Grinching it up: How to Have a Green and Sustainable Christmas
If you’re anything like me, this time of year probably induces gollum-like arguments between your inner eco-warrior, recycling-obsessed, plant-based eatin’ self and your inner Christmas Monster self, which is part excitable five-year-old child and part blissfully-brainwashed consumer. Which is why I’m never gonna give you a list of sustainable-Christmas tips that involve shirking your traditions or dimming your Christmas spirit even one energy-efficient watt. I’m just gonna give you a couple of tips that involve swapping your destined-for-landfill purchases and bad habits with eco-alternatives. We can placate that inner beast together, promise.
Let’s talk about trees.
You know we had to go there. Let’s get it out of the way first thing, shall we? We all love to have our own Christmas tree (and we all think our tree is better than anyone else’s tree). But anyone who’s thought about their tree’s life beyond how well it is fulfilling its bauble-holding duties has probably baulked at the thought of the millions of lovely, thriving, resiliently green little trees being brutally cut down in their prime every year, only to be discarded three weeks later like leftover sprouts (bonus tip/preachy sidenote: compost compostable food! Full disclosure, I do not do this but I should and so should you).
So what are our options?
Well, you could take a leaf out of my grandma’s book and swipe a discarded tree from the side of the road on January 2nd, let it dry out and turn a sad, sad brown colour in the garden all damn year, before finally spray-painting it silver and using it as a flashy, sustainable tree option. Not sure about the environmental brownie points of spray paint, but, knowing my grandma, she probably mixed it herself out of ground flowers and hemp milk.
You could buy a tree from one of the Christmas tree growers registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, which is an organisation I just found out about today and am a) a huge fan of, because I’m just picturing it as a kind of clubhouse for people who are really passionate about pine trees, but b) think needs a snappier name. Buying a real tree is preferable to a fake plastic one because, although a single plastic tree could last your whole life, it’ll also last your children’s lives and their children’s lives and… you get it, right? Plus, real trees can be recycled to generate biomass to provide nutrients for soil. They also remove carbon from the atmosphere, which the planet enjoys, and plastic ones do not do that, which the planet is indifferent about, until it realises just how long the sucker is gonna out stay its welcome.
OR you could grow your own! Yes, you have to live with it all year round, but it turns out that, without baubles and fairy lights, a Christmas tree is just a regular ol’ tree. Unless you live in a small, gardenless apartment and opt for a very large tree, it probably won’t look like you’re still nuts for Christmas in August.
Lights, camera… switch to energy efficient bulbs for your Christmas tree lights.
And other fairylight-shrouded areas of your living room-turned-grotto. I don’t need to explain this one, do I?
Reusable cups are not just for coffee…
They are for all your mulled wine needs too. Does mulled wine smell amazing but actually taste kinda gross? Yes. Are we gonna drink it anyway because that is what you do at Christmas, along with listening to that god-awful Michael Buble song a thousand times and buying a Christmas pudding no one’s gonna eat? Yes. Am I gonna get hate for my mulled wine opinion? Maybe. Either way, the polystyrene, plastic, or paper cup needs to be replaced by your Keep Cup, Chilly bottle, or whatever other millennial beverage-holder is in vogue by the time you’re reading this.
After sustainable wrapping paper that’s not newspaper?
Well, firstly I feel obligated to remind you that your read (or ‘I was definitely going to read that’) newspaper is actually cracking as wrapping paper and that every ribbon on this far-too-hot planet looks good wrapped around it (as do sprigs of holly, mistletoe, and most other useless, Christmas-themed confectionery).
BUT. Should you wish to change it up, do something a bit more fun/challenging, not look like your family’s token knit-your-own-granola hippy, I got you covered. You know those bins you get in every charity shop that are full to the brim with patterned, floaty, silky scarves and hankies that are about 5 pence each and you never have an excuse to buy? Yeah, those. Wrap your gifts in some pretty, soft, thrifted material. It turns your one gift into two gifts and doesn’t create any extra waste for our poor lil ocean friends.
