Christmas is just around the corner, and everybody is getting ready to welcome the holiday’s spirit inside their homes. Those who are mindful about the environment, however, pause to take stock of what an eco-friendly Christmas means, as they know the holiday brings a heavy toll on the environment and overall sustainability. Today, we will discuss a handful of tips, tricks, and ideas on how to spend an eco-friendly Christmas without burdening the environment even more than we regularly do.
Why is It Important to Spend an Eco-Friendly Christmas?
It seems that in the U.S.A alone we cut about 21 million trees, spend around $75+ billion on Christmas gifts, and send approximately 2 million of paper greeting cards. While the data is scarce, specialists consider that around Christmas, countries such as the U.S., Australia, or the U.K. contribute with over 2 million tons of greenhouse pollution, each.
Given such data, it is only reasonable to try reconsidering Christmas as a whole. The rule of thumb when you want to spend an eco-friendly Christmas (and enjoy it fully without missing anything) is a simplification. There are many ways to become more sustainability-friendly, and Christmas makes no exception. Let’s see next what can we all do to celebrate this glorious holiday without negatively affecting the environment.
The Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree
There is no Christmas without a tree. While natural trees seem like the best choice, we have to remember that we all throw them away soon after the holidays. On the other hand, while cutting down millions of trees annually only to dispose of them in a few weeks is a terrible waste, plastic trees, no matter how real they look, are just as bad. They require copious amounts of energy to manufacture, not to mention they, eventually, become plastic waste as well. Here are some other alternatives to consider, nevertheless.
- Instead of buying a new plastic tree, try shopping for a used one. The longer people use a plastic tree, the better it is for the environment. Plastic trees do not suffer incredible damage, and you can revamp yours quickly if you bought it second-hand.
- If you live in a house rather than in an apartment, you can grow your own potted Christmas tree. It takes some maintenance and a huge pot, but you can bring it inside every year, decorate it, enjoy it, and then put it back outside in your beautiful yard.
- Rent a potted Christmas tree from a nursery or garden center. More and more such services are available around the world, and they do us a huge favor. After the holidays, some centers come to collect the tree from your home and spare you the hassle.
- You can make your version of a tree – DIY projects make family holidays glorious and, with little money and plenty of imagination, you can have your own branded tree that looks unique.
Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts’ Wrapping and Bags
The sheer amount of paper we use each year for gift-wrapping is staggering. Do we have to mention that paper with a metallic shine to it is less biodegradable than usual paper and a nightmare to recycle? There are many simple, yet beautiful ideas on how to solve the Christmas gifts and wrapping dilemma this year in an eco-friendly manner.
- Recycle old wrap paper and gift bags you already received (and store around the house) – not so long ago; we presented you with a guide on how to reuse gift bags and wrap paper and come up with original items.
- Ditch paper altogether and go for sustainable fabrics. For instance, pick jute Christmas socks this year instead of paper gift bags or cardboard boxes. Besides being one of the most durable materials on the planet, jute adds texture, character, and color to your gifts. The best part is that the jute Christmas socks are reusable and the receiver can create some original gift bags or home decorations with their help.
- Offer gifts in small/medium canvas tote bags that people can use for shopping or wear with casual outfits.
- Offer gifts in jute/burlap gift bags, which are reusable, gorgeous, and adding a rustic, elegant flair to all types of presents, including wine bottles.
- Sometimes it is difficult to wrap gifts that have irregular shapes; ditch the chemically treated wrap paper and go for jute gift pouches – besides being reusable, they also make an original household item in the kitchen or pantry (some people store coffee beans or dry fruits in them).
- If you want to use paper, up-cycle and get creative: newspapers with twine, children drawings with bows, and an old colored cotton/canvas tote bag of yours with string (cloth makes one of the most exciting gift wraps), and so on.
Of course, you can step up your game and decorate Christmas tote bags and pouches to offer incredible experiences to your loved ones.
Kids love arts and crafts projects, and they will never say no to a DIY playful project. You can take the opportunity to teach sustainability at home and explain why it is essential for humankind to consider an eco-friendly Christmas more.
Other Tips and Ideas on Sustainable Christmas Gifts
Besides picking sustainable materials for your gifts bags and wraps, you can further your eco-friendly agenda and go green with the presents themselves. Here are some tips:
- Shop locally from family-owned stores and local farmers to support your community;
- Offer – in the name of your loved ones – to charity and causes you to know they support; nothing speaks better of the Christmas spirit than a card saying that a person sponsored the education of children, animal protection, empowerment for women, the building of social homes, disaster relief, and more.
- Organize a Secret Santa type of gift offering in the family or your circle of friends to simplify things, have some fun, and save money, stress, and environmental burden.
- If you have a particular skill, use it. Bake cakes for your loved ones, build them something, make a photo album for them, paint them something, and write them something, and so on. People appreciate a thousand times more a gift that comes from the heart and hands of a loved one.
