WENderful Christmas – guide to living sustainably through the holiday season By Alice Larsson, Volunteer
Consider renting a Christmas tree this year, that way it can continue growing after you’ve used it! Just make sure it’s been grown sustainably. That way you don’t have to worry about the disposal of the tree. Or, buy a tree with roots if you have a garden you can plant it in after Christmas.
If you live in the Leicestershire or Coventry area you can rent a Christmas tree from Love a Christmas Tree, and the proceeds will go towards helping fund the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline. If you’re looking for a tree for commercial purposes, Nurture’s Christmas tree hire provide trees from FSC certified forests in the U.K, they can also provide the decorations and decorating so you don’t end up throwing away baubles every year.
STOP BUYING TINSEL, it’s plastic that can be a choking hazard in your own home, let alone to the environment once it reaches landfill. Consider alternatives like a popcorn garland or paper chains for a more stress-free Christmas. Or, make your own! You can follow this cheap and simple guide, do it with kids or friends – just make sure you don’t eat everything beforehand! There’s also the option with this method to preserve the garland for next year.
Consider soy, beeswax (unless you’re vegan) or natural vegetable-based wax candles to create cosy Christmas lighting at home instead of paraffin based candles as they are made from petroleum residue which not only is bad for the environment, but isn’t great for your health either.
This is a Dorset based company who started making hand poured soy candles specifically to combat the effects of using Paraffin based candles in the home. All their candles are in glass, tin or ceramic containers – no plastic in sight! For a really good breakdown on how to make your own candles using only natural based waxes see this handy guide. Avoid scented candles (synergic fragrance) unless they are made with organic essential oils.
Christmas gifts - books
Books are always a great idea for Christmas gifts. Have a look in your local charity shop for A1 condition books. Or check out WEN’s shop and pick up Why Women Will Save the Planet – fabulous gift. Online you can buy from Persephone Books who focus predominantly on works by Mid-Twentieth Century Women Writers.
If you live in London you can buy new and second hand feminist books every Saturday from the Feminist Library in Lambeth.
Christmas gifts - toys
If buying for children, consider wooden instead of plastic toys - the parents will be pleased with a more chic toy lying around the house. Check out this range of ethical toys. Try to avoid toys made of PVC which often contain hazardous chemical softness. Make sure wooden toys are not made of plywood or painted.
Christmas gifts - plants
For your green-fingered friends, give plants like herbs or seeds as they are a sustainable present that they will appreciate! A popular alternative to herbs for those who would prefer low-maintenance plants is mushrooms! You could buy someone seeds from the sustainable, community owned UK based seed company, Seed Co-operative. Their webshop has vegetable seeds of all kinds, from Gooseberries to Pak Choi.
Christmas gifts - for cooks
If you are willing to splash out, any present that helps people cook at home and use less disposable packaging, like a yoghurt maker, soup maker or pressure cooker is a good option. Yoghurt makers are probably the cheapest of the three which are only one step away from making at-home fro-yos! Check out this guide.
Give a WEN gift membership
For the feminist who has everything, our gift membership gives the receiver not only news on our campaigns but discounts with several ethical stores!
Christmas gifts - Experiences
Experience presents - think local! - foraging, outdoor experiences, zero gravity tunnel, cookery class - less material consumption, maybe even just as simple as taking them out to dinner. Search for experiences by the region of the U.K that you live in, what kind of experience you’d like to do and in what budget. Think about what you want to give this person, is it the chance to relax? A way to face their fears? A skill they can take away with them? Maybe you can use it as a gesture to show you want to learn more about something that interests them? Just don’t forget to check the pricing, as sometimes it will show the pricing for one participant or two.
How about arranging a Secret Santa? Rather than buying a gift for everybody for Christmas, everyone randomly selects a name from a hat and only buys that person a gift. Stress free Christmas! You can use this secret santa generator in order for a full proof secret draw of names, all that a group of people need to do – be it your office, your friends or your family – is sign up with their name and email and they will be emailed their draw. Simple!
