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Celebrating Christmas Consciously

Article by Linnéa Friden and Jalashree Shrikhande

For both young and old, Christmas is one of the highlights of the year. A cozy holiday during the winter season, where we spend more time with our loved ones and also spend more on – food, drinks, gifts & decorations, everything is in excess! It is also a holiday where our materialistic consumption escalates. But celebrating Christmas should not be a burden on the planet. There are some simple ways to celebrate the holiday season while caring about the planet.

Beginner tip – seems like a relatively easy measure, but could potentially cause a dent in your wallet.

Pro tip – May seem affordable, money-wise, but could be a little bold, non-traditional step and may require social acceptance. 

Let us begin by addressing the elephant(s) in the room  –

1. Christmas tree

In the debate of real trees or fake ones, one thinks that a reusable plastic tree is better than a natural one. But that’s a false perception. Research has shown selecting a natural christmas tree has a way better environmental footprint than its plastic counterpart. A plastic tree needs to be reused for at least 30 years before it matches the carbon footprint of a natural one.  And generally, even the best quality ones don’t last that long or are simply replaced by a newer one in 5-10 years. Here is a short BBC video on this topic if you are interested. 

Beginner tips – Choose a Swiss grown tree sold around the corner from you. Or even better choose a potted christmas tree which can live many years in the pot or can be transplanted in the soil later.

Pro-tips – You don’t necessarily need to buy a real or fake fir. Decorate your houseplant and turn it into a christmas tree! Otherwise, get creative and DIY symbolic trees out of any scraps you find around your house. 

Same rules apply to the decorations.       

2. Gifts

No Christmas tree decoration is complete without gifts underneath it for everyone in the family. Most of us are fortunate enough to already own everything we like and want, which makes gifting a little bit tricky. Then why not buy locally made gifts instead of buying the same old ‘mass produced gifts’ from a big department store? You will not only help a local craftsperson or business person, but will also find unique items that may truly surprise your loved ones.

Beginner tips – Choose gifts that last like potted plants that will grow and blossom over the years. Or even better, make handmade presents, give yourself and others the gift of memories and experiences.

Pro tips – Gifts can also be practical and functional things. Instead of impulse buying ‘dust collectors’, your loved ones would probably appreciate a gift card better, so that they can buy whatever they want or need. 

Instead of materialistic things, give your loved ones the gift of experience – take them to a place where they’ve been wanting to visit for a long time, or simply baby sit your friends’ kids so they can have some kid-free time with their partner.

3. Gift wrapping

Products and items turn into gifts automatically when you wrap them in beautiful festive print wrapping paper! But let’s be honest, it gets tossed away as soon as the gifts are opened. And so does the packaging of the product. Is there a way around it? As for the packaging, let’s hope that you are buying locally made handicrafts that don’t come plastic wrapped or in packaging foam. As for wrapping, one can easily reuse old wrapping paper or opt for recyclable brown craft paper instead of plastic film paper & glitter.

Beginner tips – You may simply put unwrapped gifts in reusable paper or cloth bags. Bags can be neatly tucked away in the drawer and can be reused multiple times. Or wrap it beautifully in a tea towel, which also has a purpose later. Completely eliminating the need for sticky tape!

Pro tips – If you still want to give the joy of tearing paper open to reveal the gift, try wrapping it in newspaper. With a little bit of origami folding technique a simple newspaper could also look appealing.

4. Food and Drinks

Celebration during any festivities revolves around food & drinks and Christmas is no exception. We buy a lot more than is actually needed, we spend more, we consume more and we even waste more. Our everyday consciousness around food tends to go overboard during holidays only to feed our loved ones the best meal of the year.   

Beginner tips – Buy local produce from farmers markets. Your purchase will help the local economy. Or try to look for certified Bio / Fairtrade labelled products especially when buying from regular supermarkets.

To be even more climate friendly, cut down on the meat and surprise your guests with vegetarian/vegan festive dishes. For more tips check out our resident Chef Frederik.

Pro tips – Be mindful about the quantities and portion sizes of food. Buy less and try not to stock up perishables. Avoid / reduce food waste by freezing the leftovers well in time and creating new meals for following days. Otherwise, share it in the community fridge so someone else can also feast on them!

5. True Christmas Spirit

There is an added pressure of ending the year and starting the new year in a perfect style. But take a moment and remind yourself of the true meaning of Christmas. It is not just the tree, gifts and decorations but also spending time with your loved ones, sharing a laugh and being grateful for what you have.

Beginner tips – Learn and try to follow the local traditions, like Die Rauhnächte or the twelve nights or start new traditions of your own. 

Take the time to reconnect with nature, go on family hikes and collect different natural elements such as pine cones, twigs and leaves for decorations.

Pro tips – Gift away the things you don’t use anymore to someone who would use it and prolong a product’s lifetime, e.g. old toys, kitchenware, sport equipment, clothing, etc. 

Rewear the christmas jumper or have a fun clothes swap party with your family & friends.

Remember taking care of the environment is our collective responsibility. Engage and involve everyone around you to create a conscious community. But don’t let the eco-anxiety and climate guilt dampen your holiday joy. Just remember a short mantra – LESS, LOCAL, and NATURAL.

Happy Holidays!

Copyright: All photos are personally clicked and the gifts are personally decorated by Jalashree!