8 Guaranteed ways to make your Christmas Eco-Friendly in 2020
Christmas: the time for our closest friends and family to come together for (perhaps excessive) good food, wine and terribly written rom-coms that make us cry anyway.
(The last point may have something to do with the second).
This year is going to be a little different, as there is no guarantee that (we are writing this in England) anymore than six people will be able to meet indoors.
In this blog, we're going to give a rundown of our favourite ideas and tips of how to make your christmas experience as sustainable as possible.
We're going to be talking eco-friendly christmas gift ideas, eco christmas decorations, eco-friendly christmas crackers and much, much more.
We're also going to touch base on a few other things you may need to consider when organising your festivities this year, as a result of the pandemic.
Environmentally friendly Christmas Gifts
Eco-friendly Christmas crackers
Eco Christmas decorations
Eco-friendly Christmas wrapping paper
Eco-friendly Christmas cards
Sustainable Christmas food
Eco-friendly Christmas stocking fillers
Reuse for next year!
1. Environmentally Friendly Christmas Gifts
Arguably the number one on everyone's christmas 'to do' list - the Christmas gift shopping.
With such a variety of gift ideas out there, as well as having to think about gifts for many of your friends and family as well, Christmas is a unique time when it comes to gift giving.
Top tip: Make a gift buying checklist
The first thing to make your life a lot easier when it comes to organizing your gift purchasing plan of action: make a gift buying checklist.
Write down all of the people who you are going to purchase a gift for, as well as an overall budget. We find that when you have this list physically in front of you, thinking becomes so much clearer.
It's also very easy to see if you have a reasonable budget for who you are buying for, and how many people you are buying for.
For example, if you have been married for twenty years, you might want to spend a bit more on your spouse than for your (albeit great) next door neighbour.
Whilst we are talking about gift ideas, let's not forget about gifts for grandparents! You can read more about gift ideas for grandparents in our blog specifically on the subject.
In terms of sustainable gift ideas, there are now many plastic free gifts out there that provide fantastic eco alternatives to traditional high street items.
Here are a few terms that you could search into google, to find just a few potential sustainable gift alternatives.
(We find that direct links are not as valuable as letting you know which terms to search - this way you can find something you love, easier!)
- Biodegradable Glitter Gift Sets
- Wax Melt Gift Sets
- Plastic Free Tea Gift Sets
- Wooden Children's Toys
- Sustainable Beard Grooming Kit
Outside the family, there are a few others you might consider getting a gift for. Teacher gifts are a great way to show your recognition for all the work they are doing to help your child progress in school.
If you are stuck for ideas on teacher presents, we have written a handy guide on how to pick the perfect gift for your child's teacher at Christmas.
2. Eco-Friendly Christmas Crackers
Christmas crackers are an essential part of the Christmas dinner experience, but did you know that 40 million of them are thrown away every year? (We assume the vast majority of them being at Christmas).
There are several issues that go with this mass disposal of crackers every December, with the first one being the toys inside of the crackers.
In our experience, many of the toys are
a) terrible and
b) fullf of plastic.
Because many of these toys will be disposed of straight away due to how poor they are, they are inadvertently becoming single use, or no use, plastic.
This all contributes to the increasing amount of plastic in the natural environment.
Secondly, the crackers themselves are not usually recyclable, which again means they are at risk of ending up in both terrestrial and oceanic natural environments.
Thankfully, this is all starting to change.
Top tip: Choose plastic free crackers, or make your own!
With many of the larger supermarkets beginning to put in measures to limit the environmental impacts they are having, single use plastic toys, and the crackers themselves, are starting to be replaced by more sustainable alternatives.
As well as plastic free crackers, there are also many make-your-own-cracker kits out there for your more creative types.
3. Eco Christmas Decorations
Christmas decorations are a key part of getting into the Christmas mood (along with the cherry and Frank Sinatra).
Typically, decorations can contain a lot of plastic, and aren't easily recyclable.
How can we find sustainable alternatives, that still look fantastic?
The obvious, and easy answer, is nature.
Top tip: Use naturally sourced Christmas decorations
When walking through forests, it's easy to see the extent at which pine cones and other natural objects have fallen from trees. There's no harm in picking these up, and collecting them in a jar to take home with you.
When it comes to lights, we advice going for LEDs - using up to 80% less energy than conventional incandescent lights, their power usage is far lower.
Another alternative would be to use solar powered lights.
The obvious problem is the lack of light during the winter, as well as working out a time system of when and where to charge them.
If you use them in combination with LEDs, though, solar powered lights could be a great addition!
Here is a great blog on ideas for using natural decorations in your home this Christmas.
4. Eco-Friendly Christmas Wrapping
To put the final touch on your gift for the recipient, wrapping is a way of adding great value to the excitement of opening their present.
In this section, we are going to look at the most sustainable alternatives for christmas wrapping ideas out there.
Due to multiple materials being used in some brands of wrapping paper to give the desired effects of sheen and sparkle, it's not always that clear if they are recyclable or not.
Having the potential for non recyclable paper to end up in the recycling bin could lead to recycling contamination, leading to unnecessary waste being sent to landfill.
The first part of the puzzle is to remove the single use aspect.
Why not go reusable this Christmas?
Top tip: Why not choose reusable Christmas wrapping?
Instead of using conventional wrapping paper, reusable bags, which can then also be used as a gift, can contain the present.
If you're of the mind to be thinking about Christmas all year long, or from August at least, you might be thinking of collecting any gift bags you use during the year.
