Greener Gifting: An Eco-Friendly Christmas Guide!

A big welcome to Paul, who will be bringing us a guide to having an eco friendly Christmas this December, and who has kindly put together a fab roundup of ideas to make gifting all the greener this festive season!

Deck the halls! The festive season is upon us. A time for giving, for caring, for being thankful, reflecting on what we have and helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

Sadly, it must be said that in all of our joyous excitement and celebration, our society can fall just short of giving ethically, caring for the environment and thinking about those less fortunate future generations who will inherit a polluted planet. For all of its wonder, Christmas has a huge impact on the environment – at least the way most of us celebrate it.

Plastic toys, fast fashion, cheap decorations and mountains of wrapping paper… these hallmarks of Christmas weigh heavily on our society’s carbon footprint and create huge amounts of consumer waste. Fortunately, there are some fantastic eco-friendly alternatives available.

So, before you start checking the naughty list (useful tip: check it twice), buying and wrapping gifts and decorating your home, here are a few ideas to help make Christmas a little bit greener.

1. Give Eco-Friendly Make-Up & Toiletries

Toiletries and make-up are staples of Christmas giving, from stocking fillers to extravagant perfumes. As you may know, there are so many reasons to buy eco-friendly beauty products, not least because so many of them are far better quality than the chemical-filled products you tend to find on supermarket shelves.

A few favourite beauty treats for presents this year are the plastic free soaps from Soap Folk, Inner Senses Face Discovery Set, and Fat & The Moon makeup -- all use sustainable materials for packaging as well as ingredients, making these ideal for those looking to greenify their Christmas! You can find all these and more in the roundup The ecoLogical has put together in The Ultimate Ethical Christmas Gift Guide which includes ideas for all interests, ages, budgets, and lifestyles (from books and bee homes to beauty and bracelets!). Finding presents has never been easier, and there are so many natural, organic, cruelty free, vegan, and zero waste goodies to choose from this holiday season. And of course The ecoLogical has a whole host of reviews to draw on for inspiration too!

I find that buying eco-friendly, natural alternatives shows that you truly care about someone. What could be more thoughtful than going out of your way to find something that is better for their health and better for the environment?

2. Buy Recycled Wrapping

Wrapping paper, ribbon and gift boxes make our carefully selected presents look so beautiful. A well-wrapped gift with those extra little details always means more to the recipient. That’s why so much of this stuff is used every year. In the UK alone, we get through more than 100 million rolls of wrapping paper every Christmas!

If you want to make a positive impact on the environment this Christmas, then make sure the wrapping paper, gift boxes, bags, tissue and any other decorations you buy are recycled. There is quite simply no reason not to, as the recycled alternatives are every bit as good as their non-recycled counterparts.

Tiny Box Company, a specialist supplier of eco-friendly recycled gift boxes, recently launched a range of eco-friendly recycled ribbon made entirely from post-consumer waste PET plastic bottles. No oil extracted from the ground to make the ribbon and 20% of the energy used in the production process is solar powered which reduces carbon emissions.

By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Recycling plastic bottles to make ribbon prevents 56 million bottles from entering our landfills and seas each year. That’s a staggering impact!

So give luxuriously gift-wrapped presents to your loved ones with a cleaner conscience this year by opting for recycled wrapping!

3. Recycle & Upcycle Wherever You Can

Carrying on the wrapping theme, make sure you recycle or reuse as much gift wrapping as you can. Set it aside it for next year and save yourself a bundle of money!

It’s not just gift boxes and wrapping paper that fills our rubbish tips after Christmas though. Plastic toys get broken before Boxing Day is over and cheap decorations barely last through New Year’s Eve. Foil mince pie cups, empty bottles, chocolate boxes, and biscuit tins pile up in the kitchen. All of this is either recyclable or reusable.

Our addiction to having the latest tech may be the worst offender of all. In the UK we are throwing away around two million tonnes of WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) each year, from fridges and TVs to mobile phones and laptops. These devices almost always contain plastics as well as dangerous toxic chemicals that can leak into our environment, poisoning wildlife and waterways if not disposed of correctly. Many modern devices also contain precious Earth metals that we mine at great expense to the environment.

