The festive season may not be filled with the sparkles you envisaged but not all is lost. 2020 might just be the perfect opportunity to realign your conscience with an eco-friendly Christmas and a more mindful celebration. Christmas is saturated by a throw-away culture feeding on excessiveness and indulgence. It is time to hit the pause button and seriously consider the impact your Christmas choices have on others and the planet.
We’ve created this comprehensive eco-friendly Christmas guide to help you enjoy a greener and cleaner festive season. It covers everything from: sustainable Christmas trees, stocking-fillers, and gift wrapping, to crackers, and decorations. We hope you can put some of these handy eco tips to use, and limit your carbon footprint at an otherwise environmentally taxing time of year.
1. Sustainable Christmas trees
‘Tis the season for the great annual Christmas tree debate: do you fake it with the perfect artificial pine, hauled from the shed on the 1st of December? Or, do you venture with the entire family to the local tree farm – a thermos of mulled wine in hand – to find a fragrant fir to fill the house with nostalgia and festive cheer?
In the proverbial debate of real verse fake, one study concludes you’d need to commit 20 loyal years to your fake fir for it to be greener. That said, approximately 7 million trees will be dumped in January opposed to being recycled. So, it really comes down to making informed choices. And whatever your preference – fake or real – there are some superb sustainable options out there.
Rent a living Christmas tree
Give a beautiful Nordmann Fir a home this Christmas and it will express its love by absorbing Co2 and emitting oxygen, taking the edge off any holiday hangover. When the new year arrives and your celebrations are done and dusted, simply undress your tree and prepare it for collection. It will then return to the farm and replanted, ready for next season. What’s not to love about that?! Best of all, prices start from a respectable £20!
Below are some enivornmentally conscience tree rental companies, or check whether your local tree farm offers a rental service:
Buy a living Christmas tree
Minimise the carbon footprint of your Christmas tree by ensuring it is sourced locally. Pay attention and do not purchase a tree that has travelled miles across Europe on the back of a truck. Find a local grower at growninbritain.org or bctga.co.uk. Or alternatively, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) badge as assurance that your tree is grown to set environmental standards.
It is not for everyone but buying a living tree is good green thinking. Honour your tree’s seasonal service with a post-Christmas re-planting ceremony. You could even reuse the tree (or a pruned clipping) the following year.
If opting for a Christmas tree cut at the trunk, recycling it is obligatory. And do your research. A responsible collection service will have a plan for how your tree will be recycled. You can find an appropriate drop-off point in your area by checking at recyclenow.
Fake Christmas trees
I am a Christmas snob and the word fake sends shudders up my spine. However, there are some eco-friendly artificial tree solutions that could be a better deal for your wallet and the environment. If random pine needles appearing around the house come Easter does not appeal to you, try making your own tree from driftwood. There is an entire site dedicated to DIY driftwood projects. Not only can you purchase driftwood, but the site also offers handy instructions for a tree assembly. If Scandi minimalism is more your style, Cox and Cox sell this classy blonde wood for £175. Etsy and Not on the highstreet also offer a broad selection of options.
If your heart is set on a fir replica be mindful that the majority of fake pines are made using highly toxic plastics. Consequently, most recycling centres do not accept them. Ultimately, this means one day your tree will end up as landfill. If you are still interested in the idea of a lifelong commitment to plastic, the best alternative is an Oncor Christmas Tree made from recycled materials.
2. Eco-friendly Christmas cards
A recyclable card is relatively harmless, right? Eco and beyond completed a fascinating read into the environmental impact of the Christmas card market, and it’s staggering. The UK are avid card writers and purchased a jaw-dropping 1 billion Christmas cards in 2017 (UK Greeting Card Association). Many Christmas cards are covered in glitter, plastic coatings and use harmful coloured dyes. To put it in perspective, 10% of the VOC emissions produced in the UK come from the printing industry. Given 85% of cards are bought by women. Ladies, this is largely directed to you: be mindful of the cards you’re purchasing!