(Just make sure you don't give the same gift bag back to the relative who gave it to you in the first place).
This idea could also apply to tote bags (we know we have a few to spare).
If you prefer to read the newspaper over watching the news, there's no harm in keeping a few papers and using those as wrapping paper! It's completely original (in our family, at least), and is making do of what is already in your possession.
If you are a creative individual, who is prepared to invest a bit of time in learning a new skill, then Furoshiki could be great for you.
Furoshiki is a Japanese wrapping technique, that involves a reusable cotton, or other fabric, piece of cloth.
Conventionally in Japan, the recipient of the gift actually gives back the wrap after they have received the present.
This is the complete opposite of what we have in western culture, and is a great solution to reduce waste being sent to landfill every christmas.
There are lots of videos, and instruction sets out there, if you would like to have a go!
5. Eco-Friendly Christmas Cards
Cards are another essential part of the Christmas experience as we know it. However, as we are becoming more aware of the environmental situation, innovative alternatives to non recyclable cards are popping up all the time.
Let's start with seed Christmas cards.
These cards have the seeds actually infused with the paper, meaning that when they are planted in a viable environment, they will bloom into flowers.
With many different variations available, you could choose a card based on your giftees favourite flower.
Two gifts in one!
Top tip: Choose ecards!
Moving away from the physical cards, there are now a whole host of online cards that could do the job.
If you are set on buying a traditional (although fully recyclable) Christmas card, there are few different ways to make your choice as ethical as possible.
Many charities have their own brand of Christmas cards - any profits they make will go straight back into working for the good cause they are there for.
Usually, there is a clarification of the work the charities do on the cards, meaning that your gift will be able to feel extra good about receiving it (and you, too!).
Next in line are businesses with environmental reasons for motivation. With many company now offering to plant a tree with 'x' amount of cards sold, you could be helping to progress the new breed of ethical businesses.
6. Sustainable Christmas Food
Christmas dinner, arguably the greatest meal of the year?
With all this amazing food, usually comes an amazing(ly bad) amount of packaging, which will end up in landfill.
Shopping from your local butchers often means there is a reduction in the amount of plastic packaging, as well as them being relatively close.
Top tip: Choose farmer's markets for loose fruit and veg
Local shops and farmer's markets also are far more likely to sell loose fruit and veg, again cutting down on the amount of plastic food waste.
Supermarkets are starting to carry out this practice, although many of them still are not.
As well as packaging waste, there is often an abundance of food waste at Christmas. With so much food being prepared for so many family members, it's often incredibly hard to judge how much food to get ready.
This great portion planner from the BBC gives an idea of how much food we really need.
7. Eco-Friendly Christmas Stocking Fillers
If you are a parent (with children of any age), you will know how much your child loves waking up on Christmas morning to open their stockings.
Usually at inordinately early times, making it slightly harder to cope with the extra glass of cherry that might have been consumed the night previous.
Stocking fillers usually contain plenty of plastic, due to the amount of chocolate and other sugary treats in them. In this section, we're going to go over some ideas for how to reduce plastic in your stocking fillers, and how to make them more sustainable in general.
The first, and hardest part, is probably going to be dealing with the confectionary.
With many stocking fillers being packed in single use plastic, and then more plastic inside that, it's really hard to find plastic free confectionary.
Top tip: Visit your local sweet shop for sweets in paper bags
A great idea would be to check out your local sweet shop - many of them sell pick 'n' mix sweets, which are packaged in paper bags.
The next stage is going to be reducing plastic in the deodorants and other washing items.
Many deodorants are contained in a combination of steel and aluminium. These materials are fine, and have a very high recycling rate compared to other materials used for the same purpose.
However, many of these deodorants also contain plastic in the lining of the cap, meaning deodorant cans are harder to recycle as a result.
There are now many natural deodorants out there that use cardboard tubes instead, making them far easier to recycle, as well has having a reduced carbon footprint.
Shampoos and other shower products are also common items used in Christmas stockings. Again, many of these are packaged in single use plastic, which are difficult to recycle.
The solution? Shampoo bars!
Shampoo bars that are packaged in tissue paper and other more sustainable materials, compared to single use plastic, are thankfully becoming more common place.
8. Reuse for Next Year!
When it's all over, there can be a huge amount of waste from decorations, wrapping and pretty much everything else used during the Christmas period.
The good news - much of this is reusable long term, meaning that it can happily sit in the loft until next year.
Our first advice: label, label, label.
Top tip: Label any decoration boxes you store in the attic
We all think we will remember, in a year's time, where we put the LED lights, and where we put the bourbals. But every year, we climb up into the loft, and...
Yes, well, it's not quite as we remember.
New boxes have appeared during the year which are now clogging up the attic, and you can't figure out where any of the Christmas decorations are.
Using a clear, bold and easy to read labelling system can make life so much easier when trying to find the decorations from the previous year.
Using a brightly coloured marker pen, and just writing on a cardboard box in big, bold lettering "DECORATIONS", is all it takes.
Step Into Christmas...
The emissions free.
Well, we wish.
The reality is that Christmas is a time of consumption for much of the world, and there is an environmental impact as a result.
But taking individual steps to reduce the impact on the world around us, really can make a difference.
Choosing sustainability at Christmas is a great way to add a bit more excitement and thoughtfulness to the whole thing, which your family will love to get involved in.
So, thinking of going sustainable this Christmas?
Let us know in the comments!