No need to carry the extra holiday carbon footprint this year with these twelve tips for a more sustainable Christmas.
1. ‘Green’ Christmas tree options
Christmas trees have been an issue for those with sustainable-conscious minds for some time now; it’s a bit of a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation.
Buying real Christmas trees which have been cut down to sit in your house for thirty days is definitely a sustainable no-no. So what about buying reusable plastic ones? Well… this might seem like a logical alternative, but the production of one artificial Christmas trees produces 40kg of carbon footprint, according to Active Sustainability. So let’s consider the alternatives:
- The “real” Christmas tree market might not be as bad as we thought. The high demand for Christmas trees means that farmers are planting more trees than usual, contributing to a rise in Oxygen levels that combat greenhouse gasses. The key is in not letting the tree go to waste. If you’re lucky and have the space in your garden, why don’t you plant your tree and add it to the landscape? Or, if you don’t, gift it to someone who has and could use another tree. You could always try renting a tree too!
- Many people are also resorting to new forms of the traditional Christmas tree. From stacked books trees, to vertical gardens, to wall hangings. The list is immense and honestly, as long as you have some lights and ornaments, who will mind what’s underneath?
2. Don’t buy wrapping paper!
The Mancunion has launched its very own sustainable initiative this year, by offering our old newspapers as wrapping paper. There’s no need to buy new wrapping paper when you can have a flashy headline enveloping your grandmother’s Christmas jumper. Head down to the Students’s Union building and pick up a couple of papers!
If you’re not in Manchester, the possibilities don’t end here. My family hosts a ‘zero waste’ Christmas by reusing different packages we have accumulated over the years, or textiles such as large cloth napkins that can then be washed, reused or repurposed.
3. Make your own festive treats
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without an array of desserts to stuff our faces with, but we don’t really need all the excess plastic and paper packaging that comes with them. From mince pies to gingerbread, there are a huge number of easy to make, freeze-able, waste-free, and vegan recipes to try!
4. Make your own Christmas ornaments
With each year comes a different trend for festive decorations – whether it’s an all white tree or peacock feathers and glitter, shops are always trying to get you to buy into this season’s ‘must-have’ aesthetic. But there is something to be said for a more personal touch. I have always loved to look at my Christmas tree and know exactly where the ornaments came from, and the story behind them. There are so many creative ways to make ornaments, be it ceramics, origami, beading or knitting. Handmade decorations can also be great stocking fillers!
5. Buy second-hand clothes
Buying responsibly and saying no to fast fashion is an uphill battle for most of us, and it only becomes tougher during Christmas. The temptation to walk into a high-street shop and pick an item off the shelf to give as a gift is irresistible. However, recent fast fashion scandals, have alerted us once again to the environmental threats of unsustainable buying.
If you are looking for a present for a loved-one, pop into your local thrift or charity store and pick out an old relic that has been well taken care of. Old doesn’t mean bad or ugly – on the contrary, you might be able to offer someone something much more unique and special!
6. Give someone the gift of a hobby
If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that our minds need action to keep us happy. A great way to spruce up your free time is with new skills such as painting, sewing, baking or gardening. Giving someone the tools they need to produce their own things is a step towards not only being more self-sufficient and sustainable, but also feeling more fulfilled.
7. Try vegan alternatives to Christmas meats
The meat industry is heavily responsible for an astonishing 340 million tonnes of the world’s carbon footprint every year. While reducing meat consumption has become a fashionable topic, thoughts of sustainability tend to go out the window when it comes to the holidays. Even though supermarkets are more vegan-friendly by the day, Christmas dinner has remained a very meat-centric affair. To combat this, Peta suggests these Vegan Christmas roasts!
8. Use reusable tableware
Single-use plastics are so out of style, and the same view should really apply to paper napkins and tablecloths! We wouldn’t want future generations to be unable to enjoy Christmas because we couldn’t be bothered to reuse our dinnerware. Mismatched and colourful tables are part of the fun of Christmas and you can always re-purpose textiles or ceramics you have lying around.
9. Make your own crackers!
Crackers are another staple of Christmas tradition in the U.K, but are they environmentally friendly? It seems like the packaging and the (let’s admit it, extremely useless) gifts often end up thrown away as soon as the festivities are over. Instead of wasting your money on plastic trinkets and tired jokes, it’s time to get creative and make your own sustainable Christmas crackers!
10. Fill your stockings with sustainable goodies
Stockings are always a fun part of Christmas, and they can become even better by filling them with truly useful and sustainable products. Bamboo toothbrushes, reusable make-up pads, and cosmetics from Lush are all waste-free fillers.
11. Shop local and organic
Christmas is largely about food and a lot of love is put into cooking but do you really consider where your food is coming from? Buying locally and organically from markets or organic supermarkets (in Manchester see Eight Day Cooperative) is a lovely way to support your local farmers and to help save the planet.
12. Sponsor a farm animal!
Eating meat, does not mean that animals should suffer at the hands of their keepers before their death. If you’re passionate about taking a stand against farm animal cruelty but love a good pig in a blanket, treat yourself to a conscious gift by sponsoring or adopting a farm animal.