This is an archive article written before the current pandemic.
We all know Christmas is supposed to be a time for giving. It is the season of joy and exchanging gifts with loved ones. However, it can also be the most expensive time of the year causing damage to our environment! Did you know, for example, as many as six million Christmas trees will be incinerated or dumped into landfill sites in Britain after the festivities are over? That’s enough trees to stretch end to end from London to the North Pole and back. Needless to say, we thought it’d be a good time to put together a list of 10 tips to prepare for an eco-friendly Christmas without compromising on our festive spirit.
The Christmas holidays hold a lot of promise for people, but the sad fact is, waste collection going to landfill increases by around 25% at this time of year. If everyone changed just one aspect of their Christmas preparations to help make Christmas more sustainable, we can make a considered difference. It’s easier than you may think!
10 Tips To Prepare For An Eco-Friendly Christmas
1 Think twice about battery-operated gifts
A top tip for an eco-friendly Christmas would be to buy presents that don’t need batteries. Battery waste is a big issue for the environment so by making your gifts battery-free, you’ll be taking a small step to help. If you have to buy gifts needing batteries, then why not include a pack of rechargeable batteries along with your gift?
Let’s look at more ways you can switch up your Christmas habits to make them eco-friendly and sustainable.
2 Gift wrapping
One of the biggest issues with Christmas wrapping paper is that it is not easily recycled through your household recycling waste collection. However, some local councils organise special collections for wrapping paper, so it is worth checking with your local authority to see if this is available in your area.
It isn’t easy to find biodegradable gift wrapping paper and if you must wrap your presents in fancy paper, we recommend choosing 100% recycled and recyclable paper from a retailer such as Re-Wrapped, a London-based company offering wrapping paper and cards made from 100% recycled materials.
3 Alternative gift wrap ideas
There are other ways to wrap your Christmas presents using more eco-friendly or reusable materials. The following alternatives can give your presents a unique and stylish look while at the same time doing the least harm to the environment:
Butchers paper: A roll of recyclable butchers paper and twine can make your presents look smart and quirky. You can jazz up the paper with stencils or festive ink stamps using environmentally friendly ink or paint.
Cloth bags: Use material draw-string gift bags that can be saved and reused for years to come. Cloth gift bags can be made at home quite easily or you can buy them online from Etsy coming in a wide range of sizes and designs making your gifts look beautiful and elegant. Plus, your gift recipient can use the gift bags for storing belongings or save them for wrapping gifts next year!
Tea towels: If you cannot sew your own cloth gift bags, then why not use tea towels! This is actually a genius idea because not only can you wrap up your Christmas gifts in some pretty tea-towels, but your gift recipient gets an extra gift of a useful tea-towel as well.
Biscuit tins: Ah, the traditional box of festive biscuits! Once you have munched your way through the contents, you can save the pretty tins and use them to fill with gifts for next year. This idea can add an element of surprise because instead of biscuits, your loved one will find something completely different hidden inside!
4 Real tree or fake tree?
Choosing your tree can strike up a real dilemma, especially if you want Christmas to be as eco-friendly as possible. Will it be a real tree or an artificial tree? If you live alone, you can be even more confused about whether or not to buy a tree at all. But if you are a sucker for a sparkling tree, then carefully consider the options.
Both real and artificial trees have their advantages and disadvantages, so when you think about it, no matter which you choose, there will be a sustainable and eco-friendly advantage. But, choose according to whichever option suits your ideology the best.
Opting For A Real Tree Why not offset your choice by planting a new tree in its place? You could even buy a rooted tree in a pot and then plant it in your garden after Christmas.
If you choose a real tree, then make sure it is properly recycled. Many local authorities organise Christmas tree collections or offer tree drop-off locations where you can take your tree in the New Year. The trees are usually chipped and used by local councils for landscaping projects.
Already have an artificial tree? Then use it!
