4 x 5 tips to greenify your christmas time

Zwoice . Dec 12, 2019

Family of three decorating their Christmas tree.

There is no time of the year more full of love, compassion and hope for the future than Christmas. But it is no secret that the days leading up to the holidays can become extremely busy. Our lives are filled with cooking, baking, decorating, writing greeting cards and shopping for presents and suddenly all that sweet magic is gone, turning into a stressful time of overindulgence and over-consumption, which does no good to our values, purses and the planet.

But it does not have to be that way. What about embarking upon one of the most exciting adventures of your life and bringing back the magic of Christmas by turning it into a zero waste holiday this year? Make re-thinking the way you consume a fun family game, by jointly assessing if all those tasks on your never-ending to do list and all those decorations, gifts and accessories on your long shopping list are absolutely necessary and put your heads together to find creative ways to replace them by existing, DIY and conscious solutions, which will not only save you time and money, and help you reduce your carbon footprint, but most importantly help you slow down and spend time creating unforgettable memories with your loved ones, instead of nervously running around that huge shopping mall in a quest for, what exactly? You can even go as far as planning what will you do with the money you save thanks to spending mindfully this year.

To get you started, we have prepared a few tips on how to greenify your Christmas tree, decorations, gifts and gift-wrapping choices this holiday season. And the magic is back!

Close view of a Christmas tree branches decorated with pinecones, cinnamon sticks and little lights.

Christmas tree

Have you also had the dilemma or that heated conversation about whether it is better to choose a lovingly smelling, but single-use real Christmas tree or go for a reusable 100% plastic option? Well, the truth is that apart from prioritising to use what you already have, if you have nothing, the answer is not black or white. But the good news is that these are not the only two options to consider, as there are plenty of sustainable solutions when it comes to Christmas trees and you have the choice to go for the one that best fits your current needs and situation.

1. DIY

If you are starting from scratch, the most eco-friendly solution by far and arguably the most fun one too, is to fashion your own non-traditional, yet original Christmas tree out of accessories you already own or using locally sourced natural raw material, such as fallen tree branches, twine, twigs, cones, dried leaves, etc., that can be easily found around you.

2. Rent

Sharing is caring and the culture of not owning is very closely linked to a zero waste lifestyle, because it has plenty of advantages both from an environmental and personal perspective. Imagine renting a Christmas tree in a pot and having it delivered at your doorsteps. Your only worry will be to choose the type and size of a tree you prefer and decorate it to your liking, as picking it up after the holidays and replanting it are usually also part of the service.

This is great way to proudly shine a Christmas tree that comes with a minimal carbon footprint, because: it will be locally sourced, it has been absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere ever since planted and given that it was taken out of the ground with its roots, it will continue to do so, as long as you treat it gently and let it accommodate to room temperature in several steps by first keeping it in a non-heated corridor or basement for about a week, before bringing it to its final spot and watering it regularly.

3. Buy in a pot

Buying a tree in a pot is just a slight variation of the rental one, and a great solution in case you find it rather pricy to rent one. It only takes a little more effort to find a place to plant your tree after the holidays, unless it is meant to adorn your own balcony or garden.

4. Buy a real one

When it comes to real trees, many people worry about deforestation. However, this should not be of a concern, because the majority of them are grown on farms, as a horticultural crop and are not felled from pre-existing forests. The process of growing a Christmas tree to optimum height takes around eight to ten years. All this time, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and when cut down, each tree is immediately replaced by another seedling, with up to ten trees being planted.

However, there are two things that make a difference when it comes to choosing a real tree. First one being the local sourcing of the tree, as this will cut down on the tree’s carbon footprint by reducing the distances travelled to collect it, in addition to supporting local business owners. The second being the end of its life or the way it is disposed of after the holidays. As a result, a two-metre tree, if ditched in a landfill, is responsible for 16 kg of CO2, but if composted or replanted, its footprint reduces to 3.5 kg of CO2. Real Christmas trees are thus a renewable resource that does not result in significant pollution, if locally sourced and responsibly recycled or disposed of.

5. Going artificial?

And what about the carbon footprint of an artificial tree? Due to fact that plastic trees are made of non-renewable resources, require energy-intensive and heavily polluting production processes, long-distance transportation to eventually end up in landfills, their average carbon footprint lands at 40 kg of CO2 per tree, which is more than ten times more than a properly disposed of real tree.

