Christmas is a major time of consumption and energy use, so thinking about going green can really have a big impact. It can also be a great way to work together with family and friends – and you may even save money too!
A green feast
The best thing you can do here is go local. If you buy from a local farmer’s market, you’ll know your food hasn’t been trucked across the country or flown in from another country – keeping its carbon footprint low.
You also get the satisfaction of knowing that your money is going straight into the community that produced the food, rather than fleshing out the bank balance of an impersonal superstore. And if you go for organic options, you also know your fruit and veg won’t be covered in chemicals – and neither will the environment.
For meat and dairy, going for free range choices is a must. Not only does this mean you can rest easy about the quality of life enjoyed by the animals, but it really makes a huge difference to flavor!
The first issue here is energy consumption. Do you really need all those illuminated figures out front of your house? How about some energy saving LED fairy lights instead – these look beautiful draped around trees and bushes or over a doorway.
Next, the inside of your house. Cute festive decorations can seem irresistible, but it’s worth considering making your own. That way you can ensure your decorations are environmentally friendly – plus it’s also a lot of fun.
Bring nature indoors
One great option for green decorations is to make use of nature itself. Go foraging for fallen pine cones and branches, and evergreen leaves like holly, mistletoe and ivy. These can be made into a garland to hang outside your door, or arranged around candles to make eye-catching table decorations.
It’s tempting to use silver, gold or white spray paint to add some extra sparkle, but remember most aerosol spray paints are not eco-friendly, or good for human health, due to their content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). There are some low-VOC options around, which are better. But the greenest solution is to apply a no-VOC paint with a brush.
Re-use, recycle, reduce
The three ‘R’s can also be incorporated into decoration-making. Have a look around – what can you re-use? One simple activity that everyone can help out with is paper-chain making. Try chopping up colorful magazine pages into strips, then use glue or tape to stick them into an interlinking chain. Drape around your tree or in loops around the room and voilà!
How about old scraps of material? If you’re a sewing whizz, these can easily be turned into stuffed decorations to hang on the tree – cut out simple stars or hearts, or go for something more challenging like an angel.
Again, many gifts can be homemade. A great all-rounder is home-made chutney or relish. This can be made around a month in advance in a large batch. Save up your old jars and sterilise them (wash well and then pop in the oven for half an hour), then get creative making your own labels.
Chocolate truffles are also surprisingly easy to make (go for Fair Trade chocolate), and a lovely homemade gift for anyone with a sweet tooth. Again, you can save up old confectionary boxes, or try making your own origami boxes.
For larger presents, you can try to use ethical and eco-friendly companies – check out the website to see what their environmental and fair trade policies are.
And for those people who don’t seem to want a thing, how about getting them the gift of helping someone else? Charities like Oxfam and UNICEF have online stores where you can purchase gifts for people in developing countries – such as clean water, healthcare, school supplies and emergency relief. Once you’ve chosen your gift, you can choose and customise a card to send to someone telling them what you’ve sent on their behalf.
Finally, check to make sure your wrapping paper can be recycled, and consider saving any bits that are undamaged to use again next year. Look out for wrapping paper made from recycled paper, or create your own by re-using newspapers or magazine pages. And remember to save a selection of cards to turn into next year’s gift tags.
Izzy Woods is a freelance writer living in London. She’s already in the Christmas spirit and is frantically checking snow reports, but finds time to blog on a huge variety of festive topics.