If you are upgrading your tech this year, make sure you sell or donate your old device to a responsible recycling company such as MazumaMobile. And perhaps take some time to discover which companies are doing their part to ensure a responsible practice and more ethical approach to materials and production.

4. Donate Unwanted Gifts to Charity

If you can’t recycle or reuse something from your Christmas celebrations, consider giving it to charity. In particular, this applies to any unwanted gifts.

£700 million is spent on unwanted Christmas gifts every year in the UK. That’s a lot of bad Christmas socks.

Charity shops depend on the generosity of the public and many charities will reuse and upcycle unwanted items. They will usually be thrilled to accept brand new, unused items that they can resell or give to somebody in need.

Many charities offer collection services. Some post charity collection bags through your letterbox with instructions for use, whereas others simply require a quick call to arrange collection. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask if you are unsure. They will be thrilled to help in any way they can.

While this might not tackle the root issue of plastics and rare Earth materials being used wastefully, you can’t always control what people buy for you. At least this way you can make sure that you don’t add more waste to landfills, and the unwanted gift can be put to good use.

5. Veggie Christmas Dinner

The environmental impact of farming is well-documented and discussion on the topic seems to be gaining more mainstream attention in recent years.

Blogger Note: I would like to point out here that while I am actively working on minimizing my use of animal products (as you may have noticed from my reviews here on The ecoLogical and my posts over on Twitter and Instagram) and choose not to eat meat, milk, etc, Tim is more your "average" consumer in terms of diet and products. He does try to minimise his meat consumption and willingly opts for vegan options while we are out on occasion, but he is neither vegan nor vegetarian. But he is most definitely more conscious about the impact of what he eats and uses, and that is a huge step. Given that meat-eating and agriculture are responsible for around 15% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions globally, if everybody ate half as much meat, we could make a big dent in carbon emissions.

Today in the UK, we eat around 10 million turkeys every year at Christmas. Animal welfare and human health benefits aside (a whole other blog post!), you’d be helping the environment by going veggie this Christmas, if only for a day.

Personally, I love this nut roast recipe as a meat alternative for roast dinners.

6. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

If you’ve never looked into it, there are lots of options for sourcing a Christmas tree sustainably, each one slightly different from an eco perspective. There is no right or wrong answer, but there are plenty of eco-friendly choices you can make whichever direction you go in.

The first option is to buy a fake tree. While at first glance this might seem like the least preferable choice, there is an argument in favour of high-quality artificial trees that last many years. I know families who have used the same tree for the last 20 Christmases. Every year, they lovingly erect the same tree and reminisce about years gone by. As long as an artificial tree is recyclable and lasts a long time, then it is arguably the most eco-friendly option. If you choose a tree made primarily from sustainable products and it is used for even 10 years, then the impacts of the production of that tree will likely be offset by not having to farm 10 real trees.

For many people though, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without the familiar smell of a real tree. Rather than buying a tree that is simply cut at the trunk, which will certainly die after Christmas, you could consider buying or renting a pot-grown tree instead. These will be delivered in a pot with a root-ball, allowing you to replant the tree outside after Christmas or to re-pot the tree if you want to use the same one the following year. While these trees can die if kept indoors for more than 12 days, they are a very sustainable choice – not to mention that it can be a beautiful family tradition to plant a tree at Christmas time!

Of course, that won’t be right for everybody, and that’s fine. If you do still prefer to buy a real cut tree each year, there are still things you can do to minimise the environmental impact. The first is to buy local so your tree carries a smaller carbon footprint. Around six to eight million trees sold in the UK every year were grown here. A further £3 million worth of real Christmas trees are imported into the UK each year. Secondly, make sure you buy from an ethical Christmas Tree farm. Many of these will allow you to choose your tree in the field, which means it is out there absorbing carbon dioxide right up until you decide to take it home with you. It also stops overfarming when they are cut down to order.

Finally, it should go without saying that whatever type of tree you choose, make sure you recycle it if you do need to get rid of it. Christmas trees can be turned into chippings that are used in local parks and gardens.

Of course, there are even more ways you can ensure you are having as eco friendly a Christmas as possible, from the baubles you buy to the table placements and decorations you use on the day. But every little step is a huge gain, and leads to lifelong habits that can truly make a difference.

Have you started to adopt any of these alternatives yet? Or have you thought about the impact Christmas has on the environment previously? I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this!

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