The holiday season is finally upon us!
I hate to be The Grinch on Christmas and burst the holiday spirit bubble, however, the Christmas season as wonderful as it is, is also the most wasteful time of the year. Every year we spend a fortune on shiny wrapping paper, holiday cards, gifts packaged in Styrofoam, bubble wrap or shrink wrap, adorned with swing tags, sticky tape and all the extra trimmings.
ALL THIS WASTE!! And let’s face it, the kids don’t really worry too much about these extras, they are more interested in what’s inside. The good news is that we can keep our favorite Christmas traditions whilst trying to adhere to eco-friendly values.
In the spirit of the twelve days of Christmas, i decided to put together a list of 12 ways to minimise the waste this season.
- On the first day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I chose to Use Alternative Wrapping Paper Methods.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “it is estimated that we produce 4 million pounds of gift wrap waste each year, which is enough to fill 5,787 football fields.” This is not destined for reuse or recycling but ends up in trash bags headed for landfill.
- On the second day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I chose to Re-Think my Christmas Tree.
There has been much debate on whether an artificial or real tree is eco-friendlier. I have done a little research to help you decide, here is what I found:
- Artificial Christmas trees are made out of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which is a petroleum-derived plastic, non-renewable and polluting, so you definitely won’t be recycling this one.
“In the most definitive study of the perennial real vs. fake question, an environmental consulting firm in Montreal found that an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually. The calculations included greenhouse gas emissions, use of resources and human health impacts.” Read more here
- Real trees according to one source: “each year, 33 to 36 million Christmas trees are produced in America, and 50 to 60 million are produced in Europe” (produced meaning cut down). That’s a lot of trees! But real trees can be recycled as mulch or used for compost.
There are some pros and cons to both options, so the choice is up to you. If you don’t want to have a tree at all, there are some beautiful creative alternatives which I would suggest you check out, as these can sometimes also be a cheaper alternative.
- On the third day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I chose to Get Creative with My Christmas Decorations.
Christmas decorations have always been one of my favorite Christmas activities, and one the whole family can get involved in. I love hanging ornaments and reliving the memories that comes with each one. Saying this, storing the items and having to take them down each year does become a real chore.
So what does this have to do with zero waste? Answered basically: less stuff = less waste = saving money = less stress and anxiety.
While most of us intend to use decorations again and again, this doesn’t always happen. If buying new decorations, pay attention to what they are made of, and avoid anything that looks like it will break easily.
Think about how you’ll store them between Christmases, because chucked into a box and shoved to the back of a cupboard might not do them any favors. Storing in lidded containers, old plastic containers, or storage tins will keep dust out and help protect them for the years to come.
If you are like me and prefer decorations that have a little more meaning because they have been made especially by you or a loved one, then I would suggest checking some of these lovely DIY ideas.
- On the fourth day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Put Some Thought into My Gifts, Not All Gifts Have to Be Store-Bought.
I won’t bore you with a detailed list of gifting ideas but rather check out this great list of 70 zero waste gift ideas.
- On the fifth day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Decided to Send E-Cards.
There are better options to sending letters and cards to your loved ones far away to wish them a Merry Christmas. This year why not replace cards with e-cards and e-mails to save paper. This will reduce your carbon footprint since it eliminates the fuel used for transporting your mail.
Here are some options if you’re thinking of trying this idea out.
- On the sixth day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Planned my Meals Accordingly.
Here’s one plus I’m sure everyone can agree on about the Christmas Holidays and that’s the festive foods and treats. BIG meals, parties, appetizers and the festive drinks. We normally over cater which generates a lot of food waste which lands up going to landfill.
A common misconception about food waste going to landfill is that it will just ‘compost away’. But it doesn’t. Food sitting in a landfill is not exposed to chemical reactions that occur in a compost bin, and therefore, food in a landfill just rots and produces a lot of greenhouse gasses.
Plan to use those left overs before you even start cooking them, there are so many options and recipes out there.
- On the seventh day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Put on My Christmas Themed Clothing.
The festive season comes with a large number of Christmas fancy dress parties, and there is inevitably that urge to make sure you are dressed to the tee or at some point during the holidays, we are in need of some new clothes. Luckily, there are a lot of options with regards to saving money and reducing waste when it comes to making sure you look your best for all occasions.
- On the eighth day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Chose to Reduce the Impact of My Lighting.
Another consideration when it comes to Christmas decorations, is your lights. Christmas lights can be especially festive, however, they can quickly increase your electricity bill. If you’re thinking of having lights outside, look into getting some solar-powered lights rather than plug ins, as this will dramatically reduce the amount of electricity used.
- On the ninth day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Planned a “Merry Christmas to Nature”
Christmas is a time for giving and a time for family. What a great opportunity to start a family tradition of giving back to the Earth and instilling the values of sustainable living to your children, friends and community. Start an annual eco-friendly family tradition which will get you outdoors for a few hours and help you uplift the environment around you by picking up litter you see during this activity.
- On the tenth day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Bought Local.
Many gifts in today’s marketplace come from halfway around the world- the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Locally made gifts often have a story which accompanies the gift.
Supporting local entrepreneurs, boosts the local economy whilst advocating sustainability.
- On the eleventh day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Decided to Buy Less, Waste Less, and Use Less.
Here’s an idea to shorten your shopping list and simplify the family gift giving ritual. Some holiday gifts fill a practical need and need to be bought new, but many gifts are real gestures of thoughtfulness.
Christmas doesn't have to be a burden on the planet. With a little effort and imagination, we can reduce the environmental impact of the holiday season. Buy less, waste less and use less.
- On the twelfth day of my Eco-Friendly Christmas I Decided to ‘Think GREEN’.
During the holiday season there is always a lot of traveling to be done. This contributes to air pollution, so be conscious of your travel plans, and try to limit your outings as much as possible or try do all your shopping between trips to visit family and friends to save on extra unnecessary trips.
In this season of plenty, let’s take stock of what we have and consume mindfully. Try out some of these green tips this festive season and make sure you dispose of any waste that is left over responsibly by recycling your paper, cardboard and bottles.
Finally, don’t forget to switch off your computers and electronic equipment at the wall before you go on holiday. “An office computer uses 75% less energy if it is switched off at night and on the weekends, so make sure it gets a Christmas break too”.