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The Christmas season is surrounded by a feeling of joy and family traditions. However, the Christmas season has a much darker side. It results in tons of waste. One million tons a week, to be blunt. Everything from artificial trees, to inefficient lighted decorations, to gift wrap, to Christmas cards, and the plastic junk everyone got everyone else for Christmas all results in a huge carbon footprint.
So, in the spirit of the season of giving, why don’t we give back to the planet that affords us so much? We are all stewards of this land we call home, we can all make a difference. Here are ideas for a more sustainable Christmas.
16 Ideas for a More Sustainable Christmas
1. Reusable Gift Wrap
Gift wrap makes up a ton of waste every year. Most people don’t bother with recycling, and even if they do, the idea isn’t perfect. Plus, it’s incredibly expensive! So, how about making your own gift wrap? Burlap wrapped with twine or even a pretty cloth bow is elegant and beautiful. You can reuse these year after year! Here’s a few great tutorials:
2. Replant your Christmas Tree
Yes, yes you can replant your Christmas tree. Artificial is not usually the way to go (except my friend Jess over here at the 104 Homestead does have a compelling argument as to why artificial may be better for you). Despite the fact that artificial trees are used for an average of 8 years, most people toss them. Unless you live in an area where you can recycle it (our local recycling does not accept artificial trees), or you try to donate it, it’s going to wind up in a landfill, lasting forever. Also, a tree grown, even on a tree farm, helped produce oxygen the entire time it was here. The carbon footprint is not near as large as an artificial tree manufactured with petroleum products overseas. So, buy a real tree and replant it when you’re finished. Stay tuned for how to do that….
3. Recycle your Christmas Tree or Use an Alternative to the traditional Tree
The thought of having to go through the hassle of planting a tree not worth it to you? That’s ok! There are ways to recycle it. You can find a place that mulches Christmas trees for other uses or use this fantastic idea on your homestead:
Don’t want to do that either? How about Alternatives to traditional Christmas trees? Here’s a great post on that:
4. Send out Fewer Christmas Cards (or don’t at all)
Christmas cards are nice. It’s pleasant to see a festive card in the mailbox instead of a bill, I’ll admit. There are over 2.5 billion Christmas cards sold in the United States alone every season. That’s a lot of paper which accounts for a lot of trees. Think about what you do with your Christmas cards after the season is over…. Only send out a few important ones instead of everyone in your address book. When you’re finished displaying yours after the season is over, be sure to use the tutorial above to make some Christmas boxes!
5. Travel Less
I’m not saying don’t go see your family across the country for the holiday. I’m saying, decrease the amount of traveling you do. Opt for a more simple Christmas and stay at home. Go to the important events that you don’t want to miss and stay out of the shopping malls. Which brings me to another point….
6. Think Before You Buy
Anyone who has followed along on The Rustic Elk very long knows I don’t like plastic. There is very little sway in this. Only a handful of plastic items will ever plant their presence under our holiday tree. So, instead of buying the latest, plastic, popular, must-have, think twice. Seek out more sustainable options by finding fair trade companies, looking for locally sourced, handmade products, or making your own. Here are some great gift ideas:
7. Keep Your Goodies Local and Organic Whenever Possible
We all indulge in the convenience of packaged goods now and again, even the most foodie person of us all. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t. However, when making your holiday goodies and meals, try to source local and organic ingredients. Use things you have preserved yourself when possible and go from there. Amazingly, you can usually source local ingredients year-round for a large portion of your holiday cooking. This reduces your footprint (less shipping travel), supports local, small, farmers, supports the local economy and organic is better for you and the environment!
8. Buy a Pasture Raised (preferably local) Ham or Turkey
If you’ve got the means to raise your own hog or turkey and cure your own holiday ham, go for it, seriously! We don’t (yet), so our Christmas meal will be made using not only local, organic ingredients, but a local, pasture raised, cured ham as well. While it’s important to know where your food comes from, I believe this is especially true of your meat. I feel a lot better knowing that the ham on my table came from a well treated, healthy, happy hog.
9. Decorate With Natural, Handmade & Recycled Products
Like I stated earlier, avoid the plastic. Also avoid the prefab, run of the mill ornaments. Make a tradition of making your own ornaments using reusable resources and recycled products. Enlist the help of your children! Not only will your decorations be more sustainable, they’ll also be more unique and memorable. Don’t go overboard, but enjoy yourself! Here are some great tutorials on some handmade ornaments:
10. Use LED Lighting
Gone are the days we use candles to light up our trees (thankfully). A little tidbit of information, it was 1882 that the first electrically illuminated Christmas tree was displayed. Wow! Anyway, also gone are the days of expensive, power sucking miniature lights. While led bulbs to cost a bit more to invest in, they’ll use so much less power and they’ll last a lot longer than traditional bulbs. So, use some leds on your Christmas tree and for your other lit decorations.
11. Unplug the Lights and Appliances
Contrary to what my kids seem to think, you don’t need to leave your Christmas lights (or little used appliances) plugged in all hours of the day. We light our tree for about 4 hours a day, maximum. The lights go on at dark and go off at bed time. The only day this isn’t true is Christmas eve where we will leave the tree lit overnight.
As for appliances, don’t leave things you’re not using plugged in. There is such a thing as drawing power even though the appliance is turned off. If you’re leaving for a weekend or longer trip, unplug even things you use on the daily (except for the obvious, like your refrigerator).
12. Turn Down the Thermostat
It’s cold outside (well, it’s supposed to be, though it seems to be chickening out) and of course we don’t want it cold inside. That doesn’t mean it needs to be a sauna. Turn down your thermostat even a degree and save some fuel (be it electricity or actual fuel) and in turn save some money. It’s better for the environment and your pocket book will sing hallelujah.
Leaving on a weekend or longer trip? Turn it down even further! No since keeping a toasty warm, empty house 🙂.
13. Burn Natural Candles for Natural Light
Candles are a great alternative to electric light. As long as you avoid paraffin, petroleum derived candles you’re doing good. They create ambient light, they’re economical, and you can make them yourself. Try these tutorials below:
Jar Candles from Deer Fat – Live the Old Way note: you could use any fat.
14. Compost your Waste
Billions of pounds of food are wasted each year in the world. Billions! You can help decrease this by composting some of that food waste. You can compost your fruits and vegetables along with your Christmas tree as far as everything is concerned. So, what better time than now to start a compost pile to feed your garden?!
15. Take your Shopping Bag With You
This should go for more than just Christmas, but we can start here. When you go out shopping, take reusable bags with you. No need for all of those plastic bags. Reduce waste and your footprint by using reusable, cloth shopping bags.
16. Remember What This Season Brings
It’s not about accumulating more. It’s about spending time with your loved ones. Enjoying the traditions and the memories made. Drop the hustle and bustle, slow down, and enjoy the moment. That in and of itself will help you have a more sustainable Christmas.
These are just the tip of the iceberg on ways that you can make your Christmas more sustainable. Also, it doesn’t just stop with the holidays, you can live this way all the time!