Today is the first of December. It’s cold enough that I’ve pulled on my tomato-red Yule Cat jumper over my pyjamas, and this morning we opened our Russian Dwarf Hamster’s advent calendar for him (I think we were more excited about this than he was). This can only mean one thing… Christmas is coming.
Recently on Instagram I asked what content people would like to see, and one friend said they’d like eco-friendly Christmas tips. I could have thought of maybe a couple of tips, five would make a good article, but oh no, we are going all out this year. Here are TWENTY FIVE eco-friendly tips to make this year’s Christmas a sustainable one!
1. A real tree is better for the environment than a fake one. If you haven’t gotten your Christmas tree yet, then I’d suggest getting a live tree this year. I’ve read a few articles on this, but the gist of the matter is that fake trees are made from plastic (from oil) which takes a lot of energy to produce and won’t decompose for hundreds of years. A real tree has about half the CO2 emissions as a fake one. And if you get a potted tree then that is even better for the environment. Me and my girlfriend got one from our local farmers-market and we can’t wait to see it grow with us for years to come.
2. Have a plant based Christmas. In this guest post with Ellie talking about veganism, we already addressed how going plant based is a lot more eco-friendly than eating meat, so why not have a vegan Christmas dinner this year? If you don’t know where to start then you’re in luck because I’m going to be making a little blog post about plant-based Christmas meal ideas soon..
3. Buy food locally or in season. Why not go a step further and buy food locally or look up what veg is in season? That way you can support local businesses as well as avoiding food air-miles.
4. Give an eco-friendly book on Christmas Eve. I’m half-Icelandic but I only learned a couple of years ago about an amazing Icelandic tradition called Jolabokaflod where people give each other books on Christmas Eve. This way families can spend the night cosied up together with a new book to hand. I think this is such a nice tradition that anyone could get involved with – and why not make it extra eco-friendly… Firstly you could get a second-hand book from a charity shop or online at Abe Books to save paper, and secondly why not gift a book on an environmental topic that will make people feel good to read? I love ‘What you can do to reduce climate change’ by Seth Wynes, which has so many easy facts and solutions to follow. And I was so excited to get the Greta Thunberg book from my nan last Christmas – thanks Nan!
5. Support Small Independent Businesses. Instead of funnelling your money to certain billionaires, why not buy your gifts from small businesses that do a happy dance with every purchase? I made this gift guide with some excellent suggestions (if I do say so myself).
6. Buy second-hand from charity shops. If the pandemic isn’t too bad in your area, why not get your presents at a charity shop? You get second-hand items for affordable prices and all the money goes to a good cause – it’s a win win!
8. Make the gifts yourself. Nothing says I love you like something you’ve put time and effort into, and by doing it yourself you’re cutting out all the emissions that mass production factories create. Ideas could be wax wraps, photo disks or home made decorations.
9. Give to charity on behalf of a loved one for Christmas. I know some people roll their eyes when Aunt Lindsey adopts a goat for them at Christmas, but I think that charity gifts are a great idea as it’s both anti-capitalist and your money is going to someone who really needs it. That makes both the giver and receiver feel good. Some charities I recommend are Choose Love and UNICEF as you can pick gifts for refugees, and your special someone can receive an e-card afterwards.
10. If you love this idea, why not ask people to give to charity for you! There are a bunch of environmental charities you can ask them to donate to. One of my favourites is Amazon Watch that help indigenous people protect the Amazon Rainforest.
11. Make your own decorations this year. Instead of buying lots of plastic crap, why not spend some cosy evenings crafting your own Christmas decorations? That makes them extra special.
12. Get your festive decorations from charity shops. If you don’t have time for that then why not find some unique decorations in your local charity shop?
13. Use recyclable gift wrap. 227,00 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each year, which could really be avoided if we recycled instead. If you’re not sure if your gift wrap is recyclable, then try the scrunch up test. As a rule, shiny wrapping paper with foil, glitter or plastic generally isn’t recyclable. Some supermarkets let you know which of their rolls are recyclable on the labels! Or you can get some brown craft paper – you know where you stand with that stuff.
14. Make your own gift tags! I like to cut up last year’s Christmas cards and re-use them as this year’s gift tags. You simply need some scissors and a hole punch, or even a pen if you don’t have the latter!
15. Use Christmas dinner as an excuse to talk to your family about being the environment. If they argue that Christmas isn’t the time for politics, then why not remind them of the political messages in some of their favourite Christmas songs?
16. Use your time off work to educate yourself on the climate crisis. You could read books, watch documentaries, Ted Talks, or even listen to podcasts to learn something important while hanging out at home.
17. Swap your usual box of chocolates for vegan ones. Me and my family usually treat ourselves to a fancy box of chocolates at Christmas. This is usually Quality Street, but recently I found out they’re owned by Nestle (don’t even get me started on how unethical Nestle are). If this sounds like you, why not start a new tradition of getting a box of vegan chocolates instead? Most supermarkets have a great selection of vegan treats, or you can look online.
18. Use your leftovers! A lot of us over-cook for Christmas in anticipation for hungry guests and then find there’s a lot of food leftover at the end. (Or if you’re used to more guests than you’ll get because of the pandemic then it might be hard to size down.) If this is the case, why not avoid food waste and save the yummy leftovers for later? One of my favourite things about Christmas lunch is having leftovers for dinner and brunch the next day!
19. Re-purpose your Christmas jumpers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has put on weight during the pandemic. Which is totally fine, our bodies are perfect whatever size we are. But it can still be upsetting to find out that your Christmas jumper doesn’t fit anymore (this happened to me a few days ago). Instead of getting upset, why not repurpose that jumper! You can make it into hand warmers or a pair of nifty mittens to gift someone this year.
20. Find “new” Christmas jumpers from charity shops or depop to avoid fast fashion.
21. Go on a nature walk. Part of being a climate activist is respecting and appreciating nature. Me and my family go on a nature walk every Christmas and it’s one of my favourite traditions. Nature walks have been one of the ways I’ve stayed sane (-ish) in the worst of lockdown. It also reminds me what I’m fighting for.
22. Donate to food banks. Because of the pandemic, Brexit, and austerity, the UK’s economy isn’t doing too well. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their businesses have gone under, or they may have even ended up on the streets. Consider donating to food banks and homeless shelters this year. Even if you don’t have much, you might find there’s some tins right at the back of your cupboard that you’d like to declutter, and it might make the difference between someone going hungry or having a warm meal for Christmas. Often supermarkets have donation points, or you can look into local projects and homeless shelters near you.
24. Consider switching to a green energy supplier. Chances are you’ll be using more electricity around Christmas time, whether that’s caused by turning up the radiators because it’s cold, or lighting up the Christmas tree, so make sure you’re not contributing to the fossil fuel industry and instead swap to a green energy supplier like Bulb or SO energy.
25. Rest and take care of yourself. This is my last tip and a really important one. Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many reasons. Some of us might be uncomfortable in family environments, or we might be spending Christmas alone for the first time because of the pandemic. Some of us may have suffered a bereavement this year. I understand that. My grandad died in April and it’ll be our first Christmas without him. So whatever you do, make sure you take some time to look after yourself and rest. Check in with your feelings and have some strategies in place for if you feel lonely or overwhelmed. Audre Lorde said that self care is an act of preservation so that you can be a better activist. Take care of yourself this Christmas.
Have any more eco-friendly Christmas tips? Share them in the comments below!