Sustainability at Christmas

Christmas, a wonderful time of year where lots of people are joyful and merry. They are looking forward to the Christmas festivities and are preparing accordingly by baking Christmas cookies, getting all the gifts, decorating their homes and enjoying the Christmas markets with some mulled wine. The cold and the dark of December suddenly only feels half as bad with all the glittery Christmas lighting and music playing everywhere.

Apart from all the joyful things it brings, the Christmas season is also one of the least sustainable times of the year. During Christmas season, in Switzerland we use the same amount of energy a small town would use in one entire year (Source: WWF). Our stores are filled with potential presents just waiting to be bought. It happens quite often, that these gifts are only used for a short time before they find their way into the bin. With all the un-recyclable wrapping paper there is 10% more waste after Christmas then in the rest of the year. 

Certainly we still want our Christmas to be as wonderful as it always was and for that certain elements like Christmas gifts, Christmas lighting, present wrappings and good food just are part of it. With a little thoughtfulness and some adjustments there is no need to banish all these traditions. The Christmas season can be much more sustainable and we therefore don’t need to celebrate at the cost of the environment and of the less fortunate. For our WeAct advent calendar 2016, we have collected several ideas on how to make Christmas more sustainable that we want to share with you:


1.     Meaningful and sustainable Christmas Gifts

Giving presents is one of the Christmas traditions we wouldn’t want to miss out. As Christmas should be all about kindness and caring for others, it is especially important for Christmas gifts that aside from spreading joy that they don’t harm others through unethical or non-sustainable ways of production. Lucky for us there are several options for meaningful and sustainable gifts. How about self-made mason jar candles? Relatives always enjoy self-made and useful gifts that are sincere. Another option (and nothing new, I know) is giving time to spend together. As most of us usually don’t have enough time to meet everyone we would like, it is one of the most desired and sustainable gift you can give to your loved ones. Only make sure to set a date right away so you actually do take time to spend together. Or if you don’t have the time to do something yourself but still want to wrap a present, make sure to choose products that come from sustainable and ethical sources such as products from Organic Body Care or Social Fabric.


2.    Sustainable Christmas Lighting

It is not necessary to ban Christmas lighting completely to be more sustainable. If you keep in mind some little things you are good to go. First, it is of major importance to switch the lightings off when not needed. After 12 pm most of the people are asleep and won't see the lighting. Easiest way to remember is to use a timer to ensure that your Christmas lighting runs only during specific times. Second, you can save 4 to 7 times the energy spent by using LED. Just make sure that you get some with a warm light to reach the same effect as with the conventional Christmas lighting. Third, keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Why not try to decorating your home with some nice candles or lanterns and save some of the electricity this way?


3.    Gift wrapping re-designed

To wrap gifts in nice paper and unpack them once you receive them, is a beautiful tradition we don’t want to miss out on. Unfortunately most of the wrapping paper is not recyclable and the sticky tape also pollutes the paper. So instead of the glittery paper just buy recyclable one or use some more unconventional wrappers. You could wrap your presents Japanese style with the Furoshiki technique or if you like paper wrappers you could also use some old magazines or comic-books as wrapping paper. Another option is to use a second gift as wrapper. A cookbook could be wrapped in a kitchen towel and smaller gifts stuffed in socks or beanies. Just unleash your creativity and find other unconventional options to wrap this years Christmas presents.


4.    Veggie Food Choices for Christmas Dinner

Christmas season is the time of year when we get to indulge ourselves with exceptionally delicious food and drinks. For many people meat and fish is a major component of these special treats. Certainly we don’t want to miss out on the food we like. But it also doesn't harm to be aware of the impact the different types of food have on our environment. 30% of the CO2 Emissions are due to our diet and 20% of it are referable to the consumption of meat, eggs and milk products (Quelle:Klimabewusst essen von Manuel Klarmann). In order to illustrate the difference between the environmental impact of a vegetarian and a meat based Christmas dinner, we compared in our advent calendar two recipes directly. It shows that a stuffed holiday pumpkin causes 262g CO2 emissions per person and in comparison a traditional “Filet im Teig” 2274g CO2 per Person. So clearly there is a big difference. That still doesn’t mean, we need to give up our traditional Christmas dinners. But with the awareness of the influence we have with our diet one might choose to only serve vegetarian starters this Christmas? or to even try a completely vegetarian festive dinner?


After all Christmas is all about kindness, love and caring for one another. So don’t let the materialistic Christmas Sales harm these values and enjoy a merry Christmas with your loved ones.