2020 has been a tough year for all of us and Christmas will be a bit different this year than the years before. Nevertheless, the holiday season is always something we can all look forward to to lift our spirits at the end of the year and to start to look ahead to what next year will have in store for us. As wonderful as this time of the year is, the same cannot be said for the impact it has on our environment, unfortunately.
To minimize your environmental impact this year, here are our top 5 tips for a sustainable Green Christmas:
1. Christmas Tree: Real or Fake?
Who doesn’t love the fresh pine smell of a real Christmas tree at home? Though, for some the maintenance of vacuuming the needles and watering the tree is enough to tempt them to buy a fake tree. If you can reuse it, it must be better for the environment right? Wrong: fake Christmas trees are made from different metals and plastics that aren’t exactly great for the environment. On top of that, the majority of fake trees are made in China and then shipped around the world, causing a large amount of carbon emissions.
A real Christmas tree has a significantly lower carbon footprint than an artificial tree, particularly if disposed of correctly, according to Carbon Trust.
- A natural 2 meter (6 foot) tall Christmas tree that is disposed of at a landfill has a footprint of around 16 kilograms of CO2, mostly thanks to methane emissions as it decomposes.
- A natural tree disposed of by burning, replanting or chipping has a carbon footprint of around 3.5kg of CO2.
- A 2-meter artificial Christmas tree has a carbon footprint of around 40kg of CO2 due to energy demanding manufacturing process. In contrast, a real pine or fir tree naturally absorbs CO2 and releases oxygen before it's chopped down. In conclusion, an artificial tree will need to be used for at least 11 years for its environmental impact to equate to that of a responsibly disposed of natural tree.
An even better alternative, and method growing in popularity is renting or adopting a Christmas tree. Kerstboom.nu is a Dutch company that offers live Christmas tree rental in Amsterdam. For just €47.50 (plus €10 deposit) they will bring a live Christmas tree to your home and collect it after the holidays. Then they replant the tree to let it grow until next Christmas when it can be adopted again.
2. Decorations: Repurpose or Reuse
A large amount of Christmas decorations are made of plastic (think of tinsel for example), this is not compostable or recyclable. When purchasing your Christmas decorations, it’s important to buy good quality decorations that will last a long time and are reusable. If you decide to get rid of any Christmas decorations, consider whether you can repurpose them in a different way, or donate them.
3. Lights: LED is the new light
Christmas lights make your Christmas tree and your home come to life. We suggest using LED bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs to bring some (more eco friendly) light into the dark winter days. LED bulbs emit fewer greenhouse gases than incandescent bulbs, which makes them not only more efficient but more environmentally friendly. Additionally, LED bulbs can cut your energy consumption by over 80% when compared to conventional light bulbs. We call that a win for the environment and for your wallet!
4. Wrapping paper: Reuse or Recycle
Wrapping paper, in all colors and patterns, looks beautiful under your Christmas tree, that’s why we use so much of it. Americans spend around $2.6 billion on decorative papers according to one estimate. In the U.K., one report says, more than 226,800 miles of wrapping paper are thrown away during the holidays. That’s enough paper to wrap around the planet nine times.
But paper is recyclable, so we shouldn’t need to worry about that right?.. Again wrong. In general, most simple wrapping paper can be put in the recycling bin rather than the trash can. However, if it is decorated with foil or glitter it cannot be recycled. RecycleNow suggests using the “scrunch test” to determine whether or not you can recycle something. If it scrunches then you can, if it doesn’t, you can’t.
Our advice to you: buy wrapping paper that you know can be recycled or is already made from recycled paper. Or better yet, use what you have around the house to wrap your presents: an old scarf, newspaper or even used wrapping paper.
5. Food: Waste not, Want not
Spending time with family is lovely at Christmas, but we know what we all look forward to the most during the holidays is the delicious food. Did you know the choice of food at Christmas can have a huge environmental impact? The choice of meat alone can account for as much as 70 percent of the environmental impact of an entire meal — with turkey having a lower carbon footprint than beef or lamb (and vegetarian options even lower than that). For example, a kilogram of beef or lamb protein can generate anywhere between 643 kilograms and 749 kilograms of carbon dioxide. A Manchester University study found that an average turkey Christmas dinner has a carbon footprint of 20kg of CO2. So it sounds like a turkey dinner or vegetarian dinner are the best eco friendly options for Christmas!
Now, we’ve had our delicious Christmas meal, but what about all the food that's left over? In the EU alone, it is estimated that around 80 million tonnes of food is wasted every year. The most important advice we can give you here is:
- Don’t buy what you don’t need.
It’s tempting to go all out and buy all of the tasty foods and snacks, but it’s important to be realistic in how much food you buy. It’s not only better for the environment, but again, also for your wallet!
- Save your leftovers
They taste just as great the day after or a few days after and it will save you time and money in the future!
We hope you enjoyed reading our Green Christmas blog and wish you all a very happy and eco friendly holiday season!
If you want to support a small sustainable business this holiday season, check out our Eco Gift Guide. There's still time to get your Eco Friendly Christmas presents on time!