While many are becoming environmentally conscious when it comes to our day-to-day decisions, it is easy to forget when it comes to special occasions such as Christmas. However, with just a little effort, you can make the Christmas holidays, where the potential for overconsumption and waste is high, a bit greener this year. Here are a few tips on how to make your 2021 Christmas celebrations more sustainable.
We have all been there. You open a gift from your distant relative, pretend you really love it, tuck it somewhere deep in the corner of your room and never use it again. Unwanted gifts are a huge source of unnecessary production and waste. According to the survey by finder.com, approximately 61% of Americans receive at least one unwanted gift over the Christmas holidays. That is approximately $15.2 billion wasted on unwanted Christmas gifts, which is a lot of money that could be spent on something more meaningful than on things that are never going to be used anyway. On top of that, clothing and fashion accessories account for around 43% of unwanted gifts. Considering the huge environmental impact that the fashion industry has on our planet, we should know better than to cause such unnecessary pollution.
And it is memories that last over material things after all.
Nevertheless, gift-giving is an important part of the Christmas holidays for many. Thus, rather than skipping on gifting your loved ones, keep these 3 simple things in mind. Consider giving an experience instead of physical gifts. The popularity (together with the availability) of experience gifts has been growing in recent years. Wine-tasting, sky-diving, concert tickets, luxury car drive, pottery or even cooking classes. The possibilities for intangible gifts are endless. Experience gifts are not only way more sustainable but memorable. And it is memories that last over material things after all.
However, experience gifts are not for everyone (and they can be a bit pricey too). When it comes to physical gifts, always consider quality over quantity and look for gifts made out of sustainable materials. Instead of giving a bunch of different things, invest in one quality gift. Avoid single-use plastics or materials that cannot be recycled and opt for products made out of organic, recycled or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified materials. Vintage clothing or decorations are also a great way of gifting more sustainably while saving precious resources that would otherwise have to be consumed for the production of new products. Still unsure about what to give? You could also just simply load whatever amount you have to spend on a gift card to your family member’s favourite store and let them pick what they like.
Last but not least, wrap your gifts in an eco-friendly way too! While surely pretty, the colourful gift tapes, plastic ribbons or glitter wrappers are mostly single-use only and non-recyclable. Look for recycled or FSC-certified wrapping paper and practice your wrapping skills with many tape-free wrapping methods you can find online.
Real vs. fake tree
The Christmas tree is an inevitable part of the Christmas holidays. Even though many argue that plastic trees are a more sustainable alternative, the truth is that it really isn’t. Sustainability is not only about the use. When assessing the sustainability of a Christmas tree, you have to look at its full life cycle – what happens before and after? The overall impact of getting a fake Christmas tree is more than twice the carbon footprint of a real one. Production of a plastic Christmas tree produces about 40 kg of CO₂-eq compared to 16 kg of CO₂-eq for the production of a real one. Not to mention, real trees actually take CO₂ in and produce extra oxygen. Buying is not the only option. You can nowadays step up your sustainability efforts by renting a Christmas tree that will be returned and replanted after use – probably the most sustainable option of them all.
Besides the tree itself, also think about the decorations that you use. Switch regular lights for the LED ones to save on energy (don’t forget to switch them off at night) and use eco-friendly Christmas tree decorations. LED lights use up to 95% less energy than traditional holiday bulbs and can last up to 100,000 hours. When it comes to decorations, you can either go full DIY mode and make your own decorations from extra material you find around the house or upcycle the old ones from last year.
Whether you decide to rent a Christmas tree, get everyone a zero-waste gift or go vegan with your Christmas dinner, there is no right or wrong. There are many areas of the Christmas holidays that you can slightly alter to make them more sustainable and every little thing or decision you make counts. Whatever you decide to do to make your Christmas more eco-friendly this year, keep in mind the true meaning of Christmas. Is it the overload of food, sparkly decorations and flashy gifts or the precious time spent with your loved ones?
Cover: Pavel Danilyuk
Edited by: Debby Mogot