A Biona Guide to a Greener Christmas
We all know Christmas is a tough time to reduce waste. There’s so much excess built right in and we’re bombarded from all sides by a pressure to spend, indulge and consume. It can feel mean or Scrooge-like to try and rein in the festive exorbitance.
For families with children, the idea of a minimalist Christmas seems somehow miserly, despite wanting to teach the values of gratitude and giving. And this time of the year can be stressful enough without adding a sackful of guilt to the pile. But a more conscious Christmas can be achieved, without feeling like your sucking the joy from the holiday. In fact, our guide to a greener Christmas will give you even more festive cheer to share with your loved ones this year.
Food is of course the biggie. Knowing that the shops will be closed for a day or two, we panic-buy ALL the snacks and sweets and food. We always have too much and many of us can find ourselves throwing a lot of food away.
To help shift the thinking around xmas waste and food in particular, we really love this Festive Waste Hierarchy from Sustainableish:
Start with a rethink – what food do your friends and family really love to eat for Christmas dinner? Is it really necessary to serve every kind of potato – and who’s really eating those sprouts?! How many people are you actually feeding? Plan your Christmas day meal accordingly.
Refuse! Refuse to be sucked into the idea that festive eating needs to be the same as everyone else. Refuse to make everyone’s favourite dessert. Refuse to spend all day sweating in the kitchen if what you and your family love best is a big bowl of mac n cheese or a curry.
Moving straight on up to reuse and recycle – whatever you don’t eat on the big day, reuse it. Leftovers are half the fun of Christmas dinner! And then of course, anything that doesn’t quite make it, rot it on the compost heap or in your food waste bin to ensure every last scrap has gone to a better place.
Now is a good time to sort through the old toys and books that you and your kids have grown out of. Unused gadgets and home appliances, art, clothes, accessories – there are charities ready and willing to rehome your preloved items. You just never know who might be dying for a spiraliser this year…
In that same vein, eBay, Gumtree, freecycle and online charity shops or vintage clothing stores are treasure troves of recycled or eco gift ideas. Oxfam has a gorgeous selection online, as have Save the Children and WWF. In fact, most charities will have a Christmas shop offering gifts, wrapping, cards and of course their gifts of giving.
Shopping local is always the preferred eco-friendly, small economy-supporting way to invest. And the festive period is always brimming with wonderful offerings at Christmas. Put the consumer frenzy to one side and go looking for the craft fairs, the Christmas markets and online artisans for a more personal, unique gifting experience.
There’s nothing better than receiving a heartfelt, homemade gift from someone you love. And if the heartfelt gift is also delicious then all the better:
We’ve got lots of ideas for simple-to-make and gratefully received treats. Tie a ribbon around a tin of these vegan rocky road chunks, or give a lucky someone a jar of these beautifully festive Caramelised Pecans.
A special present to receive is always one where some effort has obviously been made. Why not try pickling a jar of shallots with Christmas spices and our cider vinegars? Or jar up some delicious Christmas Chutney? Using glass jars to present your gifts in means they can be used again or recycled.
Gifting a festive spirit is always welcome and the most christmassy of them all is the sloe gin. If you don’t have sloes growing near you, you can go foraging in your local area as the sloe berry or blackthorn bush is widely growing all over the UK.
There are many ideas for gifting that avoid investing in the plastic crisis:
- Subscriptions to TV, online magazines, newspapers or e-books
- Charity giving – donate to a charity on behalf of your gift recipient
- Home-made vouchers for cafes or restaurants – treat someone to a catch-up over dinner or a natter with a coffee
- Memberships: gift a family with a pass to their favourite National Trust site, or a gym membership for a loved one wanting to get out more. Cinemas, museums, theme parks – whatever your loved ones interest, there’ll be a membership for them to further explore their passion.
Wrapping paper makes up a lot of the waste we discard at Christmas. There are lots of stats around it, but it’s estimated that we throw away enough wrapping paper to round the equator nine times. Reduce your impact by using old magazines, newspapers, material, brown paper packaging or scraps of saved wrapping paper.
If you’re giving more than one gift, think about putting them in a reused gift bag, to prevent wrapping every single present individually.
Eco wrapping is having its moment now, with many businesses offering a recycled alternative. A quick google reveals myriad companies making recycled paper, reusable wrapping and biodegradable materials to wrap your pressies with.
Trees are a bit of a contentious issue. It takes roughly 9 years of using an artificial tree to compensate for its carbon footprint, its use of plastics and its packaging. A ‘real’ tree uses less resources to get to our homes but basically the longer you use a fake tree, the more eco-friendly it becomes.
What are the eco tree options?
- Rent-a-tree. It’s not widely available yet, but there are growers in the UK offering a rental tree service. The tree comes with roots and shoots still intact and is replanted once you’ve finished with it.
- Find a sustainable tree supplier. Check out Forestry England for your nearest real Christmas tree. Ask your usual tree supplier about their sustainability policies.
- Reuse your tree! If you’ve got the outdoor space, you might consider bringing a living tree inside for the holidays – and then replanting it for the rest of the year. Check out the Soil Association’s recommendations for Christmas Trees.
- Forget the tree. Go for something a bit different this year and opt for something super eco stylish. The trend this year is to style a branch. Forage a size-appropriate branch to mount on a wall and hang baubles, lights and decorations.
No doubt you have a box of decorations that you retrieve from storage once your tree is up. Some old faves and trusty tinsel. But if you’re looking for a fresh look, you can update your Christmas cheer while remaining true to your ethical values.
Take a stroll – in your garden, in the forest or even along your street (though do ask permission if you’re cutting from private property). Look for greenery that catches your eye. Snip and collect large fronds to lay on mantelpieces or string together to hang on the wall. Holly with its vibrant red berries always looks striking against a bed of evergreen. Carefully placed candles, fairy lights or pine cones add interest and warmth.
Leaf / dried orange garland
Collect and dry leaves of beautiful autumnal hues, thread cotton through them and display your garland on a wall. Alternatively, thinly slice oranges and slowly dry them out in your oven at a very low temperature throughout the day. You can thread them onto string or garden twine. And your house will smell gorgeously festive too!
Paper tree decorations
A quick internet search will direct you to a whole host of paper Christmas decorations. We especially love tissue paper pompoms and crepe paper garlands, which of course can either be stored away for next year, or recycled.
How will you be keeping it green this Christmas? Share with us your ideas and show us your seasonal stylings #bionachristmas #greenchristmas