Learn about sustainable alternatives to celebrate this Christmas in a more environmentally friendly way.
You can reduce the pollution by choosing wisely the food products and adjusting their amount on your Christmas table.
Picking natural, eco-friendly, recycled materials for the Christmas decoration will decrease the trash amount.
Give experiences or organic gifts and choose always quality over quantity!
Christmas is that one time in the year when most of us overdo things – overeat, overspend, create more waste than in any other part of the year. That special time leaves a footprint on the planet Earth. How to turn negative into positive and reduce the environmental impact? We can make a change!
Start with your plate
About 20% of Greenhouse gas production is associated with processing, transport and storage of food. Methane from rotting food is a far more pollutant gas than carbon dioxide. Experts from the Federation of Polish Food Banks report that every year EU residents throw away about 90 million tons of food. Just in Poland, 9 million tons of food lands in the trash bins.
How to remain more sustainable with our food choices and reduce the negative impact on the world?
First of all, simply by taking conscious decisions about the amounts of food we prepare. In this case – less is more. The leftovers can be used for other meals. Still, they are not the only issue during the festivity. Typical Christmas dinner requires lots of imported ingredients – as the Soil Association reckons, it can rack up over 49,000 miles in transportation of imported ingredients! Not to mention industrial farming methods which are highly harmful to the environment. Choosing organic, local products is one of the ways to reduce pollution. It is always better to choose small local shops or buy directly from the farmers than do the food shopping in the supermarkets. Buying vegetables and fruit that are in season is also a sustainable approach.
What about sweets? It is hard to resist chocolate cravings – and chocolate during Christmas time is everywhere! The sustainable approach would be to choose Fairtrade, hand-made, eco products which do not contain palm oil.
Don’t waste it!
According to the EPA, in the four weeks leading up to Christmas our trash bins are filled with 25% more waste than in any other time during the year. Most of decoration, wrapping, ribbons, plastic trees are thrown away after the festivity – next year we can always buy some new ones, can’t we? Recycling the materials, bags, wrapping paper is a good way to cut down on the waste.
There are so many alternatives, though, and DIY ideas that lead to more sustainable choices. We cannot make everything on our own – for example, Christmas lights to decorate the tree. The sustainable approach would be to choose more expensive, but better in quality, LED lights. They last far longer and use less electricity. This way you can reduce the landfills in the long run and limit the energy consumption which raises during the Christmas time.
What about the trees themselves? Artificial ones have a highly negative impact since they are mostly produced with harmful chemicals, in far-away countries like China (which raises carbon footprint generated by their transport). As the British Carbon Trust underlines, a natural tree that ends up as splinters has a 3.5 kg CO2 carbon footprint, while the artificial one reaches 40kg of CO2!
The best solution would be to go to a local tree farm and buy a tree that might be replanted after the holidays. Or you can simply rent a Christmas tree – for example, Volvo gives you that possibility at their showrooms in Poland. Their idea was to diminish the ecological impact on cutting down the trees. We have an eco-friendly Christmas Tree – now it’s time for the ornaments! Avoid plastic decorations, choose recycled, natural materials – make them with your own hands and I assure you – this will be the best way to get into the spirit.
In Europe, we spend on Christmas gifts around 195 euro per person. On a large scale it is a huge amount, but do we always spend our money in a sustainable way? We buy mostly clothes and perfumes, which are the least sustainable presents. Many times, we pick the gifts just to be done with it. But there are so many ways to make the presents meaningful as well as sustainable.
Sometimes giving an experience means so much more – and it doesn’t produce as much waste as other gifts. Concerts, museum trips, long weekends in the countryside, a nice dinner or a workshop – so many experiences to choose. Giving someone your time works in the same way – offering an afternoon of babysitting to a mom with 3 kids is something she will be more grateful than you think. One day off from a hectic life can be worth more than gold!
Another good idea is to buy hand-made, local and fair-trade gifts, or make them yourself. Homemade sweets, soaps or candles are easy and fun to create and there are thousands of recipes and ideas in the Internet. It is also better to cut down on the amount of the gifts. Quality over quantity! Before buying something, it is a good practice to ask ourselves if the recipient really needs it and whether he will enjoy it or will forget it after a few days. What about charity? Some recipients deeply care about a specific charity cause – donating in their name could be a meaningful gift.
There are so many ways to make this Christmas an eco-friendly time. We should keep in mind it is always about small choices. Let’s make a positive impact on the world in the way we experience this special time of the year – and let ourselves have a merry, sustainable Christmas!
About the Author: Jan Matulewicz
He has been associated with the IT industry in various roles since 2004. Technical documentation specialist, tester, java developer, team leader, project manager, line manager, product owner and finally – the Head of Software House. He is a graduate of Center of International Education at the Lodz University of Technology and Executive MBA at the University of Lodz.
He’s an enthusiast of technology in the service of humanity, information humanism and engineering of miracles. An occasional lecturer and personal development coach. He supports the theory of the world of good, work as a natural human need and the enrichment of societies.
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