Since going vegan I have started to become a lot more conscious of the amount of waste my household produces. Although I went vegan for the animals, this shift to a more eco friendly lifestyle has happened organically and I have made lots of swaps to ensure my family live more sustainably. In no way are we perfect but we do what we can and have made lots of small changes that have added up to big results.
Some of those changes involve Christmas and how we buy gifts and wrap presents etc. You only need to cast your eye over this article to see just how much waste Christmas produces, with a staggering approximate 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging thrown away each year! I thought it may be helpful to create a post full of tips and ideas that have worked for us in order to have a more sustainable Christmas. From trees to gift ideas to crockery on the big day if you are hosting, this guide will hopefully include something new you hadn’t thought of and help you make another sustainable swap! If you already do everything listed and have tips and ideas of your own I would love to hear about them in the comments!
I know a lot of people still love to partake in the tradition of handing out Christmas cards during the festive season. It is seen as quite a polite and thoughtful gesture so I understand why you’re hesitatant to stop if this is something you have always done. If you are feeling crafty you could try to make your own cards using recycled card decorated using foliage, string and dehydrated oranges, etc. However, if this seems like a lot of work why not opt to send plantable Christmas cards made using biodegradable seed paper instead? Alternatively, you could just send out virtual cards over email this year!
If you cannot face the thought of never having an advent calendar again then investing in a reusable one is definitely the way to go. I have one made from card and rope that can be hung up like bunting, however, smaller more traditional styles made from wood and linen are also available. Reusable calendars give you the opportunity to fill each day with whatever you want so are really versatile and a great sustainable switch to make. Have a shop around to see the different types that are available.
Now, I am not about to tell you to forgo gifts entirely, however, it could be worth having a serious think about who you buy gifts for and trying to whittle it down. My wife and I stopped buying gifts for one another five years ago and now we only buy for around ten people. If you have a lot of siblings or friends you usually buy for why not put some feelers out about not doing so this year or ask if they fancy doing a secret santa instead.
I think it is important to actually ask people what they would like for Christmas to ensure you are getting them something they actually want that won’t just end up in the bin. If someone cannot think of a practical gift then I usually opt for a voucher or an experience. If you are on more of a budget then Christmas is a great opportunity to support small businesses and explore what handmade eco friendly products are out there. If you are particularly talented when it comes to a certain craft you could make some of the gifts yourself or try your hand at some cute hampers full of homemade bakes, fudge, jams etc.
Opt for wood, fabric, glass or recycled paper when it comes to wrapping and presenting your gifts. An estimated 88 square km of wrapping paper will be used in the UK alone this year so it is important we ditch the plastic coated wrapping paper in favour of recyclable plastic free versions. I buy plain brown recycled paper and use string to tie it in place rather than sellotape. I then add things like pine cones, pieces of connifer or holly and dehydrated orange slices to jazz them up a little.
There seems to be ongoing debate over what type of tree is best and whether cutting down trees every year is good for the environment. A real tree is miles better for the environment than a plastic one that will just sit in a landfill after it has been used. If you feel strongly about cutting down a real tree then there are a couple of options to make this more appealing. You could use a potted tree or ask if your local suppliers offer a service enabling you to hire a Christmas tree for the season that they will replant in the new year.
When I first moved out I didn’t know any better and am guilty of buying a plastic tree. We used that for three years until it was ruined by damp and I repurposed it, (I will get to that later). Last year we actually made our own hanging wooden one which I would really recommend for anyone with a curious pet whose paws need protecting from pine needles. We had some leftover wood from some house renovations and we simply cut each plank to size, strung them together with rope and drilled in some hooks. I absolutely love it, however, realise it isn’t to everyone’s taste. If this isn’t really for you why not look into decorating a large house plant instead.
Rather than buying plastic decorations why not try creating your own ornaments and centerpieces by foraging for foliage, berries and pine cones? You will be able to create some absolutely stunning decorations and they will look beautiful in homemade garlands and wreaths. I salvaged the branches from my damaged Christmas tree and repurposed them to create the bases for a few wreaths. Each year we decorate them with foraged evergreens, pine cones and berries resulting in really beautiful and authentic Christmas decorations. You can also dehydrate orange slices and tie cinnamon sticks together with string and add these for a little more colour and variety. If foraging isn’t really your vibe there are lots of YouTube tutorials available online that show you how to make wreaths out of fabric instead.
In terms of baubles why not opt for eco friendly versions made from glass and wood in favour of plastic pieces. You could also try threading orange or pine cones on pieces of string and hanging these on your tree to act as little fillers. The week before writing this I actually made bunting using dehydrated orange slices and string for the first time. We have a fairly minimal look in our home so it works well but you could try adding in cinnamon sticks and holly to jazz it up a little more if desired. It could also be worth taking a look at the kind of Christmas lights you use and swap to a more energy efficient version, not only will this use 80% less energy but it will also save you some money which is never a bad thing!
If you are hosting this year there are a couple of things you can do to ensure a more sustainable Christmas, starting with the table. As mentioned you could opt to make your own beautiful centerpieces, however, you could also ensure you use eco friendly crackers. In addition to buying them made out of recycled card, fabric crackers made from linen are also available or you could even make your own. Napkins made from recycled materials are also available if you don’t want to invest in reusable fabric ones.
It can be tempting to buy the cute Christmassy disposable plates and cups to reduce the amount of washing up you will have. However sticking with glass and ceramics will go a long way in reducing waste. If you do not have enough to go around why not ask friends or family who will be joining you to bring their own or, if you are like me and want everything to match, Waitrose offer a service where you can hire glasses. It may be worth looking into other places local to you that hire out crockery and glassware.
When it comes to the actual food then pay attention to the type of packaging it comes in. When you are doing your Christmas food shop try to avoid single use plastic as much as possible by buying loose vegetables and potatoes, making your own ice cubes in trays, opting for drinks in glass bottles and aliminium cans rather than plastic bottles, etc.
You could also try to make your own dessert instead of picking up a shop bought one if you are gifted in the kitchen. If that does not apply to you then just try to be mindful about the amount you are buying and limit any excess. Christmas is a time of year where food is in absolute abundance and waste increases so think about whether all the extra snacks and treats you are buying will actually get eaten. Obviously one huge step you could take in order to have a more sustainable Christmas is to eat a completely vegan Christmas dinner. If this isn’t achievable for you, the decision to make just a couple of plant based swaps will still go a long way. If you do fancy trying to incorporate a few vegan dishes and need some inspiration then have a look at my Gluten Free & Vegan Recipe Guide.
If you have any other tips you think others would benefit from I would love to hear them in the comment section below! If you found this post helpful and want to show some support please visit my Ko-Fi account to donate! x