While the holiday season overflows with good cheer, it’s also trailed by a larger-than-normal environmental impact - and no, we don’t mean coal. Here are our favourite decorating, gift-giving and all-around very joyful tips for enjoying a more sustainable and a more rewarding Christmas 2016.
1. Ain’t no plastic at my table
If you think disposable cutlery and paper napkins look unattractive at the dinner table, wait until you see them at the landfill. It ain't pretty! Ok, so we’re all guilty of this faux-pas from time to time, but it wasn’t our fault…those forks were already in the takeout bag when we go it! But never-mind…holiday meals are the perfect time to pull out all the stops on that special dinner we’ve been dreaming of hosting, so let’s dress that table to impress. Think long term and invest in simple, long-lasting tableware, including cloth napkins, that you can dazzle guests with over and over again.
2. Last year’s leftovers are this year’s decor
Turn your home into a sustainable holiday wonderland. Cut up old Christmas cards and use them as gift tags. Re-use ribbons and bows from last season. Decorate a door frame with greeting cards from loved ones. Forage for fallen tree branches and scattered pine cones to adorn your mantle, dinner table and front door. And fill your home with eatable treats such as ginger bread, nuts, fresh cookies and the scent of nutmeg.
3. Ditch traditional wrapping paper
Get creative and pack those presents in layers of vintage newspapers and old magazines, a reusable storage box or an artisanal basket. We love it when the wrapping becomes part of the gift itself, for example using beautiful cloths, scarfs or vintage shirts to wrap our presents. They will be sure to stand out among the crowd under the tree.
4. Try a bright solution
LED Christmas lights are energy-efficient, saving you money and saving the environment. And as Mum used to say: don’t forget to switch off all the lights off before you go to bed!
5. Make your Christmas tree your daily companion
Who said that the tree has to go when the new year arrives? When it comes to creating a healthy and inviting home, we say the more plants the merrier. This year you could try a potted living Christmas tree (p.s. have you seen how incredible they look?). Or you can rent a tree if keeping a plant alive isn’t exactly your forte (livingchristmas.com). Another alternative to buying a temporary real tree - or much worse, installing an eco-très-unfriendly plastic tree - is to go the minimalist-chic route and get creative with your favourite indoor plant, bonsai or cactus. Your friends will wonder why they never thought of it!
6. Eat well
Let’s face it, the holidays are one of our favorite times of year for eating. Mid-November through January 1st is an endless parade of face-stuffing, with much champagne and mulled wine mixed in to maximize those good tidings to all! But why should these guilty pleasures make us feel guilty? This year why don’t we try incorporating some delicious vegetarian dishes and vegan baking into our recipe repertoire. Try minimalistbaker.com - her recipes are to die for! And if you just can’t do without all of your favourite butter, egg and meat-intensive dishes, we recommend buying local, free-range and organic whenever you can.
7. Less really is more
We’re big believers in quality over quantity. Thoughtfully pick out presents that are meaningful to your loved ones. Get them something that they actually need or have been wanting for ages, but didn’t dare to spoil themselves with. See our sustainable gift guide for some ideas to get you started. And don't forget that store-bought gifts are not the only way to go. Sometimes a day at the spa, some one-on-one time, or a personalised momento can mean so much more to the ones you love.
8. Give gifts that give back
What to give the person who has everything? Actually, NOTHING! Instead give a donation on their behalf. Surprise this someone special by donating a farm animal in their name to a rural family in Africa. Your gift will help this family earn a sustainable livelihood. Or lend a small sum on their behalf to a micro-financing organization, such as the Grameen Bank, and give people in underdeveloped communities a chance to build a business that will break the cycle of poverty. Or give a year of education to a young girl in need through ZanaAfrica. You can also give back by donating or re-gifting items that you don't need or use any more. What brings relief to you, brings joy to others.
9. Home for the holidays
There’s nothing better than spending the holidays at home with your loved ones. If only Leo hadn’t pushed us calculate our carbon footprint, revealing the immense impact of all this jet-setting we’ve been doing lately (or at least daydreaming of at work). Plane travel is super convenient but she isn’t easy on the environment. That’s why we suggest opting for the train or a car-sharing program (blablacar.com) whenever possible. If planes are your only realistic option, help keep that plane as light as possible by packing less. Choose a flight with fewer stop-overs. And don’t forget to carbon-offset that ticket!