How can Christmas be sustainable?
Christmas is a time to indulge, to treat each other, to go all out and spoil the people we love the most. Here at Kabode we are all for that (and will be doing it ourselves!) but we’re conscious that many of the things we do in the UK to celebrate have been shown to be damaging to the environment. It’s sad to say goodbye to some of the things we’ve associated with Christmas our whole lives, but we’re on a mission to find swaps that we love just as much, and which are kinder to the environment.
Every November the supermarkets and garden centres fill the aisles with baubles, stars, tinsel and novelty avocados to hang on the Christmas tree. Hey, if festive salad is your vibe that’s fine by us! But when you choose your tree decorations pay attention to what they are made from. Many decorations now are made from plastic, which has the benefit of being cheap, colourful and difficult to break. However as we all now know the overuse of plastic is contributing to the loss of fossil fuels, and when it’s finished hanging on a tree or goes out of fashion, it ends up in landfill forever more.
We’re not here to rain on your colourful pine parade, we are all for decorating the tree, it’s a brilliant family tradition that brings everyone together and it’s important that the final tree looks great and brings joy to the family. However, plastic baubles have only been around since the 1960s when they first gained popularity to mimic glass. Also popular at the time were styrofoam balls decorated with sequins and fabric. Prior to this, for centuries, baubles were made of glass, wood, metal and paper - all recyclable, sustainable and beautiful materials.
Tinsel was first made popular in Germany in the early 1600s, but rather than the plastic it is now made from it was silver - real silver! Hammered thin and cut into strips by hand or by machine and hung on the tree to catch the candlelight. We aren’t suggesting you layer your tree with actual silver, but look out for decorations made of sustainable materials instead of plastic and you can bask in the warm glow of a well decorated tree that’s not damaging the environment.
Christmas dinner is the star of the show on the big day, but unfortunately it often comes with an unseen environmental impact that doesn’t leave such a good taste in the mouth. Of course unsustainably farmed meat has a huge carbon footprint, and vegetables are often flown in from around the world to land on your plate. Then there are all the single use plastics used to enticingly package side dishes, desserts, sweets and snacks. When you start to think through all the elements that make up the Christmas feast, where they come from, how they get to you, how they are packaged...it all adds up to a rather un-festive vision. However it is perfectly possible to serve up a delicious traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, without generating so much negative impact. OK, an indulgent turkey dinner will never be environmentally perfect but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to make it better and know you are making positive changes.
If you’re opting for a meaty main course try to order from a local farm, where you can feel assured that the animals are free range, organic, and haven’t travelled far or been stored frozen for a long time before getting to your kitchen. Get your veggies from a farmers market, so that you know they are local and seasonal, or look for a vegetable delivery service in your area that can offer you a big box of tasty fresh vegetables to serve up without lots of plastic packaging and air miles.
On the topic of wrapping, it’s very easy to find eco-friendly, beautiful gift wrapping options. Unfortunately foiled, glittery and shiny wrapping paper can’t be recycled and is terrible for the environment. Thankfully shops have cottoned on to this and have felt the change in consumer demand, so recyclable gift wrap is widely available if you look for it. Alternatively you could use brown paper and get the kids involved with decorating it with ink stamps. Use cotton string or burlap ribbon instead of shiny foiled plastic ribbon, and swap shiny foil bows for present toppers such as paper snowflakes, real fir cones or holly leaves (mind the prickles!) and don’t forget to use paper tape instead of sellotape.
Do you associate those big tubs of chocolates with Christmas? Do you throw one in the trolley when they’re on offer in the run up every year? They’re delicious, and we all love the guilt free snacking over the holidays, but the individual wrappers are not environmentally friendly. Instead, look for chocolates wrapped in foil - how about a bowl of traditional chocolate coins instead? There are lots of lovely options, from foil wrapped christmas tree chocolates on strings, to choccie brussels sprouts (sure to be more popular than the real thing!) Everyone will enjoy them just as much, and not miss the single use plastic at all. If you do have one of those plastic tubs knocking around, you can still put it to a good cause. Most local councils won’t recycle that type of plastic, but there are schemes, such as this one in Devon, where private recycling companies will take them and raise money for good causes such as Dartmoor Zoo.
It’s very hard to give up our special Christmas traditions and change things that hold emotional significance for us, but we hope that this article has given you ideas for small changes you can make that will make your families Christmas more sustainable without giving up the good stuff. This will help to ensure that our children, and their children, can have happy Christmases for many, many years to come.