a train vacation, show, or concert.
- Sign up for an art class or cooking workshop.
- Book a guided outdoor adventure or sporting experience.
- Gift a membership to a gym or a museum.
- Buy a voucher for a SPA Day.
- Create coupons for personal experiences.
- Give a subscription to their favourite platform.
This year, give your loved ones something they will value, use, and enjoy.
- Buy right
If you want to buy new items, consider your purchase before buying it. There are plenty of options to be sustainable.
Here are some examples:
- Fair trade: to support businesses that have met internationally agreed standards and have been independently certified. For example, you can be sure workers have been paid fairly for their labour and have safe and equitable working conditions.
- Shop local: to keep money in your community, support local projects and companies and create new jobs. Also, you reduce your carbon footprint. How does it feel?
- Natural materials, less plastic and not online: embrace it as a new mantra or slogan. Make it yours and apply it to every purchase to be more sustainable and care for our planet.
- Buy second-hand: contribute to having a more sustainable Christmas, as pre-loved gifts don’t add extra carbon emissions to the planet.
- Handcraft a present
Creating DIY gifts can be an incredibly fulfilling experience, allowing you to reduce waste while providing your loved ones with a unique and meaningful item. You don't need advanced crafting skills to create sustainable, eco-friendly holiday gifts. There are numerous simple yet creative ways to make personalised and thoughtful DIY gifts that your friends and family will cherish.
Here are some ideas:
- Homemade food: edible treats make great gifts for foodie friends. Choose from cakes, cookies, jams, jellies and much more. Store in a clear jar with festive ribbon for an excellent presentation.
- Potpourri: an all-natural, easy holiday gift idea using dried oranges, spices, and herbs to create heavenly scents for your recipient.
- Bath salt: generally sold in kits or packages with a lot of plastic and non-recyclable cardboard. Try to make them for your friends infused with roses, lavender, or mint with online tutorials.
- Pressed flower candlestick: some friends love candles; if you want to surprise them, make one. You can customise the scent and add the blend you want.
Unleash your creativity and surprise your loved ones with a unique gift they'll cherish.
Let's consciously try to be more sustainable by trying out some of these sustainable Christmas ideas. It's important to remember that every small action counts, and by sharing information with others and constantly striving to improve our habits, we can make a significant impact.
Let's have a holiday season we can be proud of by being mindful of our actions and making a positive difference for the planet.
[i] Cambridge University