Green is the colour associated with this festive time of year, but we want to show you how you can be green in an environmental way. Implementing just a few of this ideas can make a big impact, remember the saying “it’s only one straw, said eight billion people”, the same is true at Christmas, and all the wastage produced for one day.
Before you think having an eco-friendly Christmas means being “bah humbug” read on! We show you it’s actually the opposite. With just a bit of extra thought and switching to a couple of these suggestions, it will in fact mean you have more fun, and show more thoughtfulness.
Feet Do Travel share 10 easy tips for a green, eco-friendly Christmas this year … and every year.
Pretty little wrapping paper cannot be recycled, so ditch the metallic stuff and go for a personal alternative. We used to get creative and wrap our presents in brown or white paper then decorate anyway we liked! Cut out old greeting cards to stick on, use ink stamps, string, ribbons left over from last year, coloured sticky notes cut into shapes or draw a pattern. If you have children, get them involved and draw pictures, there are so many unexplored options. Magazines or comics can also be used and gift tags made from old Christmas cards are perfect. Don't be afraid to re-use gift bags!
Fabric gift wrap is colourful and creative if you have smaller presents to wrap, alternatively wrap a present in a scarf, a present within a present. If you are giving a gift to someone who loves vintage, use newspaper, or an old map and tie with a colourful bow.
A better alternative to a plastic chocolate advent calendar which is thrown away after Christmas, is a fabric advent calendar. Ours was in the shape of a house which had patchwork pockets, but you can buy any shape or design, alternatively make your own if you are feeling creative. If you buy them in the shape of gift bags, they make an excellent wall decoration, or can be hung from a Christmas Tree as an eco-friendly alternative to baubles.
Fill the pockets with palm oil free chocolates or sweets/candies to your liking, then re-use every year. (Suggestions for palm oil free chocolate are listed later in this post)
I personally feel using natural elements for table and ornament decorations gives a cosy country cottage feel to a home, but I lived in the Cotswolds, England and this was my goal. For a rustic look use pine cones, pine wreaths, beeswax candles, tea lights in glass jars, tied cinnamon sticks, Poinsettia plants, fill a glass jar with branches and berries, clove-studded pomander or orange balls … choices are endless. Stack fire logs into a triangle shape and add pine cones – all of a sudden you have a tree.
Speaking of trees, if you don’t already have a tree for this year let us help you with eco-friendly options! If you already have an artificial tree, please keep using it as long as possible because they are not recyclable, and do not bio-degrade when they are end up in landfill.
If you haven't purchased a tree and wish to be eco-friendly don't buy one that's artificial. Here’s why: around 85% are made in China so they have a larger carbon footprint. The materials used can be harmful, in fact when some were tested they were found to have dangerous levels of lead and arsenic.
Buying a real tree is better for the environment. Make sure you source an FSC (Forest Stewarding Council) certified tree, which are grown locally and harvested specifically for Christmas, providing jobs and helping your economy. Trees also help keep our air clean and provide natural shelter for various woodland animals. It’s important you recycle your tree after Christmas. Most Councils have allocated locations where you can leave your tree. Trees are usually shredded and used as mulch in parks or woodland areas.
How about renting a tree? Garden Centres and Nurseries offer a Christmas Tree hire service in which they deliver and collect the tree, and it will continue to grow after the festive season.
Still unsure about the real vs fake tree debate, go one better and make your own tree! When we lived on Gili Air, Indonesia, people were extremely creative with their Christmas trees. Using coconuts as a resource isn’t an option for everyone, but the pine cones mentioned above can be. We also saw green glass bottles or white plastic bottles which made for a very pretty alternative. Obviously if you live a green life you will not have plastic bottles, but a recycling bank may do.
Visiting your local farmer’s market is the perfect way of saving the environment, and you will be helping a family with their own Christmas by giving them your business. Shopping locally means your goods will taste fresher, and there will be less packaging.
For gifts, there are many Christmas markets all over the world so there is bound to be one local to you. Christmas markets are filled with home-made crafts, foods and various other items that make wonderful presents. You will also have an amazing time so make an afternoon or day of it. There are food and drink stands, some markets have live entertainment, the one in Manchester is my personal favourite which we tied in with visiting a friend.
Don’t cook excessively. In the UK alone over 4 million meals are wasted this time of year. Instead of over cooking “just in case”, nibble on non-perishable snacks such as nuts, dried fruits, cheese and crackers, crisps. Undoubtedly there will be left overs but don’t throw them away immediately, store in the fridge and make another meal another day.
There are plenty of options for gifting without buying from a store. I have personally done every single one of these suggestions and I will be honest, I loved every minute of coming up with an original, personal and thoughtful idea than just going to a shop or browsing online.
- Homemade treats; chocolates (you can buy bars of palm oil free chocolate to melt), cookies, gingerbread men, cake, jams, make your own mulled wine or sloe gin
- Give seeds that will turn into plants; veggies, fruit, sunflowers maybe. I bought Sy Carolina Reaper seeds which grew into chill plants.
