The complete guide to an eco-friendly Christmas
An eco-friendly Christmas is easy to pull of. All you need are a few considerations for the environment, a little bit of planning and a green mindset. Here are 8 ways to reduce your impact on the earth this Christmas:
Eco-friendly gift ideas
Christmas presents are a great way to introduce loved ones to more eco-friendly, plastic-free products that they might not usually buy themselves.
CONCENTR8ED eco bars - We may be biased, but you might just convince someone to switch from plastic bottles to plastic-free bars for good.
Handmade presents - Give a gift truly made with love. Depending on your skill set, try knitting, drawing, baking, sewing, painting or crafting presents. If that's not your jam, try something handmade from Etsy.
Locally-made products - Instead of cheap gifts made in overseas factories, give a gift from a local producer or creator. The carbon footprint will likely be smaller and you're supporting local businesses.
Vouchers - Let your loved ones choose something they actually want or need for themselves instead of playing the guessing game.
Nothing - Many people ask for nothing because they simply do not want or need anything. Agreeing to enjoy each other's company or sending good vibes instead of a material gift is something that should be encouraged. We have enough stuff on this planet.
Any gift wrapping paper that is shiny or has glitter on it is not recyclable so ensure you dispose of this properly.
Eco friendly gift wrapping ideas
Recycled brown paper: Use as you normally would to wrap gifts.
Paper tape: Most tapes are plastic-based. Go for compostable paper tape instead.
Old newspapers or magazines: This isn't trashy (pun intended). Using newspaper and magazines is an aesthetic in its own right.
Twine: Ditch plastic ribbons and bows for ordinary garden twine.
Fabric gift wrapping (Furoshiki): Use wrapping fabric or second-hand scarves to wrap gifts using the furoshiki method. Encourage the gift receiver to re-use the material for someone else next year.
Zero waste Christmas dinner
More than four million Christmas dinners are tossed each year. That’s equivalent to 263,000 turkeys, 7.5 million mince pies, 740,000 portions of Christmas pudding and 11.3 million roast potatoes - mostly straight into landfill. Here's how you can easily prevent food waste this Christmas:
Plan ahead: Plan according to how many people will be present and how much they can realistically eat. We usually greatly overestimate portions when it comes to the holidays.
Freeze leftovers: Meat, poultry and seafood will only last a few days after cooking so it's best to freeze it in smaller portions if there's a lot leftover.
Reusable containers: While it's convenient to stock up on single-use items that can be tossed after Christmas dinner, these are likely to sit in landfill for centuries. Keep single-use items to a minimum.
Make it yourself: We all know freshly prepared food tastes much better than pre-packaged, convenient options. They're usually cheaper and less wasteful too.
Don't overdo it: Christmas comes every year. There's no need to go completely overboard.
More plant-based Christmas options
You don't need to have a vegan Christmas to make it more environmentally-friendly. Plan more plant-based options. It's especially easy to make deliciously meat-free starters, snacks, sides and desserts.
For the love of Christmas, can we please outlaw tinsel? Here are some common environmental Christmas decoration hazards:
Microplastics: Often in the form of glitter and tinsel. These pollute waterways and the ocean. Microplastics are making their way back into the human food chain via fish - and they're small enough to be absorbed by our cells.
Toxic chemicals: Most Christmas decorations are made from cheap plastic, paints and materials which emit toxic compounds into the air that are damaging to our health.
Energy waste: Christmas lights (that aren't solar powered) are likely powered by fossil fuels. If you can't go without lights, try limiting the time you have them on.
What to do instead: Use handmade and locally-made decorations that are made from natural materials such as wood, leaves, branches and fruit.
The plastic vs real Christmas tree sustainability debate
Plastic Christmas Trees:
According to the Carbon Trust, creating the plastic used in fake Christmas trees (from oil) accounts for around 66% of their carbon emissions. Another 25% is created by the industrial emissions produced when the tree is made. Their carbon footprint is increased further by the trees typically being shipped from China.
If you already own a plastic Christmas tree, the most environmentally-friendly thing you can do is keep using it until the end of it's life. This can be a few decades if you take care of it!
Real Christmas Trees:
Real Christmas trees may easily seem like a more sustainable option. They're plastic-free, natural and compostable. It can also be a great way to support local businesses. But there are a few factors to consider.
Many commercial Christmas trees are grown using pesticides and synthetic fertiliser which can wreck havoc on the environment. Trees are heavy and require significant fossil fuels to transport, especially if going long distances.
The British Carbon Trust has found that a natural tree that is properly disposed of has a 3.5 kg CO2 carbon footprint. If the tree ends up decomposing in landfill, its footprint jumps to 16 kg. So there's a big difference of the impact depending on how you dispose of the tree.
Other eco-friendly options:
Find a second-hand plastic Christmas tree to use instead of buying one new.
Grow a Christmas tree in a pot that you can use for a number of years.
Decorate a pot plant you already own with eco-friendly decorations.
Go tree-free this year.
The most eco-friendly Christmas card is the one you didn't send. But if this is a tradition that you don't want to part with (it's a pretty cute one at that), then opt for cards that doesn't contain glitter, electronics or are shiny as none of these are recyclable. Bonus points for buying recyclable cards created by small artists.
Don't forget to pin this guide for later:
If you received a gift that you just know you're never going to use, here's what you can do with it:
Be honest: If you don't say anything to the giver, they'll likely think you loved the gift. If you have the kind of relationship with them to do so, tell them it's not really your cup of tea. They may have kept the receipt and can return it; they'll definitely know for next year.
Re-gift it: Re-gifting gets a bad reputation but it's a very eco-friendly thing to do. It should even be added to the 7 Rs of Zero Waste!
Sell it: The second-hand economy is booming and there are a host of apps that allow you to resell things you have no use. These include eBay, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Vinted, Poshmark, Depop and more. We're often made to feel guilty about doing this. But isn't it better the unwanted gift find a home with someone who actually wants it instead of collecting dust and probably ending up in landfill?
Landfill should be the very last option for unwanted gifts.
How to have an eco friendly Christmas:
It's the most wonderful time of the year, but Christmas is also one of the most wasteful holiday periods. With a little bit of planning and consideration, you can shrink your environmental impact this festive season.