How To Have a Sustainable Christmas, Whether at Home or Away
Every Christmas it’s estimated we throw away over 108 million rolls of wrapping paper in the UK. That’s enough to cover over 11,000 football pitches.
We can do our bit to reduce not just this huge amount of waste, but our footprint in general. Despite the fact that Christmas does involve a lot of gift-giving,, it is, in theory, supposed to be a time of joy, giving to those in need and spending time with loved ones, whether that’s at home or away. Wherever you are in the world, you can create a sustainable Christmas with these helpful hints and tips for gift-giving, getting around and making the most of the festive holidays.
Travel is essential for getting home to loved ones during the festive holidays. You may be away at university, or simply heading home to surprise your family. If you are travelling abroad, this is the time of year which homesickness can kick in and you may be tempted to jet home. We can, though, plan ahead to try and be a little more carbon-friendly and help contribute towards a sustainable Christmas.
If you are going to be travelling home through the same country this Christmas, why not carpool with people to reduce the number of cars on the road. Or better still, get the train. If you book early enough you can avoid paying too much for train tickets and it makes so much more sense 50 people being on a train, as opposed to 50 individual cars. It’s an easy way to contribute to a more sustainable Christmas.
If you are travelling out of the country, when you get to where you’re travelling to, you could potentially use public transport or walk to get around. It also means you’ll get to see more of the country, which at Christmas time, is always exciting (Christmas markets, anyone?)
If using the car is unavoidable due to reduced train timetables, try to plan ahead so you don’t need to go out too much. For example, if you need to food shop, try to just make one trip and stock up with everything you need for over Christmas, so there’s no going back and forth. It will take a bit of planning, but it saves on carbon emissions, it’s more sustainable and makes life easier for you.
If you’re surprising family and coming home from overseas, you can offset your carbon emissions with the airline. This cost pays for carbon-neutralising equalisers, such as paying for more trees to be planted. It might cost an extra £30, but you’re then safe in the knowledge that you’ll be doing your part in offsetting the carbon from your portion of the flight, making it be a more sustainable Christmas.
Presents are usually the things that our Christmas usually revolves around, but it doesn’t have to be excessive and there are a few ways you can make gift-giving less stressful, less wasteful and more fun for the whole family.
The gift of experience. If you’re away on holiday with family for the holidays, why not make the gift quality time together as a family. You could cook together, play games and explore a new place on your Christmas vacation. It could even be a great way to make new Christmas tradition based on what country you’re in. In America, for example, the main dessert for Christmas dinner is usually a pie rather than the British Christmas pudding or Mince Pie. In China, the tradition of giving apples happens on Christmas Eve, because the Chinese word for Christmas Eve means “peaceful evening” and ‘apple’ in Mandarin sounds like the word ‘peace’. Traditions change from place to place, so be sure to soak up as much culture as possible during your travels this Christmas.
Memories over possessions. Ditch the endless wrapping and materials that come with it, for a simple booking. Memories last a lifetime and you can really tailor your ideas to exactly what they want. Whether a little getaway or a life-changing yoga trip, you can ensure this present is something that will live with them forever, not just for Christmas.
Get creative and make the present. It’s a chance to show off your creative skills or to show people you know that despite you being creatively challenged, you still put the effort in and really care. Plus the whole family will get a good laugh and making memories is the perfect way to spend Christmas.
If you are travelling abroad this Christmas, you could support the local businesses and buy a present from the country you’re in. Make that the theme and see what wonders and delights you all end up with. If we’re sticking with China, it might be a niche pair of chopsticks. Maybe if you end up in Canada, you could get someone a jar of maple syrup. The options are endless!
We should also remember that not everyone is as lucky as we may be at this time of year, so why not gift someone in need. You can visit Crisis and buy a Christmas dinner for a homeless person for just under 30.00. Or you can create a Paddington bear box to send to children in dangerous areas. Not everyone looks forward to Christmas and all around the world, there are people that need our help.
Food is another one of the things we all look forward to over the Christmas season. We love to indulge and that’s great. But there are ways to reduce the food we’re wasting, including the 74 million mince pies that get thrown away every Christmas.
Plan ahead. Get numbers of people you’re cooking for, get a menu together and get a list of the ingredients you need. Don’t overdo it.
If you have leftovers (which you inevitably will), freeze whatever you don’t use and eat throughout January. You’ll be surprised what you can make from the leftovers, and if you’re stuck, Tesco has a whole section of leftover recipes for you to choose from.
Include more plant-based options in your Christmas dinner. The plant-based diet is doing its bit for the environment by reducing the carbon emissions we put out every year through raising animals for food. If you include a few plant-based options into your Christmas dinner, it will not only mix it up with the food on the table, but help the environment this Christmas too. If you’re stuck for ideas for the vegan and vegetarian family members, BBC Good Food, Deliciously Ella (on Instagram) and so many other food websites have amazing recipes for you to try.
Christmas is most people’s favourite time of year and with these tips, tricks and small changes, we can make it fun for the environment too. Whether you’re home or travelling this, we hope these ideas can help you and your family have a Merry sustainable Christmas!