It’s the most wonderful time of year… or the most stressful (depending on who you ask!) Grab your planners, your debit card, and dust off that apron because…
Christmas is HERE!
In light of the global pandemic many of us are choosing to start the celebrations earlier to give us a semblance of hope and much needed festive cheer, and the shops have certainly caught on to this. Shelves in the supermarkets are fit to burst with Christmas decorations, food, and gifts.
However, Christmas has a dark side, and it’s important that as stewards of not only your home, but the planet (and thus your children’s environmental future), you are made aware of what goes on long after the season is over.
*Thanks to Jen Gale author of Sustainable-ish for these facts.
Christmas as we know it, isn’t really sustainable.
Did you know?
- 81 million unwanted Christmas presents are given each year…
- ...10% (8.1million) of which end up in landfill.
- 250,000 tonnes of food waste (Equivalent to 2 million turkeys) is generated every Christmas in the U.K alone.
- 27,000 miles of wrapping paper is used every year in the U.K, most of which can’t be recycled due to glitter or metallic finishes.
- 1 billion cards will end up in the bin/trash.
- The UK generates the equivalent weight of 3.3million emperor penguins in plastic waste!
This is clearly NOT sustainable, not kind to our planet, and come to think of it - our budgets - if all we do is send the majority of our festive efforts to landfill.
As Traditional Housewives, we bear most of the responsibility for Christmas purchases, so we have the power to make better, more informed decisions. Melanie Steele
Now I’m not here to tell you that Christmas should be cancelled, or that you should forgo presents to save the planet. Instead, I’d like to invite you to think about Christmas, and the choices you make, a little differently. As Traditional Housewives, we bear most of the responsibility for Christmas purchases, so we have the power to make better, more informed decisions. Though we can’t save the planet overnight, by making even a small choice - such as using recyclable wrapping paper, we can make a difference!
What does sustainability have to do with traditional values?
The dictionary defines traditionalism as; the upholding or maintenance of tradition, especially so as to resist change.
If you think of it this way; traditionalists are those who see the beauty in the constant, and when it comes to the home and the caretaking of the environment we wish to slow down, curate, and care-take. The world is currently experiencing devastating financial and environmental consequences because of our mindless conspicuous consumption and modern throwaway culture. We must resist these changes, and make better ones. The leading of increasingly materialistic lives goes against the core values of traditionalists.
While it’s hard to maintain a lifestyle that impacts the planet somehow, we can make choices that are kinder on the eco-system, financially support our local farmers and artisans rather than line the pockets of fat-cats, and above all, makes us feel good! This Christmas is the perfect time to make a positive impact…
Easy sustainable swaps for Christmas
- Choose recycled paper, that can in turn be recycled. Opt for sheets, rather than rolls wrapped in plastic. Even better, brown paper tied up with ribbon!
- Save as many gift bags as you can to re-use next year. Better yet, make your own Furoshiki wrapping from scraps of fabric. They can be ‘jazzed’ up with natural elements such as dried oranges, or cinnamon sticks, and used year after year. If you can’t sew, and/or prefer to support small and sustainable businesses, Projekt Henri have some gorgeous neutral toned wraps.
- Consider whether you really need to send cards. If you do, choose recycled cards that can be recycled.
- Ditch the plastic crackers in favour of sustainable ones which contain non plastic gifts.
Sustainable Christmas Trees
Which type of Christmas tree is the most sustainable is a hotly debated topic! Real trees and plastic trees both have their merits, and their pit falls.
Real trees are of course real, complete with gorgeous pine scent. However, they require resources to grow, are used for such a short period of time and are not always disposed of correctly. A rooted tree, which you plant and re-harvest, is a better option if you want a real tree.
Plastic trees get a bad rep - especially given they are indeed made of plastic. However, if you have one and look after it carefully it can last many, many years and is therefore not as bad an option as you might think. If you buy a new plastic tree every time you fancy a change, that is when they become a poor choice. Instead, opt for a classic style that won’t date.
As for the decorations, using what you already have is the most eco friendly option. If you must buy more consider sustainably sourced wooden decorations, or even home made such as popcorn strings!
Sustainable Christmas Food
The key to avoiding food waste is to make a plan. If you are going down the traditional Turkey route (for British readers) they typically state on the packaging how many people they are designed to feed. If you can, opt to buy a turkey from a local butcher or farm shop. The welfare standards are typically much higher, and it’s far better to support local farmers. If you are in doubt, ask them! Local farmers and butchers love to talk about their products and it opens a narrative that says “local is best”. By saying no to mass produced or imported meat, you make an important statement on how much higher welfare, and the environmental impact to produce meat means to you.
Plan the rest of your meal accordingly. Don’t buy sprouts if no one likes them, just because they are traditional doesn’t mean you have to buy them! Avoid the buy one get one free offers if you know you cannot eat them in time before they go off. Freeze what you can to eat at a later date to reduce waste ever further.
Similarly resist the urge to buy all the Christmas themed snack foods. Not only are they packaged in plastic (that is not always recyclable) they often end up half used and stale! If you want to buy Christmas chocolates, such as Roses or Quality street, opt for the metal tin or cardboard boxes.
Consider making things from scratch. Side dishes like cauliflower cheese for example are cheap to make, and can be made ahead of time to ease the burden of cooking on the day. Not only is it frugal, it reduces the plastic waste that inevitably comes when buying from the shops. Same goes for Christmas biscuits/cookies! Get baking - it’s fun and you can get the children involved too.
Sustainable Christmas Gifts & Presents
Though you cannot control what others buy for you and your children, you can certainly try to influence them (graciously!) Why not ask for experiences such as a trip to a special place? So much more valuable than a plastic toy that they will likely get bored of quickly. If they insist on buying toys then perhaps graciously suggest they only buy a couple. Don’t feel deflated if they don’t listen and buy all the things, you can still make good choices such as asking your children to donate old toys to charity to make room for new ones.
Teach your children the importance of “quality over quantity” in order to manage their expectations. After all, Jesus only received three gifts! You can also stick to the old adage “something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read”. This sets the standard that we all shouldn’t expect too much, especially when it’s not useful.
When it comes to toys for little ones, consider purchasing those made of sustainably sourced materials over plastic. Or supporting local makers by purchasing a handmade gift! Etsy is a fabulous place to source ethical, handmade treasures that supports small (usually Mom & Pop) businesses. “Montessori” is a great search term if you’re stuck for ideas.
In terms of giving, get creative! There are some wonderful second hand bargains out there and with some artistic (and eco friendly!) wrapping they can really shine. If you’re a baker or a maker, plan out some time to make gifts such as Jam or Marmalade, Chutney, Fudge, Cookies or something sewn/knitted or crocheted.
Further sustainable ideas for Christmas
- Consider having more plant based dishes on your festive menu.
- What about a reverse advent calendar whereby you add a tin/package of food each day to a box then donate to a local food bank? Check what they need first!
- Go on a family walk to collect pine cones and other items to use for decorations.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and have picked a few ideas to implement for a more sustainable Christmas. Remember; - Small changes really do add up. You can make a difference!
Don't waste your time or money this Christmas
Mrs. Melanie Steele is one of our resident moderators in our Traditional Housewives Facebook Group. She has recently married her sweetheart, and is deeply passionate about sustainability and the environment. She enjoys cooking, baking, and Sci-Fi. Mel lives with her new husband in Buckinghamshire and they are currently renovating their house as sustainably as possible.
The Darling Academy Team wish you a very happy & sustainable approach to Christmas! xxx
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