Want your Christmas to be green, not white, this year? And celebrate the festive season with glow in your heart and a squeaky clean conscience? From ethical gifts to sustainable decoration and fair trade food, we show you how.
1. A Sustainable Christmas Tree
What's the most environmentally-friendly Christmas tree around? Unfortunately, the answer is... no Christmas tree at all. Most Christmas trees come all the way from plantations in Scandinavia, Eastern Europe or Ireland, and as well as all the miles they have to cover before ending up in our living rooms, there are also other reasons to look for alternatives. One example is the fact they are often grown using large amounts of pesticides and fertilisers which pollute soil, ground water, rivers and lakes.
With a bit of creativity, you can magic up something which is just as festive as the real thing, and miles ahead of any plastic alternatives. How about hanging up some fairy lights in the shape of a tree, making a DIY Christmas wall hanging with some pine branches, making an arrangement of twigs with bright red berries, or even just tracing out a Christmas tree with washi tape on the wall?
If you need the smell of real pine needles, and Christmas isn't Christmas without a real tree, then try to buy one that is organic and sustainably harvested. Fair Trees is a good example – a Danish company that sells fair trade Christmas trees produced under environmentally and socially sustainable conditions. And once you've got it home, don't place your tree in front of the radiator – this will cause it to dry out and drop needles.
2. Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations
Avoid buying metal and plastic baubles, and instead try making your own decorations. How about baking gingerbread biscuits and hanging them up with ribbon? You can decorate them with icing in any colours you want, and of course, there's the added benefit of being able to eat them later on, not to mention the delicious smell of baking that will permeate your house.
Making bunting from recycled fabrics from your local charity shop, or from your own clothes that you don't wear any more is another easy DIY idea - no sewing required! Just cut fabric into triangles and thread it onto string or ribbon to brighten up your home in a jiffy. There are also a huge number of different things you can make with scrap paper and card - from simple snowflakes to more elaborate paper ornaments and whole Christmas villages.
3. Energy-Saving and Heating
Minimise your use of electric light over the festive season – turn lightbulbs off and enjoy the warm festive glow of candles instead. Try to buy pure soy candles rather than ones made of paraffin – not only do they burn longer, but they're also non-toxic. And be careful with the packaging too – when it comes to tealights it's better to pick ones that don't have an aluminium casing that will only end up in the bin after the candle has burned down. Pick ones with as little packaging as possible, and place them safely in a recycled jar instead.
Use LED fairy lights instead of tungsten ones, to save both on energy and your electricity bills. And how about some solar powered fairy lights for the garden or balcony?
Getting a new gadget this year? How about stocking up on rechargable batteries rather than one-use ones?
And when it comes to keeping nice and cosy (and those candles will certainly help) the best and simplest tip of all – put on your Christmas jumper and turn down the heating!
4. Alternative Christmas Gifts
Why not show your loved ones you really care by planting a tree in their name? Or gifting them an experience - the chance to spend time together - rather than a physical present? For the low-down on ethical gifting, and the best places to find alternative present ideas online, check out our article: All Give, No Take: Ethical Gift Ideas.
Or alternatively, how about buying a goat in Kenya for Grandma and donating to a skateboarding school in Afghanistan in your brother's name? When it comes to fundraising projects, there's something for everyone. Check out our carefully-selected hand-picked lists of Top 10 Fundraising Projects for even more inspiration.
And what to do after Christmas with all those unwanted presents? There's no shame in regifting! It's an easy way to get involved in the sharing economy. Check out Freecycle.org to find your nearest group.
5. Recycled Gift Wrap
If you do end up buying a few traditional, physical presents, there are a whole load of ideas of how to make the wrapping more eco-friendly too. Avoid buying brand new wrapping paper - especially the fancy kind, with plastic and foil, which is harder (or in some cases, impossible) to recycle - and be kind to the environment and your wallet by wrapping presents in newspaper, brown packing paper or just recycled paper from birthdays and Christmases gone by.
Forget sellotape, and use natural string or reusable fabric ribbons instead. Or place presents in a fabric or paper bag that can be used again. Rather than using plastic-coated ribbons or or bows to give your package the finishing decorative touch, take a walk outside and collect natural decorations - leaves, pine cones, pretty twigs and berries can all add colour and style to a Christmas gift.
6. Conscious Consumption in the Kitchen
Thinking about what you put on your plate this Christmas doesn't necessarily mean having to cut back on the Christmas cheer. All around the world, we are consuming more and more meat and dairy products - the most resource-intensive food there is - so even slightly reducing your intake of these two food groups can make your Christmas dinner slightly more sustainable. Rather than loading your plate with as much meat as possible, try and enjoy quality over quantity. Buy your turkey - or whatever it is you choose - from a local butcher of farmers' market rather than the supermarket, and make sure that it's free-range and organic. This means they've been less energy-intensively farmed, and they'll taste better too.
Simple but effective: keeping the lids on when cooking and using the right-sized pans for the right-sized hobs are both easy ways to save on energy. Try to minimise waste wherever you can - make soup from the meat bones, and freeze any leftovers for later in the year.
When buying imported goods such as citrus fruits, cocoa and coffee – look for a fair trade label. And when buying other ingredients for your Christmas feast try to purchase things that are regional, organic and seasonal too.
Check out our Ethical Gifts Article for unusual, worthwhile (and last-minute!) present ideas that you can buy at the click of a button and for even more tips for green events and eco-friendly hosting, check out our 10 Tips for Eco-Friendly Hosting.
The RESET Team wishes you a very Merry Christmas!
Author: Marisa Pettit / RESET Editorial, December 2017