It is the most wonderful time of the year, yet also the most wasteful one. It is estimated that an extra 20 to 30% of waste is produced and discarded throughout the festive period, compared to the combined amount of the previous years. When all this holiday material is thrown away, it fills up landfills and damages the environment. Far from merry and bright! Here are some ideas on how we can avoid making this season the most wasteful one, while still enjoying the joyful essence of Christmas traditions.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Let’s face it, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, both artificial and natural Christmas trees come at a cost to the environment. Artificial trees are usually the cheaper option. As you can reuse them year after year, they are more economical than buying a freshly cut tree every year. Unfortunately, the materials used to make most artificial trees are not sustainable or environmentally friendly, and their carbon footprint is really high. Most trees are made from plastic – most often PVC film. PVC is made from fossil fuels, a process that emits high levels of greenhouse gases. The fact that the majority of artificial trees are made in China additionally increases their carbon footprint. And while it might be a good idea to use your old plastic tree for as long as possible, it might not be so great for your health. As PVC degrades it can lead to dangerous levels of lead contamination, which occur after about nine years.
Most people buy a real, cut tree. This is a better option in terms of carbon footprint and sustainability compared to an artificial one. Choose a locally grown tree if you can but know that this option also comes with its disadvan- tages. Christmas tree plantations are not an ecologically sensitive use of land and are not like natural forests. As they are mono crops, they oftentimes require the use of herbicides and pesticides (such as glyphosate).
Your best bet? Choose a living tree instead! You can buy or even rent a potted Christmas tree. Even if you don’t have a garden in which to plant it, you could check the options in your area and donate it to your commune. If you want to rent a tree in Luxembourg, you can visit Baumshoul Becker (beckered.lu) and select a potted tree that you can rent year after year.
Let’s face it – most gift-wrapping paper is not recyclable and ends up in landfills. If you want to make your Christmas celebrations more sustainable and greener, here are a few great gift wrap ideas:
- Get inspired by Japan’s Furoshiki wraps
- Use scarves, towels and ornaments
- Go natural for the gift decoration (use Christmas tree sprigs, flowers, etc.)
- Reuse old gift bags
- Stock up on eco-friendly basics from the art store (plain paper, plain cloth and ribbons)
- Use your children’s artwork
- Re-use containers, jars and bottles
Trying to do things differently this year and offer more sustainable and eco-friendly gifts to your loved ones? Here are some ideas of what you might want to consider:
- DIY gifts (homemade candles, jam, tea, body lotion, etc.)
- If buying clothes or scarves – go for natural materials, such as cotton, hemp, linen, silk, etc.
- Think about the packaging – avoid excessive use of plastic
- Shop at local, sustainable shops for your gifts
- Go for an experience. Gift your loved ones tickets to a concert, the theatre, or a vacation. They will surely appreciate it.
- Give time not stuff. You can package this gift in creative and funny ways too. Some ideas for the parents of young children would be babysitting vouchers or holding clothes swap-and-share parties.
Avoid buying new plastic decorations, such as tree ornaments, and focus on DIY decorations instead. It makes for a great family activity and the family will treasure them for a long time. Some ideas:
- Painted nut ornaments
- Dried citrus ornaments
- Sugar cookies or salt dough ornaments
- Painted glass or wooden ornaments, etc.