Everyone knows that during the Christmas holidays, people spend a lot more money in the rush to buy food, gifts, and decorations for the celebrations. Of course, with more consumption comes more waste. US homes produce about thirty pounds (13.6 kg) more trash every week during the holiday season, so it is no surprise that many people are looking for greener ways to live. This article will explore how to have an eco-friendly Christmas celebration that is kinder to the environment, cost-effective, and energy-saving.
The bulk of the extra waste around Christmas comes from gift wraps, gift bags, food, and plastic boxes for presents.
During the holidays, Americans make more than 2,887,500,000 pounds (1,309,748 tonnes) of extra trash every year.
You can massively reduce your waste footprint by implementing a few simple changes to the way you and your family consume during the Christmas holidays.
How wasteful is Christmas each year?
The statistics surrounding Christmas waste are shocking. In the US alone, with a population of around 330 million, each person piles on almost an extra five pounds of trash each day during the holidays, bringing the extra garbage weight up to 2,887,500,000 pounds (1,309,748 metric tons). That is a burden that the planet cannot bear year after year. The main culprits that end up in the trash heap are:
- Wrapping paper
- Gift bags
- Plastic gift boxes
- Tissue paper
This holiday season, why not make a commitment to yourselves, your family, and the health of this beautiful earth to reduce your footprint and make the effort to have a sustainable Christmas? The following sections will offer you easy-to-follow and practical advice on how to achieve a more eco-friendly celebration.
Buying gifts can be stressful and time-consuming. You have to carve out time in an already hectic schedule to buy them and make sure that they are the perfect tokens of appreciation. Thinking about gifts that are good for the environment might seem like an extra task, but don't let it worry you—it is easier than you think.
Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your sustainable Christmas shopping.
Look for gifts that come with as little packaging as possible, packaging that you can recycle, or make plastic packaging an absolute no-no this holiday season. Some eco-friendly packaging ideas include:
- Recycled wrapping paper
- Paper gift bags instead of plastic ones
- Organic cotton string instead of plastic ribbon
- Card and paper boxes instead of plastic containers
Go secondhand. Why not set yourself a challenge to buy everything secondhand? Hit vintage markets, online second hand stores, refurbished tech stores, and thrift shops to find thoughtful gifts and antique bargains that don’t cost you or the planet anything extra.
Why not make gifts yourself? A small painting, a poem, a handmade candle, a crochet cushion, and handcrafted essential oil blends are all great ideas for handmade Christmas gifts. If you don’t feel like getting crafty yourself, then head to a maker's market and buy directly from the artists.
Choose quality over quantity
Choose quality over quantity. Rather than getting everyone in the family a gift, you could try a family secret Santa with a budget cap and some no-plastic rules. If you plan ahead with your secret Santa, you could even throw in a handmade challenge where every gift has to be handmade.
Canvas tote bags
Instead of filling up ten plastic bags at the grocery store counter, make sure you bring your reusable bags out with you to limit the amount of plastic waste. A great way to remember this is to always keep a bundle of bags in your car.
Instead of buying things, buy experiences. A few great ideas are:
- Stained glass painting workshops
- A tree-planting experience
- Dinner and a show
- Concert tickets
- Ceramics class
- Glass blowing
- A massage
- A spa or surf day
Sponsor an animal
If you’ve got any animal lovers in the family, why not adopt an animal for them? You can choose endangered species and other wildlife that need extra help to thrive during these challenging times. You’ll be sent regular updates and photos of your chosen animal, and you may even get the chance to visit them on a nature reserve, all while helping to ensure their survival.
Buy sustainable gifts
Choose to only buy sustainable gifts this year. Make sure you look out for zero waste, fairtrade, and organic certified stamps and other sustainability labels on products, or only shop in zero waste retail outlets and online stores. A few sustainable gift ideas are:
- Bamboo keep cup for coffee and tea on the go
- Bee and bug hotel for your garden pollinators
- Wooden travel cutlery set
- Recycled beach waste wallet
- Fairtrade organic chocolates
- Handmade and sustainable beauty hamper
Holidays and eating are so entwined that it is hard to imagine one without the other. We waste a lot of food over the holiday season, which is bad for our budget and the environment. Here are a few ideas to help you and your family reduce your food footprint this Christmas:
- Shop local. Avoid the extra food miles by shopping locally this holiday season. Local food markets often have a lot less plastic wrapping on their fruit and vegetables too, which helps to reduce your Christmas trash pile.