- Offer memories instead of gifts and make things easy and fun. Here is our guide on the best Christmas gifts for couples to get your inspiration going! Moreover, if we talk about the experience instead of objects, think about membership cards, tickets to events, travel tickets, shopping vouchers for some of their favorite stores, and so on.
Other sustainable gift ideas for this eco-friendly Christmas include:
- canvas tote bags for ladies with a sense of style and an eco-friendly approach to fashion to wear them next season;
- locally crafted and bought gourmet delights (honey, jam, all sorts of salty and sweet spreads, cakes and crackers, cheeses, and so on);
- deluxe polyester briefcases for the young and dynamic men in the family or friends’ circle;
- old classic books for the young generation of readers (coming in beautiful and reusable book bags);
- handmade Christmas decorations (with holly, beeswax candles, pinecones, crafted wooden ornaments, and more).
- Something you can make yourself, as we said above: knits, bakes, drawings and paintings, handmade jewelry, wooden coasters, and more.
Eco-Friendly Christmas Cards
There is no other way to say this but straightforwardly: go digital! You can personalize an e-card any way you like, and for every person you want. This way, you will save a handful of trees, not to mention that each of your colleagues and friends will get a personal and mindful card.
- If for some reason you still want to send paper greeting cards, buy charity cards from a foundation or a social enterprise.
- You can also pick cards and envelopes on recycled paper if you want to use paper;
- Make your own Christmas cards from old gift bags or children’s drawings.
Eco-Friendly Lighting and Decoration
As you can easily imagine, energy consumption skyrockets during the Christmas holidays. When it comes to Christmas lighting and decorations, you can make some changes to save money and energy without chipping away at the Christmas spirit. Here are some ideas:
- LED lights represent an excellent alternative for indoor and outdoor trees and decorations. While the initial investment is a bit higher than usual, LED lights are energy-efficient and durable, saving you money for years.
- For indoor lights, use a timer. They can go on when you are at home and off when you leave the house or go to sleep;
- Use sustainable Christmas decorations that do no break and look great year after year. Wood, cloth, scraps of paper, burlap, pinecones, fallen leaves, and more make excellent decorations.
- If you go for plastic decorations, make sure you get Plastic 1 or 2, and you keep the items for years on a row to reduce their environmental impact.
- Buy handcrafted decorations from charities, your local artisans and associations, and more. Besides achieving your eco-friendly Christmas goals, you can help others have great holidays as well.
- For a touch of nature in your home Christmas décor, pick up pinecones, holly, fallen pine branches, nuts, and dry fruits and make strings and other decorations with their help.
Eco-Friendly Christmas Dinner
First and foremost, break up with plastic, even if it is easier to throw away disposable plastic cups, plates, and utensils than washing a ton of dishes. If you think about an eco-friendly Christmas to include cooking and having friends and family over dinner, here are some tips:
- Christmas is all about mindfulness and connection to others. You can achieve such goals by supporting your local communities, farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs by getting local, free-range, homemade, artisanal, and organic foods.
- Use a carpool system when shopping for the Christmas dinner and supplies to save more energy and money;
- Use glass bottles for your water, sodas, other beverages or alcoholic drinks instead of plastic PET bottles;
- Buy fresh foods (meats, cheeses, vegetables, eggs, etc.) from your local market instead of supermarkets: they taste better, and you do not need to make it a goal from throwing away an immense quantity of plastic wraps and bags;
- Always use jumbo canvas shopping tote bags when you shop for this Christmas. Plastic bags are a definite no-no, while canvas bags are reusable, stylish, and won’t break no matter how much food you buy;
- In America (and all over the world, actually), we waste so much food; we could feed the other half of the planet that is starving. You can go two ways to put a stop to food waste and landfill overcrowding. Shop for food mindfully and considering that you do not eat as much as you imagine. The second way about it is to donate the extra-supplies to a local food bank, a charity, a soup kitchen in your town, and so on. Christmas is about sharing and thinking about others – so do not waste any more food, but offer yours to those less fortunate than you.
- Make sure you compost all your food scraps and leftovers you cannot eat or send them to farms for animal food. This way you can reduce waste and even give your lawn a substantial boost in the spring.
- Get recipes on how to use Christmas dinner leftovers for delicious snacks, dinners, or quick lunches. There are a bunch of chefs, culinary books, websites, and even apps promoting the use of leftovers as main ingredients for other dishes to reduce food waste.
Having an eco-friendly Christmas is not that hard, as you see. All it takes is mindfulness and a keen sense of what Christmas is: sharing, caring, charity, connection, and simplicity. You can gather your friends and family members at your place so everyone can contribute with something they made (handcrafted decorations or food), and spend a lovely Christmas together while keeping the environment in mind.
An eco-friendly Christmas also include your kids. Make sure the little ones understand the importance of keeping the planet we call home cleaner and safer. Responsibility comes within the family, so this year, have a merry eco-friendly Christmas and celebrate togetherness!