In theory, these numbers might suggest that a reusable plastic tree could end up being one of the most eco-friendly Christmas tree solutions, if you use it more than ten times, assuming that it has been built to last that long, and that you are happy to store it all year long in your basement, only to take it out for a few weeks at Christmas time.

The bad news is that the average life span of an artificial tree is closer to six years, as the bending of the branches degrades the plastic they are made of. Additionally, tests have found that artificial tress are likely to contain dangerous levels of dioxins, lead and arsenic, particles that float in the air first polluting the air in your living room and continuing to do so when leaking into the soil in landfills, where they take up to 1000 years to decompose. And last, but not least, do not forget about that plastic smell of theirs…

Dried oranges surrounded by rosemary branches on a white desk.

Decorations

Christmas and fast fashion? Oh yes, it is a thing, making us believe that it is absolutely necessary to change the shapes, colours and sizes of our Christmas decorations year after year. The shiny happy red, which was so trendy last year is suddenly overshadowed by a calming blue, a pure snowy white or that glamorous golden colour. But it did not used to be that way, and makes no sense whatsoever.

You surely still remember some of your favourite Christmas decorations that you used to place on the prominent spots of the tree as a child. So why not passing those lovely childhood memories onto your children by choosing decorations that you are so in love with, that you will not want to change them in the coming years, reusing them over and over instead, for the sake of our planet, your kids memories and your own pleasure.

1. Use what you have

Empty your cupboard full of Christmas décor, ornaments and figurines and sort through everything you already have, before buying anything new. Make sure you only keep those you like looking at and find dear to your heart and instead of packing the rest back in, put it on sale or donate it to give it second life.

2. Ask friends and family

If you are rather short on your Christmas décor, ask friends and family if they have an excess amount of ornaments before purchasing new ones. It is a great way to accumulate a few festive pieces and revive the ones someone else does not need, like or want anymore.

3. DIY

Similarly to making your own Christmas tree, DIY might also be the most exciting, budget and family-friendly zero waste solution for sourcing your own Christmas decorations. There are so many original ideas out there, ranging from freshly smelling ornaments made of cinnamon sticks, dried apples or ginger bread, through natural decorations fashioned out of dried leaves, pine cones and wine corks to edible garlands made with cranberries, popcorn, nuts, candies, biscuits or dried oranges. Let you imagination run free.

4. Get something new

If, eventually, you choose to buy a few new pieces, go for natural and compostable materials, such as organic cotton, linen, wood or paper, and favour either neutral colours or those that you will be happy to reuse for years to come.

5. Keep it simple

No matter which zero waste solution will you choose eventually, remember that more often than not, less is more.

Gift card with a red heart on a wooden background.

Gifts

Are you on a mission to put an end to unwanted presents this holiday season? Want to avoid your gifts from being returned, exchanged or tossed into cupboards, never to be seen again? Or are you looking to protect the planet and treat your loved ones to a mindful gift? Doesn’t matter which good intention you may have, you landed in the right place.

1. No gift

Just think back to the times when you were a little child. What is it that comes to your mind? Is it the gifts you received or is it the memories of you being with your family, decorating the Christmas tree together, peacefully sharing a nice meal at candle lights, playing board games, building puzzles and watching Christmas cartoons? Or maybe that wonderful smell of freshly baked cookies sneaking out from the kitchen… See? Exchanging gifts is such a little part of the magic.

Not your thing? Then you go and listen carefully. There is no doubt that in order to be able to have that perfect gift idea, we need to do our research well and that not only shortly before the holidays, but all year long. We need to slow down, take time with our loved ones and carefully listen to what they have to say, until we understand their needs, joys and frustrations. Here is a little inspiration:

2. Time

In today’s rushing world, time is our more precious resource and similarly so, from a pure zero waste perspective, the ultimate mindful gifts are gifts of giving your time, rather than physical gifts. Experiences, events, workshops, memberships or donations in the name of the person allow you to connect and spend time together creating memories.

3. Treats

If your heart is in the kitchen, the so-called edible gifts, meaning tasty homemade goodies or a person’s favourite treats that come in nicely decorated reusable glass jars might be the ones.

