With the festive season here many readers may entertain guests, decorate their homes or give gifts but most of us probably give little thought to making Christmas a little more eco-friendly. We’re not suggesting that you should give home-made tye-dye shirts as gifts or serve organic vegan snacks to hungry guests (unless your guests and gift recipients are also eco-warriors). We simply hope to make you more aware of the excess the season brings and will present a few easy-to-make changes.
Decorations: Tinsel trees with plastic ornaments are probably not high on the list of eco-friendly products. One suggestion is to decorate a tree outside with handmade ornaments or better yet, with items such as colourful feeders that will attract birds. You can also decorate an indoor plant with various ornaments. Candles, painted pine cones, paper mache trinkets, painted nuts and dried orange slices are all decent choices.
If you already have a plastic or tinsel tree, remember to package it carefully so that you get years of use out of it rather than having to replace it because it is damaged. If you have an old tree and decorations you are not using, rather donate them to an orphanage or recycle them. Some stores stock LED lights which use less energy but give off amazing light. Solar powered rope lights are also now available.
Gifts: The most obvious tip is to recycle gifts bags and wrapping paper (either by using them again or popping them into a recycling bin) and also to purchase cards and gift wrap that have been manufactured from green materials.
An estimated 1.7 billion Christmas cards are sent each year in Britain (roughly 200 000 trees) of which very few end up being recycled. Markets are a good bet for gift shopping: the products are made by local entrepreneurs and often manufactured from material that has been thrown away (such as wooden toys or photo frames made from scrap or reclaimed wood). You can also fill recyclable glass jars with sweets, biltong, spices or trinkets and give those to family and friends.
Entertaining guests: It’s often a time of excess and while it may not be easy or practical to have a fully green Christmas, there some eco-friendly habits that are easy to get into. Firstly, try include locally produced, seasonal organic vegetables and meat products. They are healthier, contain less containments and pesticides, have lower carbon footprints due to the fact that they have not been transported from far off and, in the case of meat, have been produced in ethical conditions.
As with gifts, a good place to find organic and fair trade food is at markets. You have two options for leftovers. You can either compost them in your garden or better yet, give unspoiled food to the homeless. No food should end up in a landfill. Empty bottles, plastic or paper bags and food packaging should be sorted and recycled.