It’s the most wonderful time of the year: time for cozy parties, holiday feasts and presents underneath the Christmas tree. But have you ever stopped to think about the environmental impact of your celebrations? Here are our tips for a greener holiday.
All our gift-wrapping, turkey-baking and hall-decking during the holiday festivities creates an astronomical amount of waste. The amount of wrapping paper thrown away at Christmas time in the UK alone would stretch all the way to the moon. And in the US, the ribbon used for gift wrapping every year would be enough to tie a bow around the entire planet. That’s not to mention food waste from extravagant dinners, emissions from long-distance travel to see loved ones, or billions of Christmas trees that end up as landfill.
Luckily, there are some simple, fun and savvy ways to reduce your Christmas’ footprint this year without being a total Grinch. We’ve collected our top 27 tips for a greener Christmas that can be every bit as festive as usual.
Getting Ready: How to Decorate Sustainably
Choose Your Tree Wisely
- Although an artificial tree may seem like a smart and reusable option, these are often made of petroleum-based PVC and produced in China. What’s more, these normally end up in a landfill someday since they cannot be recycled. A real tree is biodegradable, compostable, and normally travels a much shorter distance.
- For bonus points, consider a potted tree that can be planted after the holidays or seek out a local Christmas tree supplier with a sustainable and chemical-free tree farm. Norfolk Pine trees are also beautiful houseplants that can live indoors all year round.
- If you know your tree is au natural, you can even reuse your pine branches to make your own cleaning products, delicious treats or medicinal teas and balms before you compost it!
- If you’re feeling crafty, consider making your own tree-substitute from foraged branches. Or if you’re the lazy type, decorate your houseplants instead.
Deck the Halls
- There are so many beautiful, natural and biodegradable options to decorate your tree and your home. Use clippings from your garden or local woodland to bring the outdoors in.
- Make your own natural garlands: a DIY dried citrus garland with twine adds a pop of color. Or string popcorn around the tree that can be left outside for the birds after the holidays. Create a pinecone garland to add a touch of winter wonderland indoors. These are all fun holiday activities to do with kids and can make cute gifts as well!
- Shop secondhand holiday decorations—thrift stores are often full of quirky vintage decor around the holidays.
- Isn’t it a shame to throw out stacks of beautiful Christmas cards every year? Use last year’s Christmas cards to make a garland or paper chain or fold them into stars or snowflakes to be re-used or gifted as ornaments. Don’t have any old ones lying around? There are heaps of fun Christmas Eve or Boxing Day craft ideas to reuse the cards you received this year in the run-up to Christmas. These Christmas card crafts are a great way to keep young kids occupied while you cook Christmas dinner.
- Say yes to LED. When it comes to the Christmas lights, opt for LEDs with timers to reduce electricity use. Timers also save you the trouble of crawling behind the tree every night to unplug lights. For outdoor displays, go for solar-powered lights
Planes, Trains and Automobiles: How Will You Get Home for Christmas?
- Consider train or bus travel over flying. Airports are always crowded around the holidays, flight prices are steep, and snowstorms can leave you stranded. Long train trips can be a beautiful and relaxing way to take in the scenery, with none of the hassle of airport security or the stress of driving cross-country. By train or bus, you can sit back and finish writing your Christmas cards or watch your favorite Christmas movie while traveling green.
- Even driving your car creates far less CO2 emissions than a long- or short-haul flight. Consider ride-sharing to reduce your impact and save on gas money!
- If there’s an ocean between you and your family, you can still offset your flight’s carbon emissions through organizations such as Atmosfair.
What’s for Dinner? Create Fair and Festive Feasts.
- Planning a dinner party or preparing for your special Christmas Eve meal? Bring out the best dishes. Disposable cutlery, plates or napkins harm the environment — and why not enlist some extra help to do the dishes after the meal? Many hands make quick work, and you can play some festive Christmas music to keep the party going as you scrub!
- Borrow any extra baking trays, dishes or utensils you might need from family or friends rather than buying new or disposable ones.
- Plan ahead to avoid waste and ask guests to bring a container for leftovers.
- Still wondering what to include on the menu? Opt for local produce, organic options, and delicious vegan dishes to reduce your dinner’s footprint.
- Recycle cans, Champagne bottles and eggnog cartons and compost any food waste when the party’s over.
- A natural touch. Use foraged twigs, pine sprigs from your tree, berries and pinecones to add a festive touch to a plainly wrapped gift.
- Clever Christmas Cards. Make your own cards by re-using parts of last year’s cards or opt for cards made of recycled paper.
- Green Gift Tags. Here’s an easy way to reuse old Christmas cards: Just cut out the part you like and punch a hole in it to make a festive and eco-friendly gift tag.
- Eco Bookmarks. Yet another idea for reusing old Christmas cards: cut them into bookmark-shaped strips and add a ribbon from a gift you received. These can double as a holiday greeting card or gift tag if you write a message on the back!
- Think ahead. Don’t have any of these supplies lying around? Keep them in mind for next Christmas and save your gift wrap, Christmas cards and ribbons in a box for next year’s crafts!
- That’s a wrap. Skip the shiny, non-recyclable gift wrap and get creative with your gift-wrapping choices. Wrap gifts in reusable tote bags, reuse old gift bags, or use newspaper, paper grocery bags, or spare fabric. You can even opt for a gift wrapped in a gift: use a scarf or bandana to package a smaller gift. How cute would it be to gift an apron tied up inside a dish towel? Practical and eco-friendly, we like it.
Give Gifts with a Personal Touch
- Give less. We all inevitably receive Christmas gifts that we don’t actually want or need. A nice guideline for gift shopping is to gift your loved ones from these 4 categories: something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Then your gifts are sure to hit the mark and you can avoid superfluous stocking-stuffers.
- Give gifts with a personal touch. When gifting your loved ones this year, get personal. Give them something you really think they’ll want or need. Skip the generic gifts and add a personal touch like an inside joke, a special memory, or a nod to their favorite hobby and it’s sure to be something they’ll cherish.
- Give reusable items. Encourage your loved ones to be more eco-conscious by gifting them something they can use over and over, or a gift that replaces a disposable item—such as a custom reusable water bottle, travel mug, or tote bag.
- Give responsibly. Opt for fair-trade, locally made, or organic gifts. Go for an organic cotton T-shirt or tote bag, a piece of art from a local artist, or a self-made gift