Why should the holidays cost the Earth?
December - traditionally linked with ‘extra’ - extra food, mountains of wrapping paper, mountains of gifts often bought to fatten up the ‘pile’ and all things new – clothes, make up, decorations. It’s exhausting writing it, but the consumption culture we live in has its consequence on us all, and luckily, now we know it.
Whether you are looking forward to 30 days of festivities or Christmas means the two of you around the takeaway turkey – here are some conscious ways to make a difference this year with a more sustainable Christmas, and the best part is, you’ll lose none of the magic.
Gifts to last
Think value, purpose and meaning. The amount of panic buying, ‘for the sake of it’ - or thoughts of ‘have I got enough’ gifts we buy every year is pretty shameful. Yep, gift-giving is awesome and we love it. It’s wonderful to gift family and friends, but let’s make it last. No more ‘shove it in the cupboard’ or ‘broken in a few hours’ - gifts that last are the sustainable option for all. Plants – fashionable, to keep all year-round-'and environmentally positive for example are the perfect gift this year. Think wooden and well-made toys.
Whilst we should all be anti-plastic, there is something to be said for certain brands of outdoor toys or robust toddler vehicles that can literally last years and be passed down the line to siblings. For the friend who has everything? Gift an experience, a ticket, an opportunity to spend time together. Some people do not need or want anymore ‘things’. Even children, who tend to have gifts given from various sections of family and friends, will be overwhelmed with too many ‘typical’ gifts – experiences and time give something to look forward to in the coming year, and, being creative, don’t need to cost much either, just keep your promise!
Do you really need to fly anything in from abroad to make your Christmas? Even if you are buying from bigger chains in the UAE, if you must, at least the products are already in the country and the mileage has been done regardless. There are so many local market and brand options to choose from, not only are you buying something unique, I can guarantee that small business owner really does do a happy dance when they make a sale. In the most entrepreneurial city on the planet, you really can find something for everyone, and without leaving your home mainly. Hospitality and food-based businesses are still recovering from lockdown lack of trade. They need our support more than ever, please visit your local restaurants or order from the myriad of producers who have pivoted to online sales and to the consumer, from takeaways to hampers, to deserts, gifts and more. As festive market month starts, you can combine your shopping with an afternoon out in the glorious weather too!
Wrapping – the glittery kind, can’t be recycled. Not only will you be vacuuming for days, but it’s also an utter waste when disposed of. Thankfully, brown recycled craft paper is not only cheap, but recyclable and stylish too. You’ve also got the option of reusing gift bags and boxes you already have or may have saved, making your own packaging. If you must buy, try the reusable fabric wraps on the market – no doubt supporting a small business as you do – again, super on-trend and stylish. If you are using brown kraft wrap, get the kids involved with decorating it, making it more personal - the recipient will love it. You can use any of these options all year round too, with not a printed Santa or holly bush in sight! Need tags? You can write a personal message directly on the parcel.
Décor that lasts or leaves.
Buying cheap decorations that only last a season or changing your colour scheme annually is so, well, last season. Just like gifts, décor that lasts can mean natural fabrics, wooden ornaments, plants and foliage-based interiors. Everyone loves a cosy, stylish home at Christmas and a lot of us take great pleasure in this, but there’s nothing cool about fast interior fashion and mountains of castaway tinsel you are bored of. Utilising metallics and neutral colours in ornaments or centrepieces around the home, with items you already own, mean that these can be creatively showcased at Christmas as well as all year round with some pops of seasonal florals, plants, fairly lights or that little Santa...
Everyone loves them – the recycling bin doesn’t. Bits of plastic straight in the bin and paper that can’t be re-used. If you must have them, look for sustainable made ones, with recyclable paper and no gifts within or ways to add your own. You can even make your own, or maybe time to think of a cool alternative?
Take away sentimentality – how ridiculous are Christmas cards? Not the message or the idea of them, that’s what keeps us sending them, but as a totally unsustainable way to reach out to loved ones. Many stay in desk drawers or school bags, many cost a fortune to post overseas - fewer people than ever display them anymore. However, for some of your relatives or friends this may not be an option, but for the rest? There are some ‘plantable’ cards on the market – now that’s sustainable, or think E-cards – design your own or even better, make a short, personalised video message for people and send those via whatever platform is relevant. Keep it personal.
Emissions from the meat and dairy industry are as big as the transport industry globally – having a devastating effect on our climate and air quality. It’s time to make a change or cut back at least. Could your Christmas be the time to introduce less meat to the table? For sides and veggies – where are they from? Look for locally farmed as often as you can and think brain over brawn for your festive feasts.
Cut food waste.
It’s not Christmas without it, but can we start to shop more mindfully? This includes packaging options as well as overstocking on anything that might simply find itself in a bin before someone's mouth. The shops are not going to run out if you do, so there is no need to over-buy for the sake of buying, especially perishable goods. Utilise leftovers when you over-cater and take a moment to think if you can freeze anything if you think you may have overstocked anything that might go off before it's needed.
Since the resurgence of the novelty clothing item around 10 years ago at Christmas, we see people buying new jumpers, pyjamas and whatever else is tinselled and on sale year after year. Not only is it more money to spend with a huge cost per wear, it’s facilitating another mountain of discarded fast fashion. Re-wear that Christmas jumper year after year, swap with people if you need a change and always hand down and re-use where you can. Sequins never go out of style, and 95% of novelty jumpers are made with plastic. Yuck.
Stay close to home
Yes, I know that’s a ridiculous thing to say for two reasons – firstly, you are mostly Expats, and secondly, well, you’ve stayed at home for two years. I get it, but I couldn’t write about sustainability without suggesting we cut down our dependence on transport. Some trips will be more important than ever this year, other, more frivolous options, less so. Let’s watch our footprints where we can.