- Purchase a house or garden plant, if someone has an exotic favourite try and source one
- Buy a membership to the National Trust, a Golf Club, UK Wolf Trust or magazine subscription
- Adopt an animal; Sy adopted me a panda as a wedding present and I received regular updates. You can choose an overseas animal, or one closer to home which you can visit
- Go for a luxury meal together; choose a restaurant you wouldn’t normally be able to afford with your friends/family and book a table. Spending time together is much more valuable. Don’t forget the camera to capture those happy memories to cherish in the future
- Buy an experience; Sy and I would do this most years and the experience in our memory lasted a lot longer than most physical presents. Massage, spa day, afternoon tea for two, bungee jumping - there are literally thousands to choose from
Yes I know you may be thinking “no, I can’t do that” but you can grab real bargains second-hand which doesn’t mean dirty-used or ragged-used. Some people sell brand new items which were unwanted gifts or used only a couple of times and still look new. Visit flea markets, charity shops, garage/car boot sales or look at ebay or Amazon.
We would make a point of buying presents second-hand for birthdays and Christmas, it's not the cost of the present that shows how special someone is, it's the thought that's behind it. When we were leaving the UK, we sold many goods online such as electronics, books and party outfits worn once so we know people purchase gifts this way.
If you are given a present that wasn’t quite your taste or you had two of the same thing, re-gift it.
If you wish to be in the true Christmas spirit, donate unwanted items to the homeless. Every year “Keep Bristol Warm” run a community event asking for items which can be distributed to the homeless people; jumpers, scarfs, hats, clean socks, shoes, sleeping bag, coats, unwanted soaps etc. I participated in this a few weeks before I left the UK and also gave some items to a soup kitchen in Gloucester. Believe me when I tell you that I felt so much warmth inside knowing my unwanted items were going to someone who needed them far more than me.
Maybe you no longer want your artificial tree but don’t throw it away – give it to a children’s hospital or soup kitchen. They will appreciate the thought, I know as I have done this.
If you are getting a hair cur ready for the festive season – donate your hair cuttings to the Little Princess Trust. They make wigs for children suffering from cancer or other hair-loss diseases, look at www.littleprincesses.org.uk/donate-hair.
There are many options for green gifts:
- Chocolates that do not contain palm oil - Green & Black, Divine, Booja Booja
- Upcycled products; Candles made from bottles, Necklaces from coconut shell, Purses bags and wallets from cement bags, wallets from old tyres, Jewellery made from wood, yoga mats made from plastic – check out www.coastalliving.com
- Natural Products - Organic, vegan, don't contain palm oil, not-tested-on-animals, health conscious. There are many companies that sell cosmetics, hair, body, face products, bath bombs and fragrances. Lush sell Christmas Gift Sets - www.uklush.com
- Make-up, Make-up brushes, Cosmetic bags – companies like Eco Tools – www.ecotools.com
- Soaps, Body Lotions, Spa Products - most high-street stores will have an eco-section. Check out www.greenpeople.co.uk or look at Nuts Organic.
- Soy or beeswax candles
- Notebooks, journals, photo frames or paper made from elephant poop – check out Poo Poo Paper www.poopoopaper.com or Ellie Poo Paper www.elliepoopaper.co.uk or Mr Ellie Pooh www.mrelliepooh.com
- Bamboo scarfs (warmer than cashmere)
- A 4ocean Bracelet made from recycled material – www.4ocean.com
- Sunglasses made from ocean waste (supported by Vogue, Lonely Planet & the UN) - www.sea2see.org
- Vases or ornaments made from recycled material – eg an ornament from flip flops - http://oceansole.co.ke
- For smokers – Pocket portable cigarette butt holder/ash tray
- Hemp products (hemp is a natural and versatile plant). Wallets, belts, socks, hair scrunchy, scarfs, gloves, hats, beanies, ear muffs, leg warmers, body butter, body lotion, coconut oil, look at www.thehempshop.co.uk for more ideas
Now before you think “bah humbug” hear me out. As travellers, the best Christmasses have been overseas on Christmas Day. We didn’t have to worry about decorating, slaving over a stove, or all the stresses and worries which can be associated in the build up to the big day – we simply booked a holiday. You can opt for somewhere cold like Iceland or escape the winter blues and visit a hot country.
Do please note that flying overseas means you will be increasing your carbon footprint. To have a green Christmas, this needs to be offset which you can do at www.climatecare.org/calculator. A flight for two people from London Heathrow to Dominican Republic, Caribbean produces 3.85 tonnes of C02 and cost £28.86 with the Climate Change calculator.
“In simple terms, offsetting one tonne of carbon means there will be one less tonne of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there would otherwise have been. It is the fastest way to achieve emissions reductions and the only way to achieve carbon neutrality.”
Wishing you all a merry Christmas, and a green New Year!
Which of these options will you try first? Or maybe you are already doing something, tell us in the comment section below – sharing information helps others learn to be more eco-friendly and green. If you need more inspiration to reduce your single-use plastic, visit our Travel Shop which is packed with essential travel items.
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