Use glass or ceramic pans for cooking Christmas dinner in the oven, they heat up faster than metal pans which requires less energy and time in the long run to cook your food! In fact, you can set the temperature to 25 degrees lower than it says on the recipe for the same effects. If you’re willing to splash out, get your hands on an Xtrema pan – but be warned, it can be difficult to get hold of them in the U.K. These pans are entirely ceramic, meaning that unlike other ‘green labeled’ cookware that is only ceramic coated, they don’t leak toxic substances into your cooking.
Glass cookware also avoids substances like lead leaking into your food, and this option by Glasslock is BPA free and 100% recyclable.
Use brown paper/ newspaper wrapping
You can usually get hold of a roll of brown paper from your local post office, leaving you with a blank canvas to decorate the wrapping in your own way, or if you want a more rustic look, tie natural sisal twine (which you can also get at the post office) around the gift. This twine is biodegradable and compostable. With 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! If for whatever reason, you are far from a post office, or your newspaper consumption is low, there are recycled wrapping paper options 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.
Make your own
Food as a present is a great option, consider things that will last longer like preserves, toffees, make your own kits that only require one wet ingredient that the receiver is likely to already have at home. You could do the same with make your own beauty products - like lip or body scrubs. Download our Fruity Beauty Recipe Book from the WEN online shop for more ideas or as a stocking filler.
Use washi tape when wrapping presents, it’s biodegradable and way more colourful! You might be using newspaper and sisal twine to wrap your presents but are you still using a transparent cellotape? This can reduce the amount of paper that is able to be recycled, so why not switch to a plastic free tape like…
For the booze, consider buying corked wine instead of those with plastic screw caps - cork trees aren’t cut down, just part of the bark is removed, leaving the tree alive. As you’re unlikely to be able to bundle all your used wine corks in with the rest of your council recycling, keep an eye on ways to recycle them. Branches of Laithwaites collect cork for recycling and you can grind it up into a fine mulch to help potted plants retain water. Or, you can get crafty and make a hot pad for your kitchen table!
Food - Sustainable shopping, cooking and packaging
Christmas really is all about eating – a time to treat yourself to a seasonal, healthy and delicious festive feast! So why not try some fresh local produce? Or, better yet, grow your own! Different types of cabbage, including kale, and brussels sprouts are at their best in December – so raid your garden for some delicious green accompaniments to your Christmas meals.
To add a new twist to the classic sprout, try halving them, then frying with a few cloves of garlic. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese and a good pinch of salt and pepper over the top for the perfect vegetable side.
Carrots and beetroot are also in season at this time of year, and they make great accompaniments to the classic roast! Simply roast both in the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until they are soft, then serve hot with crumbled goats cheese and roughly chopped almonds sprinkled over the top.
Christmas is a time when we like to treat ourselves to good food. So why not try out some fresh local produce? Look for organic, locally produced or fairly traded food; visit a farmers market or a food cooperative.
Buying nice fresh vegetables might even make you curious to try having a meat-free Christmas dinner this year. An average festive meal for eight people represents 20kg of CO2 emissions, 60% of which are attributable to the turkey: from its production to its long preparation in the oven.
Vegetarian and vegan options are generally much less carbon intensive. Nut roasts, pies and filo pastries make delicious Christmas dishes. Here’s an opportunity to cook something new and to bring new flavours to the dinner table for the whole family to experience! We’ve collected some of our favourite recipes for you to try here.
Make 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!
Christmas Gifts - subscriptions
Shop locally or at markets, to reduce the air miles of your gifts. Lowers your carbon footprint and supports small businesses.
Last minute shopper?
Last minute present shopping? Buy vouchers or experiences, not stuff! Paying for someone to do something they wouldn’t normally afford is environmentally friendly and giving them a treat. Tickets to plays, ballets, day trips, evening classes or short courses are all great gifts that don’t cost the earth!
Or how about ditching the whole gift buying. Make the focus on family and food and being together. But of course you need to convince everyone first!
Happy Christmas! Wishing our supporters a wonderful festive season.
Have a WENderful Christmas
Your guide to living sustainably through the holiday season. Top tips, gift ideas and recipes in our handy guide.
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