Christmas can be a wonderful time if it’s stress-free and won’t leave a massive dent in our finances. For me, Christmas Holidays is when I slow down, watch lots of Christmas movies eating popcorn, cook very little and try to survive on leftovers for as long as I can.
However, apart from the magical side, Christmas time is also one of the most unsustainable times of the year. To already over-polluted planet we bring more of, just to name a few:
- Wrapping paper,
- Christmas cards,
- Packaging used to ship gifts,
- The unwanted gifts that end up in the landfill (Please ask your family and friends what they would like before you buy anything).
- Uneaten food. It’s always better to buy less than throw out uneaten food. You can also freeze the food you think you might not be able to eat before it goes bad and unfreeze it when you need it.
- Christmas trees, lights, and decorations.
Since 2021 was all about introducing sustainable choices in my and my family’s lives, we decided that Christmas should be sustainable too.
I started our Sustainable Christmas Season by recycling our Christmas tree, which I saved from last year. The tree wasn’t in pristine condition, but we deemed it good enough. I had to cut off some of the branches because those were dead, but after decorating the tree with Christmas lights and ornaments, it looks genuinely charming.
Not throwing out a perfectly good tree saved us not only money but also time looking for a new tree, the plastic container that trees come in, the carbon footprint from transporting the tree and, of course, we cut down on demand.
When it comes to the wrapping paper, I’m using a recyclable one, which I got on sale last year. Since we also celebrate Santa Claus day, which is on the 6th of December, I usually recycle that paper too by wrapping up other Christmas gifts. Well, at least the bits that the kids didn’t manage to destroy (think Monica Geller, but without ironing the paper, I’m not mental 😉).
This year’s gifts are minimalistic, plastic-free, and sustainable long-term swaps. For instance, my son asked for a new phone case because his sister broke his old one. Well, I looked for the case on the Pela website, but because his phone isn’t that popular, no case could be found. So instead of jumping over to Amazon, I jumped over to Etsy and started looking for phone stands he could use as a long-term solution, even after changing his phone. I found a nice alternative, 3D printed, made in the UK (good news for shipping reasons), independently made from recycled plastic. It was perfect, and I think he likes it too (he got in from Santa on the 6th of December).
One of the gifts I got my daughter comes from a charity shop, and when I saw that bright green jumper, I knew it belonged to her.
The Charity shops I have visited recently had plenty of lovely stock: shoes, clothing, jewellery, all excellent for Christmas gifts. One of the books my daughter will get is also second-hand; she loves books and paying £8 for a book each time adds up over time. She still has lots of books from when her brother was a baby, but, now and then, we buy her a lovely new story.
On December 6th, Santa also brought her a wooden tea set. I was going to buy the tea set online, but because the shop didn’t have what I was looking for, she got the tea set instead. The set is wooden, and I didn’t use shipping to get it. However, I forgot to check where it was produced, and it was made in China, which isn’t ideal (Note to self: always, always remember to check the country the product was made in).
For my friends, I got gifts in Poland over the summer, which are artisan handmade things. However, if I didn’t buy anything interesting for them in Poland, I would have definitely checked out the charity shops before purchasing anything new.
When it comes to food this Christmas, we are still lingering on to the hope that we will travel to Spain and have a very simple Christmas. If we cannot travel, because, you know, “the bugger” isn’t going away any time soon, as every year we won’t go over the board shopping. I’ll bake cakes, make something vegan, and we might have some traditional Polish Christmassy foods, but those are going to be in small quantities.
Surprisingly, or maybe not, it takes more time to plan for minimalistic Christmas cooking, but since we have been practising this approach for a few years now, it’s no longer a big struggle. Planning is essential before anything becomes a habit.
When it comes to gifts, it takes more time to find gifts that are sustainable, useful, and the people you give them to would love them. That’s why I usually start planning in the summer (I’m obsessed with planning and lists 😉).
Re-gifting is also an excellent solution to waste, clutter and makes a lot of financial sense.
If you decide to make gifts yourself, make sure the people you are making the gifts for will appreciate your effort; not everyone values handmade gifts. I love handmade, one of a kind things, and cakes or cookies as gifts. But I have also experienced disappointment in people’s eyes when they saw my handmade scarves or hats. It takes a lot of time to make those, and time is the only commodity we cannot get more of. Not buying gifts at all is also a perfectly valid option.
Sustainable eco-minimalistic Christmas is possible, doable and, in fact, lots of fun if you stretch yourself far enough to see what you can thrift, re-purpose or make.