As the holiday season approaches with all its festive cheer, the heart rate of the environmentally conscious quickens: wrappers, single-use cups, plastic Christmas trees, tinsel, millions upon millions of turkeys… Christmas is widely recognised as one of the worst times of the year for the environment, with 125,000 tonnes of plastic used to wrap presents only in the UK. Some of us have accepted that we will probably have to make exceptions and leave our environmental warrior flags at home as we are met with the impossible feat of maintaining a harmonious relationship with our families and following traditions without polluting our atmosphere. However, there are some strategies you can use to avoid single-handedly destroying the Amazon Rainforest one glittering wreath at a time.
Presents: probably the first thing conjured up in the minds of most children when they hear the word “Christmas”. As expectations are built up throughout the year and family members try to drop hints as to what exactly is their hearts desire to find under the tree, we feel the need (and are socially expected) to deliver. DIY presents are usually the way to go when looking to ease our impact on the environment; however, not all of us have been gifted with a talent for arts and crafts, causing whatever great project we have to ultimately look subpar at best. In these cases, theatre tickets, payed classes and workshops are amazing options for most of your friends and family. If after racking your brains about what you could buy for that especially picky person in your life, you decide that an experience or activity-based present doesn’t quite make the cut, reusable water bottles, metal straws or an especially cozy jumper or pair of socks of from an environmentally conscious brand could be the solution to your conundrum.
Christmas food presents another hurdle. Not only do we run the risk of hurting the sensibility of the cook, but have to fight the temptation to over-indulge especially when talking about animal products. For the vegetarian or vegan readers, measures have to be taken in order to avoid finding yourself enjoying an appetising plate of side salad as your Christmas dinner due to the lack of plant-based options while receiving glares from your relatives. My advice would be to try to bring some food of your own, making a batch of your favourite recipe according to your dietary needs will not only ensure that you don’t spend the evening famished but may also push your relatives that little bit closer to reducing their own meat consumption.
The holidays, and New Years especially, fill the street with twinkling lights and glitter, and as this traditional phenomenon takes place apparel shops simultaneously fill with sequins, patterns and all manner of baroque outfits to celebrate the end of the year “in style”. There is probably nothing as detrimental as falling for the marketing traps and buying yet another unnecessary item of clothing that will never see the light of day again, just for the sake of wearing something different at every gathering. Take the plunge into a family member’s closet. You grandmother’s dress or your father’s vintage velvet suit have never been more fitting for the occasion. Luckily for us, as fashion shifts more and more towards vintage, and androgynous styles, the options available widen and the wardrobes of both male and female members of the family become never-ending sources of iconic pieces.
Christmas ornaments and the infamous tree must not be forgotten in our quest to protect planet Earth. We now face an important dilemma: should we buy a real or a fake tree?
The answer should be to buy no tree; last year’s is probably only a little ruffled, nothing a few ornaments can’t fix. However, if we do buy one it’ll probably be best to go for a real fir tree. Most faux Christmas trees are made out of PVC which is non-recyclable, making it very likely for it to end up in a landfill site. Moreover, most trees are manufactured in the Pearl River Delta in China and are imported by airplane, massively increasing their carbon footprint. It is estimated that to counteract the carbon emissions created by a fake tree you would have to own it for ten years at the very least. It is also important to take into account a few things when buying a real fir tree; trying to buy it from a local farm (if possible) and recycling it after use are just some of the basic steps to make your Christmas tree experience more convenient and eco-friendly.
In conclusion, the ideal situation would be for us to skip the holiday cheer altogether. However, as some us are not quite ready to completely sacrifice our beloved Christmas traditions just yet, our main aim should be to reduce waste as a whole. Turn away from plastic and non-recyclable objects which will be inevitably placed into your hands at one point or another during the holidays. Stop over-consuming animal products to preserve those precious natural resources and water reserves. Take into account the environment so you can enjoy your holidays and sing Christmas carols with a clear conscience.
Angélica O, Year 12