So how do you have an eco-conscious Christmas without becoming a seasonal Scrooge?
For many people, Christmas and the festive season, is about family, feasting and fun. Yet, for some, it has also become overly commercial with the emphasis on buying more and more stuff that we don’t need or want. Stuff that is contributing to the climate crisis that we urgently need to address, with communities in the Global South impacted the most. Is it possible then to have a good Christmas without harming the planet?
Here are our top tips on how to have a green festive season:
People in Britain buy around eight million trees every year and despite growing recycling efforts, over six million end up burnt or dumped in a landfill (according to the British Tree Growers’ Association). So what’s the most environmentally friendly Christmas tree option?
The winner is the potted tree. You can plant it in your garden after Christmas and bring it back inside the following year. An average breathing tree will also capture over 1 tonne of carbon per year, compensating for around 10% of your annual carbon footprint! You can rent potted trees too, but make sure it is a local company to cut down on emissions from delivery and pick up.
If you don’t have a garden or the space to keep a potted tree, real trees are a good option. Make sure to purchase it from a seller committed to growing trees in an environmental and sustainable manner.
If you have an artificial tree, by all means re-use it! Plastic trees are ranked third by Carbon Trust due to their carbon-intensive manufacturing processes. But by reusing your tree, you can lower its environmental impact. Just remember: plastic trees do not recycle well so even if you want to switch to a real tree, make sure to donate rather than throw the old one away…. Or how about making your own Christmas tree!
THE PERFECT GIFT
Us Brits spend more on Christmas presents than any other European country.
Various polls show families with children under the age of 18 will spend between £1,000 to more than £2,700 in total at Christmas, with gifts making up the vast majority of the spend. Those without dependent children spend less than half that amount. This is a time when shops and advertisers will constantly make you believe that you need to buy more. But all too often gifts are doomed to landfill site after just one use.
How about being radical and having a gift free Christmas? Or ask everyone to instead contribute to a charity of your choice. Want to give gifts? Why not give the gift of an experience – a course, workshop or outing? Or plant a tree or support a worthwhile cause or charity, such as Wen. Don’t buy new gifts – instead up-cycle or re-gift unused or unwanted presents or items. Look in charity and second hand shops. Or how about having a go at making your own? Check out our Fruity Beauty recipe booklet for gorgeous body products. If you really want to buy new, then read this guide on ethical Christmas shopping from Ethical Consumer.
IT’S ALL IN THE WRAPPING
Cut out the foil and cellophane this Christmas. Go for brown paper or fabric, such as second hand scarves – leaving you with a blank canvas to decorate the wrapping in your own way. Use twine or sisal to tie the gift. We love newspaper, you can strategically choose certain images or headlines to be visible – maybe you can tell your receiver to guess what’s inside based on the headlines! There are recycled wrapping paper options too, like Re-wrapped. This company use 100% recycled materials to make their wrapping paper and vegetable ink, so all their own products are recyclable too. Don’t forget to use washi tape when wrapping presents, it’s biodegradable and way more colourful! If you are after gift bags how about making gift bags out of used cereal boxes or cake mixes. Make 4 holes with a hole punch and thread through string or ribbon. Voila a funky bag!
Sustainable fashion is the new black. Clothing has an environmental impact at every stage of its life with the biggest impacts occurring during production (70%). Petrochemical-based pesticides are used in cotton production and the production of plastic fibres comes from crude oil. The average consumer buys 60% more clothing than 15 years ago and by 2050 global emissions from the fashion industry will account for 25% of all emissions. If you are gifting clothes this Christmas then why not give recycled fashion a go?
Shoreditch based Reve en vert is the self-proclaimed Net-a-porter of sustainable style. They supply beautiful, high-quality fashion, beauty products and jewellery that are as environmentally friendly as they are aesthetically pleasing. Their clothes are designed by a well curated group of designers who have both ethical and environmental interests at heart, and are also guided by a desire to create really high quality garments. Depop, the second and third hand online fashion sharing platform, is renowned for its one off items, exclusive 80/90s pieces in perfect condition. Alternatively head to your local charity shop or organise a Christmas or New Year’s clothes swap.
