After a challenging year, we all deserve a break this Christmas, argues Siân Moxon, but let's make sure we give the planet one too.
Date: 17 December 2020
Christmas is a time of plenty for many people. Unfortunately for the environment, this means 8 million conifers being felled to deck our halls, 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper, 10 million turkeys being farmed and £1 billion food waste to serve our festive tables, and 6 billion miles worth of carbon emissions and air pollution from us all driving home for Christmas. But, with a little extra thought for the planet, it is possible to have yourself a merry little Christmas while staying on Santa’s good list.
Send Christmas cards that support a conservation charity, such as RSPB or WWF, or plantable cards embedded with wildflower seeds.
Make a wreath for your front door by shaping a wire coat-hanger into a circle to entwine with ivy, or other foliage and berries, from your garden, leaving the hook to hang it up by. Invest in a tasteful artificial tree you can bring out every year or rent a real one to avoid adding to the depressing January sight of brown trees festering on pavements.
Shop locally for presents or use search engine Ecosia to shop online and they’ll plant trees with the advertising profits. For gifts for him, buy bamboo socks from Thought; for her, pretty organic cotton facemasks from Seasalt; for tech wizards, see Backmarket’s refurbished gadgets; and for nature lovers, try Green and Blue’s beautiful bee blocks from waste materials or a Blue Campaign ceramic heart to signpost a wild corner of their garden. For kids, ZSL’s animal adoption packs support endangered species and can include a cuddly toy, and stockings can be filled with Divine fair-trade chocolate buttons and charity-shop finds.
Re-use packaging, including white tissue paper or plain brown envelopes, to wrap your presents, dressing them up with a festive ribbon or gift tag. Or buy re-useable fabric wrappers.
For the big day, meat-eaters should choose organic to ensure the highest animal welfare standards, order a veg box full of seasonal trimmings, and check there’s no rainforest-depleting palm oil in your mince pies or Christmas pudding. Banish leftovers by making a turkey curry or sprout macaroni cheese.
After Christmas, get ahead for next year: cut up cards from family and friends to make gift tags, and salvage wrapping paper and ribbons. Enjoy a Boxing Day walk in your local green space to reconnect with nature and boost your wellbeing. Treat yourself to bargains from ethical clothing companies, such as People Tree and Finisterre, in the January sales – or look out for unwanted gifts donated to charity shops.
And how about some New Year’s Resolutions that will make you feel good about yourself? Join your local green gym to improve community green spaces while working out, make a no-fly pledge, or sign up to Rewild My Street for tips on improving your garden for wildlife. Test yourself with WWF’s carbon footprint calculator for other ideas on lifestyle changes that would benefit the environment.
Should it be a white Christmas, whether with snow or frost, top up feeders and birdbaths for robins and other garden birds – a ping pong ball can help stop the water freezing over.
After a challenging year, we all deserve a break this Christmas – let’s give the planet one too.
Siân Moxon is senior lecturer and sustainability coordinator at London Met's School of Art, Architecture & Design.