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Green is the new White this Christmas

Written by Robyn Keet

Christmas is celebrated all over the world, and the way you celebrate this festive night is a reflection of your personal preferences, your traditions and culture. For some, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a table filled to the brim with home-made meals while others wouldn’t celebrate this day without showing their love through gifts.

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.

Agnes M. Pahro.

The 2020 festive season is bound to be a unique one, as the celebrations will take place in our smaller bubbles at home. During this period, we will not only be reflecting on the world-shifting events of the past year, but we will also be looking hopefully ahead to a new year; hope for the good health of not only our global community but also for our planet. Just as we are encouraged to get creative in celebrating Christmas virtually with friends and family, let us not forget to also look for ways to enjoy the magic of Christmas without compromising the environment. Have you heard that green is the new white this Christmas? And why don’t you use our symbolic sustainable gift to see how you can make your Christmas greener?

The sustainable Christmas gift

At BrightWolves we made a symbolic sustainable Christmas present that represents the four main aspects of our Christmas celebrations: friends & family, Christmas meal, gifts, and decorations. Each of these can be made a little greener but it’s up to you to choose how you want to fill in your sustainable gift. Perhaps you want to focus solely on ensuring your Christmas meal is environmentally friendly, or you prefer to make each section a little more sustainable. Whatever you decide, we gathered some ideas below that will help you to make your Christmas green this year.

Friends & Family 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

Being sustainable can mean more than just caring for the environment; it is also about caring for those you hold dear, both near and far. While the 2020 festive season will probably look a little different as the large physical gatherings won’t be possible, this does not mean we cannot feel the sense of connection over Christmas. This year arrange a video call with a family member while you prepare your favourite Christmas dish or perhaps organise virtual drinks with some friends. It is time to get creative and having fun in doing so.

If you are travelling this season, try to make it as sustainable as possible. Dropping off a gift at a relative nearby? Why not hop onto your bike or strap on a pair of walking boots? Travelling further? Consider taking the train if you can. Small changes can have a big impact.

Christmas Meal 🥂

Did you know that one kilogram of protein, from either beef or lamb, causes more greenhouse gas emissions than a passenger flying from London to New York[1]? While it is important to be mindful of the fact that eating vegetarian meals will reduce your environmental footprint, Christmas should not feel restrictive. If the thought of a meat-free Christmas sounds unbearable to you, why not substitute one meal with a vegetarian option? And vegetarian or not, buying locally grown produce without excessive plastic packaging is already a sure way to reduce your footprint.

Apart from what we eat over Christmas, we should also be mindful of how much we consume. In the EU, approximately 88 million tonnes of food waste is generated annually with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros[2]. The festive season is a significant contributor to this food wastage, as Christmas time is very often associated with large meals that, no matter how hard we try, we just cannot finish. Our fridges become laden with leftovers, which keep us in the Christmas spirit for a few extra days. Despite the good intentions (and your original recipes), these leftovers often end up in the bin rather than on our plates. Why not prolong the Christmas magic by freezing some meals? Good for the environment and easy for you!

Gifts 🎁

With 1kg of paper generating 3.5kg of CO2 during production, the act of wrapping gifts can have a significant environmental impact[3]. But would we be ready to give up the joy of unwrapping a gift for the environment? While that question is open to debate, there are ways to reduce your footprint while still enjoying this wonderful Christmas tradition. One might consider wrapping gifts in newspaper or fabric material, to add a crafty touch. Or why not wrap the gifts in a reusable bag – this in itself is a gift for the recipient, so we would consider it a win-win situation! And if you cannot escape the beautifully decorated wrapping paper that lines the store windows, be sure to recycle it after your gifts have been revealed.

The giving of gifts can also promote over-consumption, with people receiving gifts that end up collecting dust in the basement. To prevent this, let us introduce you to the White Elephant Christmas game[4]. In short, each person brings a gift and the game entails vying for your favourite gift, in a specific order. To make it sustainable, each person can bring something from home that is in good condition but that they don’t use anymore (it could even be a Christmas gift from previous years!). This game can save you money, a trip to the overly busy stores and allows you to show some extra kindness towards the environment, all while having great fun.

Decorations 🎄

What better way to let the Christmas spirit into your home, than decorating it? And what’s at the heart of any Christmas decor? A tree of course! But then you might wonder: should I opt for a real or an artificial one, or no tree at all? Of course, as for everything in sustainability, less is more, but we get the value of a Christmas tree so let us help you with your choice.

The main advantage of artificial trees is that they are reusable. If you make it yourself, out of recycled material, Green Santa will be delighted! However, if you opt for the plastic one, don’t forget it is often produced in South Korea, Taiwan or China, and shipped thousands of miles to get to your home. The carbon footprint of your average tree is then 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions. To compensate, it is recommended to reuse this tree for approximately 20 years. Furthermore, as the tree is non-biodegradable, once it has reached the end of its life cycle it is sent to landfill or incinerated. This further contributes to the plastic pollution problem and again, has a terrible impact on the environment via emissions[5]...

Do you prefer the smell and feel of a real Christmas tree? It takes around 10 years for a Christmas tree to grow large enough to get to your living room. The trees are grown on large tree farms (yes, often monocultures) but on arid land, helping at the same time to protect and stabilize the land. During this time, the trees capture CO2 that will eventually be released if burned. To go against this, make sure you recycle your tree after Christmas. An even better way to enjoy your real Christmas tree is to opt for a tree in a pot - you could plant it in your garden after the festive season and reuse it the next year[6].

Finally, what about the other decorations? Lights are of course a staple. If they function on batteries, try to switch to rechargeable batteries, and if they use electricity, consider turning them off when you can’t enjoy them to the fullest. For the other decorations, why not make them yourself this year? If you do decide to purchase your Christmas decorations, think about how long your new item will last. Stick to decorations that are not only enchanting but reusable. If you decide not to reuse an item, consider donating it, not trashing it[7].

Can you think about other ways to make your Christmas greener? Let us know and let’s all work together to make this Christmas a very merry green Christmas!


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