GUILT FREE CHRISTMAS DINNER
The Christmas meal is often the highlight of the festive season – a place where people can enjoy the labour of early morning cooking and weeks of preparation. Can you have a delicious meal while also addressing climate change? The answer is yes!
Meat production is undeniably one of the biggest polluters. Animal agriculture makes up roughly 30% of the global emissions so cutting it out this Christmas has a significant impact on emissions. 68% of the world’s agricultural land is used for growing crops to feed livestock. Why not try a meat-free Christmas? Check out this Vegan Wellington and Chestnut, Mushroom and Red Wine Pithivier recipe.
At Wen, food growing and campaigning for a sustainable food system is a key focus for us. We champion and support community food growing projects across the borough of Tower Hamlets. We suggest buying organic, local and seasonal veg for your festive feast from local growers or a food co-op. This helps to put money back into locally run businesses and communities and avoids unnecessary single-use plastic packaging.
Remember too to check the labels of your mince pies, cakes and biscuits for palm oil. Make your own, or read labels carefully. Find out which products to buy and which to avoid.
WASTE FREE CHRISTMAS
The Christmas season usually means an abundant amount of food, drinks and treats much of it ending up as waste in landfill. So how do we reduce our waste?
- Write a shopping list – this saves you buying things that you don’t actually need.
- Allow family members to serve themselves. Most people know how much they can eat, if it’s not served onto a plate it’s left in the dish and saves being scrapped into the bin.
- Pets deserve a good Christmas dinner too! Leftovers can be a cheaper alternative to buying pet food for a week.
- Package everything up and give it away to family members (ask them to bring containers with them, so they can leave with a doggie bag and you don’t have to use cling film or foil)
- Compost! – most councils will now collect food waste for composting. Make sure you have your little green bin readily available to add your food scraps. Or why not use this opportunity to set up your own home composting with a Bokashi Bucket?
PLASTIC FREE CHRISTMAS
So how do you make it plastic free?
Why not give a fruit and veg box a go this Christmas? These come direct from the farm without any extra packaging. Or look out for a local green grocers. Shop at your local plastic free/zero waste store. There are lots popping up in towns nationally or have a look online. Take along your own containers and bottles to buy all your essentials.
Buying toys this Christmas? Avoid plastic and go for sustainable wood options. Myraid has some beautiful gift ideas. It’s easy to reach for the cling film. Stock up on beeswax wraps or simply store in bowls with a plate to cover.
If you are hosting a Christmas party, go plastic free by hiring extra glasses (many supermarkets offer this for free), begging and borrowing extra cutlery or buy some from second hand shops – this way you will always have enough cutlery.
Love your Christmas crackers but hate the plastic tat? Why not make your own? We have instructions in our Wenderful Christmas booklet. Or pop an ethical chocolate on each plate or make your own little table favour. Use one of our beauty product recipes in mini glass jars. Or have a go at making your own scented tea lights with essential oils.
BEAUTY WITHOUT THE CHEMICALS
A lot of the products marketed to help reduce our wrinkles, thicken our hair or improve our skin are full of harmful chemicals that may actually be causing more damage than good. What we put on our bodies can have as much of an impact as what we put into it. Perfume can have between 50 to 300 synthetic chemicals in them. Making your own cosmetics and beauty products using all natural, organic ingredients is the best way of ensuring that you aren’t applying harmful chemicals to your skin, and of course, everyone prefers a homemade present! Check out our recipes in our WENderful Christmas booklet 2019 version
Have a Wenderful Christmas!
For more ideas about how to have a green Christmas check out our Wenderful Christmas booklet 2019 version
By Sarah Uwanoma and Heidi Ringshaw