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How to have a sustainable Christmas

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18 Dec 2022

With Christmas fast approaching, many of us are starting to think about how to make our celebrations as sustainable as possible.

From the tree we put up in our living rooms to the food we eat on the big day, there are plenty of ways to reduce our environmental impact, save money, and make sure our celebrations are kinder to the planet.

Choosing a sustainable Christmas tree

For many of us, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a real tree. But the traditional method of buying a real tree, using it for a few weeks, and then disposing of it isn’t exactly great for the environment.

Many real Christmas trees are grown in monoculture plantations, which can damage ecosystems and require pesticides and fertilisers. And if they end up in landfills, they’ll take years to decompose.

Paul Caplat, Senior Lecturer in Global Change Ecology, Queen's University Belfast suggests that if you do choose a real cut tree, you should buy one that’s been grown locally, with Forest Stewardship Council certification

An even more sustainable option is to choose a potted tree that can be put in your garden or outside space after the festivities have died down. This way, you can enjoy the tree for many years to come, and it will provide a habitat for wildlife.

Alternatively, you can rent a living tree from a local tree rental company – search online for one close to you. They’ll deliver a tree to your home and then pick it up after Christmas for replanting.

Ethical present giving

One way of enjoying a greener Christmas is choosing ethical presents for your loved ones, perhaps made from sustainable materials or supporting good causes – for example, Fairtrade vegan chocolate from our partners, Divine Chocolate.

If you're not sure where to find ethical gifts, Ethical Consumer is a great source of inspiration, with information and ratings for companies based on their environmental and social impact.

Shop local where you can. It helps to support small businesses and independent artisans, and reduces the environmental impact of long-distance transportation. It also supports your community’s local economy in these difficult times.

Support a carbon offset project. You can give a gift card or certificate for a carbon offset project, which helps to fund renewable energy, reforestation, or other projects that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Give a membership to a conservation organisation, like our partners Sea Shepherd and Woodland Trust. Or choose a gift that supports a specific conservation project, such as the protection of a threatened species or ecosystem.

Choose a present that will encourage the recipient to get outside and enjoy nature, such as a book on wildlife or trees (can you tell your beech from your ash?), some good walking socks or a pair of binoculars.

Sustainable wrapping paper

Traditional wrapping paper is often made from virgin paper and coated with plastic, which can make it non-recyclable. Before you buy, check whether it’s made from recycled paper and if it can be recycled again as ordinary paper.

Even better, think about reusable gift bags or boxes, decorated to give them that personal touch. You can also make your own wrapping paper by reusing old newspapers or magazines before recycling them after Christmas.

The best Christmas dinner

One of the highlights of Christmas is the feast, but the traditional menu can be heavy on meat and dairy products, which have a negative impact on the environment. To make your Christmas dinner more sustainable, consider going vegan for the day. It’s better for the planet and better for your wallet!

For recipe inspiration, check out BBC Good Food, Delicious or Vegan Food and Living. Delicious vegan food is everywhere these days, so if you have a favourite recipe website, just pop ‘vegan Christmas’ in the search box to bring up lots of mouth-watering recipes.

Make nature a part of Christmas

When the stress of Christmas gets too much, get outside. Connecting with nature is a vital part of enjoying the season.

The short days are perfect for winter walks, with all that crisp, fresh air and beautiful winter landscapes. You can explore your local park, visit a nature reserve or head out to your favourite bit of countryside.

When the sun sets, late December offers some of the best stargazing opportunities of the year. The nights are long, and the air is often clear, making it easier to see the stars, planets, and constellations.

We wish you a happy and sustainable Christmas and a healthy and prosperous new year.

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