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Five Sustainable Swaps for Christmas Essentials

Beyond gift-giving, family gatherings and full-on feastings lie an epidemic which is driving the world to wasteful circumstances.


The countdown to Christmas is officially on but how much does the 'most wonderful time of the year' cost the environment is a question which often goes unnoticed. It is estimated that an extra 30 per cent of rubbish is being produced and discarded every year during the festive period, amounting to an astounding three million tonnes of waste being disposed.

The transition to a greener celebration is not rocket science, but rather easier than one may perceive. The key truly lies in gradually incorporating minute changes and considerations into our daily routines. One good way would be to think about your personal choices; the items you buy, how you use them and how you choose to dispose them.

Being advocates of all things sustainable, we have put together some non-extravagant alternatives to make your Christmas much greener this year.

1. Dump the single-use wrapping paper for their eco-friendly counterparts

It may come as a surprise, but there are actually many sustainable alternatives to standard single-use wrapping papers. Reusable fabric gift bags, biodegradable gift wraps, and wrapping papers made from recycled materials are all readily available in most parts of the world. If you wish to take it a step further and want the alternative to be more wallet-friendly, you could also opt for a fabric wrapping that doubles as a scarf or tea towel (for example). Wrapping gifts with cloth is not only sustainable but is also a unique way to add creativity and colour to your gifts. If it is not causing a hole in your pocket and the ozone, why not right?

2. Gift sustainably - buy vintage and re-gifting is okay!

According to Zero Waste Canada, the average Canadian tosses about 50 kilograms of garbage each holiday season, 25 per cent more than the rest of the year. Although the statistics are exclusive to only Canada, one would argue that the same scenario would be reflected in many other parts of the world too. One of the alternatives that you can try is to buy vintage. Vintage items are usually one-of-a-kind with a story behind them, making for a truly unique addition to your homes or wardrobes. Buying vintage also helps cut down on waste as it does not introduce new products to the chain of purchasing.

(It is debatable but for the love of our planet) re-gifting is okay. Re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don’t need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so that you do not offend the original giver, but keeping a gift you don’t need is wasteful.

3. Buying a real tree is better than reusing artificial ones

Many might assume that a long-lasting fake tree would be the way to go but as a recent article published by The Independent reveals, a real Christmas tree has a “significantly lower” carbon footprint compared to an artificial tree, particularly if it is disposed of sensibly. Additionally, if you have an artificial tree, you would need to use it for at least 10 years for its environmental impact to equal that of a responsibly-disposed natural tree.​ That is if it has been built to last that long. You can read more on alternatives to Christmas trees here (linked to another article).

4. Use Electronic Greeting Cards (e-cards) or a DIY Card

Although it is nice to receive a lovely Christmas note or a thank you letter, it is estimated that nearly a billion Christmas cards end up in the bin, which approximately is equivalent to 33 million trees. An e-card is similar to a postcard or greeting card, with the primary difference being that it is created using digital media instead of paper or other traditional materials. E-cards are more versatile and easily shareable between users. DIY cards are also another great way to boost sustainability and unleash your creativity this festive season. Going down the DIY route also means you can make yours as zero waste as possible. So, take out your old papers, books and other essentials and get going with your eco-crafting.

5. Reduce the amount of food waste by pre-planning

According to research, if food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest emitter after China and the US. While plastic pollution is a more obvious environmental issue, food waste has a devastating impact on our world. With social gatherings, open houses and family reunions being one of the main things to look out for every Christmas, it is always good to plan where possible to minimise food waste. Should you have any leftovers, transform these into new recipes or share them with someone in need. Also, many tend to forget the fact that food choices are one of the simplest and most effective ways to clean up environmental footprint.

Sustainability is becoming more relevant than ever and environmental changes and climate issues are snow laughing matter! ( see what we did there). With billions ushering in 'that time of the year', one need not celebrate a joyous occasion like Christmas at the expense of burdening the planet with thoughtless actions. So, let us all put in a little time, effort and imagination to reduce the environmental impact this festive season.

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