Christmas card alternatives
One solution is to opt for plantable cards. Come spring, your season greetings will sprout into a fresh salad! Wildflower Papers stock a beautiful range of seeded cards. Etsy and Not On The High Street also offer a varied selection. It is also time to cull the list of recipients. Be ruthless, do you need to send a card to your 3rd cousin whose children you can never remember the names of?
Try getting crafty and make your own cards. This gives you full quality control over glues, glitters or harmful bling. If you’re not feeling creative, rope the kids in. You could even resort to bribery and pay £1 for every 30 minutes spent on a card. Trust me, this is money well spent and will occupy dark winter afternoons. If you don’t have any children, just rent some! Any parent who has survived consecutive lockdowns will love for you to distract their kids with a project.
If time and money are of the essence, keep it simple and go virtual! I can already hear reluctant sighs but the pros are your list can be as large as you like. If nothing else, it might be an option for those extended relatives whose children you can’t remember the names of!
3. Creative Christmas decorations
Christmas Trees should tell a story; a private collection of personal treasures and family heirlooms. Every time our family decorates the tree, we take a heart-warming amble down memory lane. Consumer culture reinforces that ‘new and shiny’ is better. However, tensile and cheap glittery decorations use highly toxic materials. Try to dress your tree with a colourful display of your history and personality, using things you already have around home. It will give a whole new meaning to how you collect and care for your decorations.
Protect the Planet‘s curated catalogue of decorative eco supplies is a one-stop destination. Here you will find stunning candle holders, baubles, name place holders and plenty more. Better still, save some pennies and head out in nature to forage for holly, pine cones and berries to create your own garland or table centrepiece.
Of course, you could always rope the kids in again for a craft session. There is something special about homemade decorations to mark the years. Wholefully have a salt dough recipe and some colourful design suggestions for ornaments.
4. Mindful gift-giving
If you haven’t guessed, Flow tips electric scooters as one of the hottest Christmas gifts for 2020. Electric scooters are the perfect gift for the eco-minded. Not only do riders contribute to cleaner air, but this personal mode of transport is also convenient, stress-free and hygienic. There is no question about it, electric scooters are the future! Browse Flow electric scooters here>>
For sustainable stocking fillers, Protect the Planet has something suited to any budget. This site truly has everything you need for an eco-friendly Christmas, including Secret Santa presents, children’s gifts and his and her treats.
5. Recycled wrapping
Disturbingly, Christmas paper wastage mounts up to 12 million litres of biofuel. This is enough to power a bus to the moon 20 times!
For children, the best option is to scrap wrapping altogether and go for a reusable personalised Santa sack.
Some Google searches suggest fabric wrapping as an alternative to traditional paper. Unless you are upcycling your own fabrics be wary of this. The production of cotton, denim and many other fabrics weighs heavily on the planet.
Old newspaper jazzed up with some holly bodes well as wrapping. Another option is to make use of all those infant drawings you feel too guilty to throw away; grandparents will love this personal touch!
If you have nothing to upcycle, a biodegradable option is the only choice. It is also important to limit unnecessary waste by steering clear of additional paraphernalia like ribbons, stickers, labels, and pointless trinkets. Check out Re-wrapped, their beautiful products use 100% recycled unbleached paper and earth friendly vegetable-based inks.
6. Turn the lights off
Christmas lights are an environmental and safety point of contention! So, turn your Christmas lights off when you are not at home or go to bed. It should go without saying, but to drum the point home, do not embark on light display extravaganza like Chevy Chase in Christmas Lampoons Vacation!
Studies by Nasa have revealed that some parts of the world are 50% brighter over the Christmas period. There is no need to scrooge on festive spirit but here is some food for thought; if for the 12 days of Christmas, every UK household traded incandescent bulbs for the LED light equivalent, Co2 production could be curbed by 29,000 tonnes, saving the economy a hefty £11m.
So, from all us at Flow, have yourself a very Eco-friendly Christmas and a sustainable New Year!