Your hideous Christmas Jumper can be bought from a charity shop.
Giving to charity at the same time as eschewing fast fashion and wasteful retail trends? Yes please. Besides, you were only gonna wear the thing once anyway, no need to go nuts on the price tag.
Well, paraffin ones do. And they’re probs the ones you’ve been using for years because they’re the ones we’ve all been using for years because they’re the standard ones you can buy everywhere, from your local Asda to your local incense emporium store that your high school music teacher with all the bangles is always hanging around in. But how am I supposed to create the ambient, cosy Christmas atmosphere I’ve been striving to perfect my whole life, I hear you cry? By buying candles made from beeswax, I cry back! They’re good for the bees (vegans who object to honey irk me but I’m not gonna get into all that here because it’s Christmas and arguing with vegans, even though I am one, is not the hill I am willing to die on) AND they make everything smell faintly like warm honey and who would object to that?
The dreaded Christmas food shop is awful anyway but we don’t need to make it worse.
Tote bags, for-life bags, hell even your handbags and backpacks can all be used to cart your, let’s face it, bloody excessive Christmas food shop home. I’m not gonna tell you to shop at farm shops and zero-waste stores because, let’s face it, they’re not only outside of many of our budgets, they’re often well outside of many of our postcodes too. If you can, great, but if you’re gonna be hitting up the enormous, fluorescent-lit supermarkets along with the majority of the UK, just don’t be putting your (already-excessively packaged) groceries into plastic bags.
See also: bringing your own cloths/smaller reusable bags for fruit and veg and other loose items that supermarkets usually expect you to bag up individually. Sure, you might get some odd looks from the cashier, but if it helps you can just picture me and all the gals at OHNE giving you a round of high-fives for braving the split-second of social discomfort for the planet.
Gift OHNE tampons.
You didn’t think we were gonna make it through this whole piece without a plug, did ya? Nah. So, here’s my three-point argument for why I think tampons are the best gift you can give that person (probably one who has a vagina) who is impossible to buy for.
1) They’re sustainable. 100% organic cotton, recyclable and biodegradable packaging, the whole shebang.
2) You can show someone how much you care by gifting them not just one box (tho I bet one box is below your Secret Santa price limit, hint hint), but a subscription which means they don’t have to think about providing for their pesky period for a few months/a year/forever. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
3) It’s kooky and different and I bet the receiver won’t have ever been gifted tampons for Christmas in their whole damn life before, let alone ones as sexy as these (arriving in a Christmas-red coloured box, nonetheless). Become the oddball gifter in your friendship group. There are worse reputations to have.
Christmas brings out the best and worst in all of us, babes.
I know I’ll be reaching for the Quality Street* just as frequently as the next person. But, to compensate for all that guilt-ridden packaging collecting around my sofa-ridden backside, I’ll be gifting my friends and family sustainably-sourced clothes and organic alternatives to their fave products, wrapped in vintage hankies and adorned with elaborately-tied, recycled ribbon (and placing them under our very-much-still-alive potted fir tree). ‘Cause I’m extra, yeah, but also ‘cause we’ve all gotta do our best to help out this dying, ravaged, beautiful rock we’re all stranded on, any way we can.
*To those of you who have been paying too much attention during the reading of this piece, I’d like to stop you there and defensively remind you that veganism doesn’t apply when it comes to participating in sacred family traditions like scoffing tiny, individually wrapped chocolates at Christmas. Sorry but thems the rules, I don’t make them.
Header Image: Note and a Boat
OHNE Senior Content Writer
Bella is a pet-less animal lover, serial plant-killer, and obsessive playlist-maker. When she’s not writing about periods and waxing lyrical about the joys of organic tampons, you can find her writing here. She listens to too many podcasts and thinks you should probably drink more water.
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