4. Choice

Gift cards from conscious brands, ideally not in a plastic version, are a great gift if you are out of time, ideas, want to limit your child’s spending or simply aren’t sure about a size, colour or a style and prefer to avoid unnecessary returns or exchanges. They can be personalised with a cute message and will help to keep the world wild and beautiful, by letting your friends and family treat themselves to a sustainable version of all the lovely things they actually really need. What is more, they are a kind of double gift, because they bring joy twice: the first time when received and the second time when used for that special Earth-friendly treat.

5. Something conscious

If the above don’t feel right, there is also the option to choose concrete physical gifts that encourage eco-friendly living and spark some interest to reduce waste. Because maybe your mom would use less plastic wrap if you gave her some beeswax wraps, maybe your dad would skip the paper napkins, if he had a few elegant reusable hankies, maybe your roommate would refuse the straw if she had a classy bamboo, glass or metal straw to carry around, or maybe your boyfriend would stop buying drinks in plastic bottles, if he owned a stylish stainless steel one…

Gifts wrapped in brown paper decorated with pinecones and branches.

Gift wrapping

Christmas statistics become harsh when it comes to gift-wrapping. Did you know that more than 100,000 tonnes of plastic packaging and 100 square km of wrapping “paper” are going to waste each Christmas? And that most of these cannot even be recycled, because that shiny and colourful wrapping “paper” is not actually paper? Isn’t that a real shame, when there are so many waste-free solutions out there, which are not only reusable and Earth-friendly, but actually make gift-wrapping much easier?

Just imagine… No more trees cut for a wasteful piece of paper mixed with plastic that will be torn apart in seconds never to be recycled or reused again. No more struggles with sticking the paper wrap with tons of plastic tape, just to hold it in place. No more piles of trash at the end of the holidays. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Here is what each and every one of us can do to make it happen:

1. Zero packaging

Does your gift really need to be wrapped? Couldn’t it for example be shaped into an origami instead? It will depend on what it is and fair enough, it might not work in most cases, but it is definitely worth to give it that quick thought before you move onto the next steps.

If however, you love to see those little twinkles in your loved ones eyes when they are expectantly unravelling the surprise, here are a few reusable gift wrapping ideas for you:

2. Reusable gift bags and wraps

It is not just the snowman and reindeer patterned paper wraps that can add cheerfulness to opening a gift. Colourful, lovingly handmade and decorated reusable gift bags will do just as well, if not better. They can even be personalised with a name, a favourite colour, a decoration or preferred pattern and serve for many years to come.

If you are looking for a more literal sustainable alternative to paper wraps, furoshiki wraps might be the ones for you, as they are basically the same thing. Originating from 8th century Japan, these simple squared pieces of nicely finished fabrics of various sizes, colourful and patterned, often on both sides, are so much fun to use, as you learn how to master the different wrapping techniques depending on the shape and size of the gift.

3. Two gifts in one

It gets even better. Why not making the wrapping part of the present? Here are just a few ideas to let your imagination go: a book wrapped into a scarf, a stainless steel lunchbox or bottle in a bento bag, nuts assortment presented in a set of produce bags, a wallet that comes in an elegant handkerchief. The more unexpected and funny the combination, the more will they love it!

4. Old newspaper

Newspaper wraps look so original and trendy, and on top of it, each of them is absolutely unique. You can choose between colourful or black and white, and even go as far as handpicking and highlighting the columns and articles the gifts will be wrapped into.

5. Decorate with nature

If for any of the above wrapping solutions, you feel that you need some more material to hold it in place or decorate, make sure to keep it all natural. You may tie it up with a ribbon, a jute string or washi tape, instead of its plastic counterpart and finally decorate with pinecones, rosemary branches, cinnamon sticks, dried apples, oranges or even Christmas cards upcycled from previous years.

Child, woman and man sitting in snow.

So what do you say? Now that the Christmas tree is all set, decorations sorted out; the gifts wrapped in fun stuff and more conscious than ever, and you finally have the time a minute to cuddle up next to your kids and discuss which was the most fun part of it all, while enjoying a cup of warm tea together? It wasn’t that complicated to keep the world wild and beautiful after all, was it?

We wish you all a very Merry zero waste Christmas!

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