While we live in difficult times, Christmas remains a great festival, with traditions that give it character for many people. Despite, this there's a growing angst about the environmental and social impact, as many question the rampant commercialism they see around them.
With a few tips and without adopting a Cromwellian approach to cutting back too much on these traditions, you can celebrate Christmas with a green and ethical conscience. So, don't expect a rant about the 10 million turkeys we will in the UK at this time of year (buy a free-range, organic bird, if you must, and seek out those compliant with the Soil Association's organic standards of 800 birds/hectare).
Here are some positive, even fun ideas to reduce the negative impacts of your Christmas.
Let's face it, presents seem to feature at this time of year. Giving can be a hugely rewarding experience. Buy smart by thinking green.
Local craft fairs and independent artisan shops are a good source of gifts that come without the added costs of transportation. What's more, gifts made locally often have a story which goes with the gift, and a positive social impact.
Choose gifts from recycled sources. By supporting these businesses, you can help reduce the waste stream while promoting the sustainable use of materials. You can also give second-hand presents, generating less waste and lowering resource use. If you're worried about looking stingy, then why not supplement these with something like theatre tickets, cinema tickets or a stay in a green hotel. Order online and save paper, too!
Why not consider giving experiences as presents. It's a great way to limit the use of resources (obviously, don't give airline tickets or visits to health resorts with a spa - these are both very energy-consuming). with an experience that takes place some time later, you can spread the joy throughout the year, too!
While you're at it, do try to give gifts that are battery-free. About 40% of all battery sales occur during this holiday period, and we all know the hazards involved in their disposal.
Presents need wrapping, don't they? Wrapping paper - "three rolls for a quid" - appears cheap, but it is immensely wasteful. Always look for the FSC logo and avoid papers with metallic foil elements. Consider choosing paper made using hemp or with a high recycled content. Avoid using sellotape and use ribbons instead, as this allows more of the used paper to be reclaimed. Alternatively, use gift bags made from fabric scraps or use old coffee sacks, maps, calendars or posters, jazzing them up with a bit of nature!
Now, what about that tree? Go for an eco-labelled (FSC approved) product, grown without using pesticides. Consult the UK Christmas Tree Growers' Association. If you can, opt for a live tress, preferably potted. If you have a garden, you can replant it when it outgrows the pot. If you don't have that option, get your tree chipped and mulched; it can then be re-used for landscaping or sold at low cost to local gardeners. Your local council can usually help.
Christmas can be an opportunity to connect with nature, too. Rather than crash in an armchair, half-watching the usual Christmas entertainment served up by TV companies; why not try something a bit different: establish a new family tradition, create new memories, and get active in the process. Here are a few ideas:
How about a Christmas Day bird count? With a pair of binoculars, visit your local greenspace. Compare results from previous years and become experts on your local bird population and migration patterns.
Undertake a spot of nature restoration - plant a tree together. Not only does it symbolise the value of nature, it can offset any live trees cut for Christmas. You could also indulge in a clean-up or enhancement of a local natural area (a beach clean if you're near the coast, or a litterpick along a river or in your local park). It'll help you build up an appetite, after all!
Decorate a tree for the birds - make your own seed balls, 'suet' feeders, pine cones with peanut butter, and seed trays. It's great, engaging fun for children; they make superb gifts for the nature-lovers among your family and friends; and offer an important food source for birds through the winter months.