This year, we're dreaming of a green Christmas. Here are 12 ways to make your festive celebrations environmentally friendly.
Christmas is the most magical time of the year. The lights, the music, the festive jumpers – everything about it makes us warm and fuzzy inside. Unfortunately, it’s also a very wasteful time of year. From decorations to buying food and gifts in excess, Christmas often increases our carbon footprint.
Our science-savvy readers will know that C-12 is the most abundant form of carbon in the world, and so with that in mind, climate change experts at Cool Planet Experience in Wicklow have mapped out 12 ways to reduce it.
“Imagine a Christmas filled with quality time with loved ones, thoughtful gifting and delicious food that won’t cost the earth,” they said. “We can celebrate Christmas in a more sustainable way this year, without losing any of the festive sparkle.”
1 Christmas tree
The Christmas tree is one of the most iconic symbols of the Christmas period, with its aromatic pine needles filling the house with festive cheer.
While artificial trees might be more convenient, they’re not quite friends of the planet. Climate change experts at Cool Planet Experience say artificial trees are often transported all the way from China, and what’s more, they can’t be recycled.
“This year, why not choose the greenest Christmas trees – ones that are locally grown, support a local farmer, smell incredible and are carbon neutral?” they say.
“Every locally-grown tree in Ireland has been absorbing carbon during its lifespan and is replaced by one, or two new trees in its place. When Christmas is over, you can bring it to your local authority depot to be turned into mulch, which allows the carbon to be transferred to the soil.”
2 Christmas cards
Another way to reduce your carbon footprint is by sending e-cards by email, Facebook or WhatsApp, rather than by post – particularly if the recipient is abroad.
“Save those delivery miles this year by sending virtual Christmas cards and greetings to your loved ones,” say environment experts. “Get creative with a photo or video and send your special greeting via Whatsapp.”
3 Christmas jumpers
Fast fashion is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to wastefulness this season. Rather than flocking to the high street for a new Christmas jumper, why not invest in a vintage option?
“If you have time this year, pop into your local charity shop and you will be amazed at the selection of Christmas jumpers on offer,” says the team at Cool Planet Experience. “Pick up a preloved gem and donate money to a good cause at the same time.”
4 Christmas gifts
There are lots of ways to gift sustainably this winter. Firstly, make life easier for everyone by opting for a Kris Kindle/Secret Santa with your friends and family. It takes the hassle out of shopping and results in buying one purposeful present rather than 10 impulse buys. Next, buy local where possible to reduce travel miles.
Another way to make a difference is to gift experiences (such as concert tickets or dinner in a favourite restaurant) rather than wasteful stocking fillers. You could also consider ethical gifting by donating to your friend’s favourite charity in their name, or by sponsoring a child to attend school. “Did you know, educating women in disadvantaged areas is one of the most impactful ways of taking climate action?”
Lastly, if your children’s toys require batteries, it’s worth investing in a rechargeable battery pack.
5 Gift wrapping
It may come as a surprise, but not all wrapping paper is recyclable. If it has foil sections or glitter on it, it’s not suitable for the recycling bin.
For that reason, it’s worth using plain brown paper with old-school twine to wrap your gifts. If you want something more extravagant, Pinterest is full of beautiful-yet-sustainable wrapping ideas.
6 Christmas lights
“Why not light up your tree and house with LED Christmas lights this year?” ask experts at Cool Planet Experience. “They’re safer, they don’t heat up, and over a lifetime they use less energy than standard Christmas lights and will save you money.
“You could even get more adventurous and try solar-powered rope lights the next time your lights need replacing,” they suggest.
Rather than buying plastic baubles or figurines, consider turning to nature. A beautiful display of evergreen sprigs, plants and yule logs are a great alternative to plastic.
Alternatively, visit a local Christmas market or craft fair (where Ireland’s most talented craftspeople will be on-hand), and pick up some handmade options for your home.
Not only is the plastic packaging non-recyclable, but the trinkets inside are often thrown straight into the bin. If you can enjoy Christmas without crackers, great. But, if they’re a big part of your family’s festive tradition, have a look for environmentally friendly options on Etsy and Amazon.
9 Christmas dinner
“Save yourself the stress, storage and waste by only preparing the amount of food for the number of mouths you are going to feed,” recommend the climate change experts. They also suggest buying local, seasonal ingredients, rather than food that’s been imported.
10 Christmas parties
As a guest, there isn’t a lot you can do about the sustainability of a Christmas party. But, you can dress sustainably. By wearing something you already own, you can eliminate fast fashion and significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
What’s more, you can choose to carpool or use public transport, rather than getting individual taxis. Small decisions like this add up.
By writing a shopping list of everything you need for Christmas (and by sticking to it as much as possible), you can avoid unnecessary journeys to the supermarket later in the week (and save you money too).
Don’t forget to leave space in your freezer too. That way, rather than throwing out leftovers, you can freeze them for another day.
12 New Year’s resolutions
“Let’s all aim to make this the year that we choose to live like planet-positive Agents of Change,” says Cool Planet Experience. Not only that, but they recommend we encourage friends and family to do the same.
Remember that government grants are available for those seeking to upgrade their home. From solar energy to insulation, there are many ways to improve the energy rating of your home without breaking the bank.
Similarly, Cool Planet Experience has a number of simple lifestyle changes that can make a big difference. See their sustainable living tips here.
Photography by Unsplash. This article originally appeared in December 2019.