Christmas is a time of coming together and spending some precious moments with your friends and family. But it can also be a very stressful time, especially when you’re the host of the party!
But the comfort of your guests should not be your only consideration when planning that get together. Make sure to put some thought into reducing your impact on the environment, too.
The energy used to produce single-use items like gift wrapping paper and cards, and energy expenditure from Christmas lights and traveling are just a few of the things we do routinely at this time of year that can damage our planet.
With that in mind, here are some ideas for helping you make your Christmas one of the greenest ever. Most of these ideas can also be applied in general to all holidays and get-togethers.
Not only will the effort you make impress your guests, but it will be easier to clean up after the party is over, and could actually cut costs. It is also so much more fun to plan!
1. Use reusable bags
Start your sustainability drive before the celebrations by cutting out the plastic and taking reusable bags with you when you go shopping for presents or groceries. If you travel by car, it's a good idea to just keep a stash in the back, or have a few in your purse or backpack at all times.
2. Rent a tree
Real Christmas trees, which are grown on farms, not harvested from the wild, are actually much more sustainable than artificial alternatives. One study concluded you'd have to use a fake tree for 20 years for it to be greener. However, that said, it is still important to recycle the tree instead of just dumping it in a landfill.
But you could go even further by renting a real or fake tree. A number of companies will deliver real or fake trees to your door. You decorate and care for it during the festive period, then they'll pick it up and replant the real ones for use next year.
If you buy a tree instead, make sure it’s been grown as close to you as possible to cut down on transportation footprint. Then, after Christmas, drop off your tree for recycling into chippings for local parks and woodland areas or chop it up and stack the wood in your garden to create a habitat for birds and bugs.
3. Send eco-friendly Christmas cards
Real cards are a gift on their own, but sadly, the paper contributes to waste. Look for cards that have been made from recycled paper and materials, or paper that has been produced sustainably and ethically.
Plantable cards are another option. A number of cardmakers now make seed packet cards that the recipient can sow in the spring.
Make sure that any cards you receive are recycled or composted in January, or you can save them and turn them into decorations for next year.
4. Clothing is another consideration
Waste lies at the heart of fashion. In fact, the clothing and textile industry is the second largest polluter on the planet - after only the oil and gas industry. In 2018, the fashion industry produced 2.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This represents 4% of global carbon emissions – a larger share than that of France, Germany, and the UK combined.
The worst culprit is fast fashion — clothing designed to be worn once or twice before being thrown away. So this year, instead of buying a new holiday outfit, why not rent one, use a clothing swapping app, or reuse an existing outfit instead.
You should also resist the temptation to splash out on sequins, which are made from non-biodegradable PVC.
5. Rethink your decorations
The most sustainable Christmas decorations are family heirlooms that are reused year after year. It pays to invest in slightly higher quality decorations, and if you must, add just one or two a year until you have a complete set that can be used over and over. If you don't yet have enough, use some naturally available decorations like foraged pine cones, holly, mistletoe; or make your own popcorn and cranberry chains, or biscuits threaded on a ribbon.
To add to your collection, look for companies that use designs made from brass, glass, and wood instead of plastic.
6. Make sure the food and drinks are also eco-friendly
You can start by shopping from local producers, especially for meats. This will cut down on food miles, use less packaging, and will not be supporting intensive farming practices.
Reduce your food waste by buying less or using food waste apps like Olio that connect you to people in need in your local area. Another tip is to eat the food in your freezer in the run-up to the holidays. This will create space for leftovers. Slice leftover turkey and ham thinly, then wrap it in parchment and freeze it for a quickly defrosted sandwich filling.
7. Don't forget the other party supplies
Buy reusable or recyclable supplies and avoid plastic products. Try to minimize the use of disposables as much as possible. If you don't have enough dishes, you can ask friends and family to bring along their own plates, cups, or cutlery that can be washed and taken home. Or consider using a rental service for glassware and dishes.
8. Switch to LED lights
One easy change that can make a big difference is to ensure your Christmas lights are LEDs and. Christmas will still look bright and twinkly, but it will make a huge difference in the amount of energy used during the festive season.
LED lights use an average of 75 percent less energy and can last up to 25 times longer, meaning you'll save both energy and money.
9. Wrap with recycled paper or fabric
If you are careful about removing the wrapping paper on gifts, you can easily reuse it. While most people re-use last year's wrapping paper or recycle it, many rolls contain non-recyclable elements like foil, glitter, or plastic.
To test if wrapping paper can be recycled or not, scrunch up the paper in your hards and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up then it can be recycled but, if it unfolds by itself, then it likely contains non-recyclable elements.
Whatever you decide, start by buying recycled wrapping paper. Or, you can wrap gifts with colorful fabric instead, which can be used over and over again. Another tip is to wrap gifts in pillowcases — making two gifts in one.
10. Choose gifts designed to last
If you're giving physical gifts this Christmas, make sure they're designed to last. Make sure they are made with sustainable materials, are easily repairable, not designed to be used once and thrown away, or are upcycled. Source your gifts locally, or from independent suppliers, to reduce travel miles and waste.
Or consider giving experiences instead of objects. Food or craft kits, online courses, and days out all make great gifts.
11. Connect with nature and give it a gift too!
And finally, try to plan a nice walk in nature at some point in the day. Not only will this help you reconnect a little with the natural world, but it will also help build up a strong appetite to eat all that food you bought! You can combine it with picking up litter - start a new family tradition by making it a contest, with a gift for the family member who picks up the most.
You could also give nature a gift on Christmas day. Plant a tree, for example.
And that is a wrap (pun intended).
Christmas can be a stressful time of the year, and making sure your party is eco-friendly might seem a bit too much effort, but you'll feel much better for doing your bit to reduce your impact on the environment.
Before we go, let us be the first to wish you an early Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!