- Buy less. There is often a lot of leftover food during the holidays, which contributes heavily to the mountains of trash pouring out of our homes every year at Christmas. This year, spend some time meal planning so you know exactly what you are going to make and how much food you’ll need.
- Local veg box schemes. Consider getting a local veggie box delivered to your door. You’ll be directly supporting local farms, getting plastic-free food, and plenty of wonky vegetables, which are often discarded as larger stores only purchase ‘perfect '-looking’ vegetables. These boxes can often be considerably cheaper than going to a supermarket, so it’s a win for your wallet and the planet too.
- Compost. Don’t throw your vegetable scraps in the trash can; think about composting them instead. You can make a compost pile in your garden, purchase a compost bin to leave by the backdoor or take part in a local scheme where your scraps and food waste are collected to turn into nutrient-rich compost to be used on local farms and eco projects.
- Leftover lunches. Make your lunches from last night's leftovers instead of throwing perfectly good food away. Some of the tastiest meals can be made from yesterday’s feasts. You can either reheat the food or repurpose it into sandwiches, soups, and stews.
- Limit meat and dairy. The meat and dairy industry has a huge carbon footprint, so perhaps think about having a few meat-free days during the holidays where you can get creative with vegetarian and vegan alternatives.
- Switch to organic. The chemicals used in food production can often have a detrimental effect on wildlife and soil health. Opting for organic or regenerative where you can is a big help for the biodiversity of this planet. Even making a few organic switches in your next shop is a huge help.
Many of us will have a box of sparkles hidden somewhere in the cupboard that only comes out during the holidays. When it comes to Christmas decorations, it’s great to reuse as much as possible and if you want to add anything new, make sure you take into consideration these points to ensure the most sustainable decor possible:
- Reuse your tree. Every year, millions of trees are cut down and then discarded at enormous cost to the environment. This year, think about renting a tree or buying a live tree in a pot that you can purchase once and decorate year after year.
- Take out the tinsel. Tinsel is made completely of plastic and adds to the enormous load thrown into landfills each year that then takes millions of years to biodegrade; it also ends up in our bodies. There are many more eco-friendly options out there, such as paper chain decorations that can be reused each year without such a detrimental cost to the environment.
- Get creative. Instead of buying a plastic wreath for the door, you could make a nature-inspired one with foraged foliage that you can find on a walk through the local park or closest woodland. You could go the extra mile and weave in some bird feed that will keep your flying friends happy over the holidays.
- Turn out the lights. Your Christmas lights do not need to be kept on 24/7. Make sure you switch them off during the night and when you aren’t at home to save on energy consumption.
- Christmas crackers. Avoid the Christmas crackers that contain small and pointless plastic toys that only end up in the trash. Try making your own with toilet roll tubes; you can invent your own jokes or put in family knowledge quiz questions.
- Make your own table decor. Instead of buying new table decorations every year, opt for a more natural and sustainable look by using foliage such as holly leaves for your centerpiece. You can also dry out fruit and paint it gold for that extra festive feeling.
- Candles. This holiday, go for vegan and natural candle alternatives that don’t give off chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Soy wax is a great alternative, and often handmade artisan candles are made with environmentally friendly wax and perfumes.
Happy eco-friendly holidays
During the holidays, people tend to buy too much plastic, use too much energy, and throw away too much food. With global awareness of environmental issues on the rise, it’s a shared responsibility to ensure we are all doing our bit to protect our planet. By implementing a few of the changes suggested in this article, you are actively adding your energy to the protection and restoration of our beautiful green earth.
- Study Finds. Americans pile up nearly 30 pounds of extra trash per week during the holidays.
- McKinsey and Company. Sustainability packaging: Inside the minds of US consumers.
- Statista. US Christmas season shopping - statistic & facts.
- WEF. Christmas, by the numbers: 5 facts about holiday season spending.