It’s the month of over indulging and last-minute present-wrapping. After a weird year, everybody’s looking to make the most of Christmas, albeit in some different ways.
While we’re staying at home more and adapting to new restrictions, this is a great time to pick up a few environmentally concscious Christmas habits. We’ve put together a handful of ways you can make the holiday season as good for the environment as it is for you. Plus, some ideas for gifts that keep on giving…
Shop small for a big impact
Supporting local businesses isn’t just a huge boost for the economy, it’s a fantastic way to cut down on waste. By choosing items produced close to home, you’re bypassing the carbon emissions that come from transporting them around the globe. As a result, you’re also much more likely to avoid masses of plastic packaging. Not to mention that a lot of places are happy to work wonders with gift options, saving you a whole lot of time fighting with the sellotape. When you buy from independent stores, you’re guaranteeing a unique gift packed with meaning. If your favourite shops are currently closed, find them online, or see if it’s possible to get a gift card: these are a fool proof present and everybody’s happy with the results.
Switch the Christmas knits
An estimated 12 million Christmas jumpers were bought last year. They may be festive but they’re turning into their own wintery fast fashion problem. Got an old one? Fab, dig it out again this year. Bored with your old one? Fair enough, stick it in a charity bag and find another one second hand, or do a swap with a friend. Our favourite solution is crazy patterns on non-festive jumpers. You get a garment you won’t mind wearing outside of December, plus you don’t feel left out. We love Icelandic knitwear for this! Bold designs and snowflake-y shapes, but in beautiful muted shades that won’t look out of place in January.
Wrap it responsibly
All that wrapping paper may end up in the recycling bin… but a lot of it isn’t actually going to get recycled. But how are you supposed to know, if it doesn’t tell you anywhere on the label? A quick check for this is the Scrunch test: if you scrunch it up, and it stays scrunched, it’s probably paper and can be recycled. If it doesn’t, or seems stiff and reluctant to squash down, it’s been treated and can’t be. If there’s glitter, foil or shiny stuff involved, forget about it. To guarantee your gifts are being wrapped sustainably, track down some recyclable wrapping paper – there’s tons available online and probably plenty local to you too. To make things more original, brown paper is a safe bet and stylish. Newspaper works as well. Avoiding endless sticky tape by switching to ribbon or string is an eco-friendly bonus, and it looks great. But when all else fails: reuse those gift bags!
There’s a whole lot of plastic in Christmas decorations. This isn’t such a problem if you reuse the same set every year [in fact they’ll probably last a LONG time] but if you’re in the habit of changing it up, it’s bad news. If you really want a new look, donate your old decs and get creative with replacements. Shopping second-hand – particularly antiques – can offer a gorgeous range of unique pieces to choose from. Or make some. This one ranks high on the list of fun festive activities. The more natural and biodegradable your materials the better too; think pinecones, holly, dried fruit and ribbons. There’s even a surprising amount you can do with paint and some sticks. More earthy decorations are a fantastic shortcut to traditional Lapland vibes, or you can take a minimalist approach and go for simple statement pieces. Pinterest is your friend for this.
Pay it forward
If you’re truly stuck for ideas about presents: Donate. There are absolutely no downsides to this one. It’s thoughtful, it’s helpful, it’s not going to end up in the bin. And yet many of us don’t think to do it. If you’re worried about your recipient having something to unwrap on the big day, most charities have welcome packs or certificates which can be customized especially for them. Sorted. And let’s be honest, you get to feel good about yourself when you do it. This is a brilliant option if you’re feeling the pinch; however small, your donation is still valuable and the amount doesn’t have to be listed on the gift.
Cut food waste
So. Much. Food. It happens every single year, but this time, let’s get smart with it. Nobody likes throwing it away, especially not when you’ve made it yourself. Make sure you’re stocked up on reusable containers to keep things fresh rather than relying on clingfilm and foil. Sorting out the freezer to give yourself a bit more room can be handy too; a surprising amount of Christmas dinner can be kept if you’ve overdone it. A quick google will tell you if that plate you’re about to throw out is easy to save for another day.
Not a new idea but definitely one worth trying. If your friends/family/colleagues are prone to getting into complicated and stressful gift-giving cycles this time of year: suggest a change. It’s much easier to set yourselves a budget and each buy one gift. It’s also cutting down on how many unwanted presents are left languishing at the back of your wardrobe, or piling up in landfill. Themes can be a fun addition to secret Santa, particularly if everyone’s running low on ideas. If nobody’s too fussed about the element of surprise [i.e. you all know exactly what you want] adding a couple of gift suggestions under each name can make it completely hassle free for whoever’s buying.
Christmas 2.0 – Regifting
Okay so maybe somebody really struck out on secret Santa. You were hoping for a nice bottle of wine and now you’re looking at book about knitting clothes for dogs. It happens. Let us introduce you to: Regifting! If you’ve opened this treasure before Christmas day, you might be able to wrap it up and give it to a good home with someone else. But there’s no time limit on regifting, and it can be a really fun thing to do in January when spirits take a dip after new years. You might not be able to have a get together, but there’s nothing to stop you finding creative ways to swap presents. Get in the group chat and see if you can make some swaps.
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of being wasteful over Christmas. But a few simple changes can be all it takes to make the big day more eco-friendly, and even more creative. This month can be full of opportunities to make the most of staying at home and banishing the boredom.