Create Chaos with a Sustainable Christmas
Christmas is a time to spend in the company of friends and family with plenty of warmth, good cheer and, of course, food. That is the romantic idyll anyway. The reality is that there will be stress, disagreements, disappointment and perhaps a lot of things that can or should not be eaten. So if things are about to go to pot anyway, why not make it your own and create some untraditional chaos by choosing to have a sustainable Christmas. Below are our top seven tips:
1) ‘Zero waste’ experience gifts are not a new idea. But how do you make sure that the experience you gift doesn’t have a larger carbon footprint than three layers of wrapping paper enveloping fair trade coffee beans? If you live in typical suburbia, leaving it in your diesel guzzling vehicle is usually the first step towards enjoying your experience day. If someone is to come to your home to provide an experience, they will no doubt be faced with the same proposition in reverse. In conclusion, the most sustainable ‘experience gift’ should probably not involve getting out of bed.
2) Will your child appreciate gifts that you hand lovingly craft from recyclable material found around the home? The answer is certainly dependent on how they have been raised. If your child watches television or goes to school with less enlightened individuals, social and peer pressure will have their influence. So let’s face it, your child needs at least one unsustainable gift for bragging rights. But try and keep it at one.
3) Now that you know vast quantities of space need not be allocated beneath a Christmas tree (see no. 2 above), why not dispense with the tree altogether? If you live in an area where roads are maintained by pruning back trees and hedges, you can bring home your very own Christmas twig. If that is not convenient, a single piece of paper (reused of course) can be cut into the shape of a small tree and decorated. These will look fine on any table, and any gifts can be put under said table, conveniently out of the way. Use your sustainable imagination!
4) How do you say no to gifts? It’s very simple: say ‘No gifts please’. Practise in front of a mirror, post on social media, and put it in your email signature. Where practical, return unwanted gifts to sender this year and, guaranteed, you will not have to do the same next year.
5) Don’t compound the problem by giving gifts that nobody wants. Gift givers fall into two general categories: those that look for the perfect gift months or years in advance, and those that shop at the petrol station the night before. Neither is really sustainable. Remember the words ‘gift’ and ‘present’ do not have ‘surprise’ in their definition. If there must be gifts, do not buy surprise gifts and do not buy anything unless the recipient specifies exactly what they want, and it is sustainable for you to get it for them.
6) There is no need to clean the house before Christmas only to fill it with tacky decorations and glaringly inefficient coloured lights. In the interests of your personal social sustainability and sanity, dust bunnies are cute and windows only need washing if your curtains aren’t thick enough. When asked where your festive spirit is by those rude enough to ask, simply point to the Christmas twig (see no. 3 above).
7) Unless you live next door to a homeless shelter, all food that is cooked should be consumed. If you like leftovers, by all means, make them. If you don’t, forcing other people to take them out of your house is greenwash as you no longer have control of whether they are eaten or not. Try to source your food locally and sustainably, use appropriate portion sizes and remember that your dog/cat are not garburators. Where appropriate, compost waste.
If you adopt these seven simple tips and stick with them, you are sure to create chaos this Christmas. Relax and take comfort in the fact that your first sustainable Christmas will be the first of many. The truth is, as illustrated above, being sustainable requires less effort than being unsustainable and before you know it, sustainability will be a trend. And bah humbug to anyone who thinks otherwise.
© Centre for SMART (Hana Trollman and Elliot Woolley)