Christmas is just around the corner and green is the new black: literally and figuratively! Across the board, since before Milan this year, all the way through to the London Design Festival, we’ve been hearing from designers all over the world that sustainability is quickly becoming the number one concern of their clients and therefore of their studios. It’s a fantastic time for sustainable design!
As for literal green?
Well, everyone’s talking about the colour trends for 2020! Soothing, natural tones are the order of the day – exemplified by Dulux’s 2020 Colour of the Year, ‘Tranquil Dawn’ – and when we start to see fir trees and holly in shop windows and around lamp posts, it’s hard to think that ‘the season’ isn’t just trying to get a jump on 2020’s scheme!
But how will those two trends meet?
We’ve already talked about the challenges of (and possible solutions to!) our unsustainable Christmas Tree habit, but what about the rest of Christmas? There’s a wealth of gift and decoration ideas that we can mine for a more sustainable Christmas, and these are our favourite…
12 Sustainable Hacks of Christmas:
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1. Zero-Waste Gift Wrapping
Bright, glossy gifts sitting under a decorated tree is one of the enduring emblems of the season, but the creation and shipping of that crisp new paper all over the world, just to be torn off gifts and discarded is among the most unsustainable traditions of Christmas.
Consider using unbleached, recycled wrapping paper instead. It’s typically not as glossy as treated wrapping paper – but that’s because it’s more readily recyclable! In this age of trending sustainability, this paper’s recycled and readily recyclable appearance is a beautiful statement.
But if you’re looking for something even more special, what about re-usable fabric wrapping “paper”. This is a really interesting option, and we love the idea of perpetually regifted wrapping sheets being passed between friends and family at every year and birthday.
Fabric wrapping sheets even come in a wide range of colours and patterns, not only the traditional western “dazzle” patterns like those above. If you’re looking for something more subtle, these traditional Japanese Furoshiki sheets are beautiful and have the beautifully high-end quality and feel of 100% cotton feel.
[Cotton isn’t typically the most sustainable of fabrics, due to the large amounts of energy and clean water needed to process it, however, in this instance, where we’re replacing one very unsustainable product – single-use, glossy wrapping paper – with a washable, re-useable one, it’s an option worth considering.]
Another fantastic and unique option is using seeded paper! This beautiful range takes the hassle out of recycling by encouraging your giftees to simply bury the used wrapping paper in their garden.
As the paper decomposes, seeds in the paper will sprout! How great is that? A gift wrapped around another gift.
2. DIY Christmas Wreaths
If you’re looking for a wreath – whether it’s for your front door, as a table centrepiece or simply as decorations for around the house – consider making your own Christmas wreath, rather than buying something off-the-shelf.
If that sounds like a lot of work and you have no idea where to start, why not look up your nearest wreath-making workshop! Yes, they really do exist and are more common than you think, providing easy access to all the materials and tools you might need, as well as know-how and advice. It’s a great seasonal family activity too!
3. Take Advent-age of a Reusable Advent Calendar
Advent Calendars are great! What better way to build a sense of anticipation throughout December as Christmas Day inches closer?
While a chocolate box with 25 individual doors may reward you with a snack every day, what about an advent option you can re-use every year?
This series of burlap sacks is beautiful decoration-cum-calendar, with the added benefit that you get to prepare whatever little surprises you like into each day.
4. Recycled Christmas Cards
Christmas cards are another huge offender when it comes to Christmas waste. Even when they’re recycled, it’s estimated that a billion cards are disposed of every year in the UK. Imagine what the figure is in larger markets like the US and EU?!
If you’re looking for something other than a phone call (possibly impractical) or en e-card (often spam-filtered) there are some great options that at least make the recycling bit really easy!
This series of cards from Wildflower Papers contain cards made from recycled paper and include a sachet of seeds, encouraging the recipient to simply compost the card and enjoy a bed of fresh flowers.
Going a step even further down the same path are these fantastic cards from Not On The High Street, which are embedded with carrot seeds.
Like the seeded wrapping paper above, you simply “plant” your Christmas card in the garden at the end of the season and voila: an instant vegetable garden!
5. LED Christmas Lights
As far as sustainability goes, everything we’ve said about LED lights over traditional filament bulbs holds true, never moreso than at Christmas, when we’re liable to drape strings of lights across all sorts of surfaces, even our homes.
Making sure you use LEDs for any of your decorative lighting will keep you power usage and heat wastage down, as well as saving you money in the long run as you use bulbs that will last much longer than older technologies.