Thinking of buying an artificial tree? If you are buying an artificial tree, then finding one of very high quality and one you will be equally as happy to use year-on-year can be a real advantage. According to a study by the American Christmas Tree Association, an artificial tree would only have to be used for 3.6 to 4 years before there was a net benefit with regard to the contribution made to global warming.
5 Christmas Lights
Also, when decorating your tree and home, use LED energy-saving fairy lights, which use up to 90% less energy! Remember to switch them off at night to save even more energy.
6 Use natural decorations
Did you know plastic tinsel is near impossible to recycle? Instead, choose natural decorations our great-grandparents would have used to decorate their homes!
Go on a refreshing winter walk through local woodlands to see if you can find any real ivy, holly sprigs, mistletoe, pine cones and evergreen tree trimmings. If you don’t have woodlands nearby, seek out natural decorations at local markets, Christmas fayres and at florists. At this time of year, there will be stall-holders offering hand-made natural wreaths, decorations and sprigs of holly and mistletoe.
The great thing about using natural decorations to make your home sumptuous at Christmas time is that they can be composted in the New Year.
7 Eco-friendly Christmas food shop
One thing really getting us in the mood for Christmas are supermarket TV ads for festive food. However mouthwatering, tempting and convenient it may be to dash around your local supermarket snapping up pre-prepared Christmas food; you cannot help but notice the amount of unnecessary packaging that comes with it!
Go, ready with your own bags and containers and buy loose fruit and vegetables. Shop at counters for meat, fish and cheese and you never know, not only will you be helping to save on packaging but your pocket may benefit too; as very often products found there can be attractively priced. When living solo and needing small quantities, you’ll also be reducing the possibility of waste. By knowing where to be savvy with your food shop, you’ll choose luxury foods discerningly.
Alternatively, you can help reduce waste by shopping at local farms and farmers markets for fresh, locally grown and reared products. Again, taking along your own shopping bags and containers from home will eliminate the need for plastic bags and packaging. Plus you get to hand-select your own fresh fruit and vegetables for your Christmas dinner and you can pick the most plump-looking fresh turkey or roast for your table, direct from the farmer! With practically zero-food-miles involved with shopping locally, you can save yourself and the planet a small fortune at the same time.
Plan to spend a day or two at home cooking, baking and preparing Christmas dinner or festive food. Freezing portions of veg, mince pies, puddings and biscuits in advance will help make the festive period as easy as possible on yourself, reducing the need to buy pre-packed and otherwise expensive food. By preparing and cooking, you’ll have the food you want and love at the times you wish for it, made to delight your very own taste buds.
8 Shop local for green gift-giving
Help your local economy by shopping at independent retailers, supporting local artists and bespoke craftspeople. Not only will you be cutting down on your carbon footprint by not buying presents online that need shipping from all over the world to reach you; but you will also be helping a local family business have a happy Christmas, pay the bills and put food on the table.
Giving locally handmade gifts will also be far more unique than handing out generic gifts available everywhere.
9 Re-gifting is okay
We all have too much ‘stuff’ and it can become an issue when after Christmas you start looking for space in your cupboards to store your gifts only to find last year’s Christmas presents staring right back at you! A sneaky and eco-friendly way to save money (and save more stuff from heading to landfill) is to organise your cupboards and re-gift anything that would make suitable presents. You can create two separate piles – one for regifting as presents and the other for donations to charity.
10 Don’t forget the gift of ‘you’
One of the most eco-friendly gifts you can give that doesn’t cost anything to produce or uses any environmentally damaging materials is the gift of ‘you’!
Giving your time, energy and attention are often the most appreciated gifts, especially at Christmas time. Most of us know someone who would benefit from our time to make their festive season extra special.
We have presented our 10 tips to prepare for an eco-friendly Christmas but there are bound to be more. If you are reading thus far and have more ideas, then please share them with us and the Solo Living community in the comments section below or on our social media pages.