6. Go Vintage (Decorations) or Go Home!
Every Christmas, as designers, the excuse to stretch our decoration muscles is so exciting – and with every Christmas, the temptation to buy more decorations is strong!
Glass baubles, carved wood candle holders, folded paper stars and (shamefully) even some plastic decorations have caught our eyes over the years. Our answer to this life challenge has been to focus our energy on vintage decorations.
Making sure that any “new” decorations to our collection have been loved before – and have lasted a previous family – not only cuts down on another person’s waste, but means we’re finding something with a patina of other lives already on it and brings with it some guarantee of it being something that survive being brought out of storage for a month every year and hopefully, one day in the future, we’ll be able to pass it on to bring a little more Christmas to another family.
7. Re-usable Christmas Crackers
Another point of tradition is the Christmas Cracker! Secretly, we all love the silly jokes, looking bad in the paper crowns and the surprise of the little toy; it tickles the child that is still alive in all of us.
But as far as sustainability goes, crackers are just more glossy paper and plastic that’s very quickly thrown out. Not great!
Keep This Cracker has come up with a range of beautiful, simple and reusable Christmas Crackers that allow you to not only reduce your waste, but to personalise your crackers!
8. Shop Locally
Every year, hundreds of millions of carbon miles are spent transporting food to our Christmas dinners.
As with every other part of our lives, the more we shop locally the smaller our footprint becomes, and when it comes to this particularly special occasion, the benefits can be profound!
Buying from your local farmers’ markets reduces the impact of transportation and boosts the nutritional impact of the produce you’re using. It also supports your local communities, ensuring they’ll be able to keep on supporting you in the years to come!
Planning ahead will help too! Smaller producers will be able to work with you if you let them know a few months in advance that you’re planning that big, family turkey dinner. Order early and you’ll be amazed how much they’ll want to help make your feast a success! A real community effort!
9. Give the Gift of Experience
Another way to cut down on waste wrapping paper is to not give physical gifts at all!
At a certain age, Christmas gifts are often less like a welcome surprise and more like clutter. Think about giving your friends and family experiences instead; something that will give them memories and stories that might last a lot longer than the socks you were otherwise going to give them….again.
Sites like Red Letter Day and Prezzy Box make it easy to give days and vouchers of all sorts. Our favourite though is Indytute, which specialises in unusual experience gifts: it’s full of great ideas for all your hardest-to-buy-for friends.
10. Play Without Plastic
As long as we’re talking about gifts, we have to acknowledge that there are certain types of people – generally the younger ones – for whom nothing but a toy will do!
If that’s you, then consider looking for wooden toys, rather than plastic ones.
Wooden toys such as these development blocks will typically last much longer than an plastic alternative, not only meaning they’ll survive more than one child’s play, but when they do eventually reach the end of their life, they’re biodegradable!
11. Eat Your Greens – and your Left-overs!
There’s a tendency to over-eat at Christmas. People put on enormous, beautiful feasts and then we do our best to eat it all, but even with all that effort, one food charity – ReFood – has undertaken a survey of the amount of food thrown away by UK households at the end of the Christmas season. They found 1,300 tons of turkey, 172 tons of sprouts and 848 tons of roast potatoes as just a few examples of how wrong we get it when we’re ordering and preparing our Christmas spreads.
It won’t do to run out of food at Christmas, but make sure you have a plan for freezing, storing or reimagining your left-overs in the days and weeks after the big day is done.
You might also consider leaning into vegetarian and vegan options. As a society we’re becoming more and more aware of the environmental impact of our meat consumption and any regular effort to rein that in – no matter how seemingly small – can have significant long term benefits for our own health as well as the for the whole planet! There are loads of great recipes to substitute some (or all?!) of the traditional, Christmas meat dishes that you might expect at this time of year.
Go on! Challenge yourself this year by replacing one traditional Christmas dish with a vegan alternative.
12. Offset Your Flights
If you’re lucky enough to be travelling in your Christmas holidays, consider offsetting your carbon debt for the trip.
It’s true that the technology and understanding is hardly there yet for a 1-to-1 offset – minimising your carbon footprint is always going to be preferable – but if you must travel and sailing isn’t an option, the some offset is better than none at all.
Above all, be sure to keep your Christmas holly and jolly!
HAVE A VERY SUSTAINABLE CHRISTMAS!
Our feature image comes courtesy of Simone LeBlanc whose gifting studio in LA has been setting trends in all sorts of beautiful gifts since 2013.