Have you already put up your Christmas decorations, entered all the parties and dates to meet up for mulled wine in your calendar and bought all the presents? And what about the cookies you were planning to bake … The pre-Christmas period is rarely a time for contemplation. It is not only a stressful time for us. The environment suffers from all the commotion, too. Experts estimate that we produce between 10 % and 30 % more waste in the festive season than during the rest of the year. Here are some ideas that may not make your Christmas less stressful, but perhaps a bit greener.
Christmas trees for hire? Sustainable fir trees
German homes are decorated with almost 30 million Christmas trees – most of which end up in the tip once the holiday is over. A more tree-friendly alternative is to buy a living Christmas tree in a pot. Some companies deliver the tree in the size you want directly to your home, e.g. Weihnachtsbaumfreun.de or Paderbäumchen . Once Christmas is over, it is either picked up again, or you can replant it in your own garden. Greentree offers the same service in Austria.
If you do buy a cut tree, make sure it is grown locally to avoid long transport routes. Look out for the FSC, PEFC, Naturland or Bioland certificates to ensure that your tree has been grown sustainably using as few pesticides as possible. Although 90 % of Christmas trees come from Germany, even local plantations use fertilizers and pesticides. Plastic trees are only an ecological alternative if they are used for at least ten years.
Love from nature: Sustainable Christmas cards
How many cards do you really need to send? Would a personal call or e-mail do instead? Most Christmas greetings mailed in bulk get binned anyway. In Great Britain, for example, some 1.5 billion cards are thrown away every year – at the latest when the Christmas decorations are packed away. Glitter on paper is particularly bad for the earth and the oceans: It is made of tiny pieces of plastic that cannot be recycled, and usually end up in the sea. At Greenvelope or Paperlesspost, you can find creative cards that will make a great impression but no waste. Simply design your own virtual Christmas greeting and send it digitally. Here’s an example of how it could look: Link.
If you’re not quite ready to dispense with classical Christmas cards, then go for a card that uses only recycled paper and colours that are free of mineral oil:
Packing fun instead of packaging waste: Sustainable wrapping paper
PlanetPaket is a good starting point if you are looking for festive yet environmentally friendly wrapping paper. Or give your presents a vintage look: Brown packing paper or newspaper with your own creative decorations is a charming – and inexpensive – alternative to brightly coloured Father Christmases and sparkling snowflakes. for some inspiration, see here. By the way, printed wrapping paper is hard to recycle, due to chemical bleaching, printing ink and glitter made of microplastic.
For packaging that is really waste-free, try using material that can be reused. Beutelwerk has lots of fabric bags with festive motifs.
Avoid using ribbons and decorative twine if you want to wrap your presents sustainably. They are only very rarely biologically degradable, and tend to get caught up in waste processing plants and block them. Wool or hemp twine is much better! Waschbär sells adhesive tape made of paper and fabric as well as recyclable ribbons. Natürlich Verpacken has classical folding cartons made of cardboard or wood, envelopes from recycled paper and other eco-friendly packaging material.
Get in the festive mood in Green Christmas style: Sustainable Christmas decorations
Wherever Christmas is being celebrated, the earth shines up to 50% brighter, according to NASA. Festive lights in the pre-Christmas period not only cost energy, they also affect nocturnal animals, whose biorhythm is disturbed by permanent illuminations. Use a timer to limit Christmas lights to times when you can actually appreciate them.
Switch to using Christmas tree lights with energy-saving LED bulbs, which will last up to 20 times longer than normal lightbulbs. Or even better, use solar-powered Christmas lights – that way you don’t need to bother with an extension cable, either.
Tinsel and plastic Christmas decorations don’t really create a cosy atmosphere anyway, do they? Home-made decorations using straw or paper, Christmas tree ornaments made of wood, pine cones and fragrant oranges with cloves are more environmentally friendly and also smell good. Here are four quick DIY ideas for Christmas decorations.
If you don’t have the time to make your own, look for natural Christmas decorations the next time you go to the Christmas market. Lilli Green has sustainable Advent calendars and eco-friendly decorations, ranging from a wooden Christmas tree to a Christmas scene made of oak.
Enjoy, don’t overindulge: Sustainable Christmas dinner
In England, two million turkeys and 11 million potatoes land in the waste after Christmas. If you think that is shocking, we also throw away some 55 kilos of food per person and year in Germany. Avoid unnecessary food waste, especially in the festive season, by planning in advance, and keep to your shopping list when you’re out buying food for Christmas dinner. If you make space in your freezer beforehand, you can freeze any leftovers. The app Too Good To Go (in Germany and Austria) shows you bakeries, restaurants and supermarkets that offer food and meals at a lower price shortly before closing time.
When you are putting together your Christmas menu, try and follow the maxim: local not global. Or how about a meat-free Christmas dinner? There are plenty of ideas for vegan and vegetarian Christmas dinners, for example on our YouTube channel.
And if you can’t imagine Christmas without a turkey or goose, then buy meat and free-range poultry straight from the farm. The website Mein Bauernhof lists farm shops in Germany, while Gutes vom Bauernhof shows where you can find good food from regional farmers in Austria. The Swiss option is Hofsuche.
After Christmas, if your fridge is still bursting full, you have the option of giving away any food you don’t need to people in need close to where you live: Try the Foodsharing website / or the Uxa app .
Sustainable Christmas presents for adults
Do you enjoy playing Secret Santa in your family? One single, generous present can give more joy than lots of little presents. Digital subscriptions as gifts (Netflix, Spotify, Audible or Readly) are another idea that doesn’t cause any waste. Avocadostore offers fashion and lifestyle products from young, sustainable German and Austrian labels.
The green online shops Ecoyou and Fairschenkt have some practical tips and tricks for leading a more conscious lifestyle. OrganicBasics and Hessnatur, as well as the international label Patagonia specialize in fair, eco-friendly clothes. If in doubt, a voucher is better than a present that can be exchanged if you want to avoid unnecessary transport routes. Jungglück sells natural cosmetics and plants a tree for each product it sells.
Sustainable Christmas presents for children
Give an experience instead of a toy that will be forgotten by next week: A trip to the cinema, ice-skating or a family waterpark, for example. Another great idea is to sponsor children in need with Plan or community capacity building Send a Cow.
But if you want to give a child something to play with, then try building blocks by Matador. They are made with Austrian wood from sustainable forest management. For an alternative to Lego, Ankerstein makes building blocks made of biologically degradable materials instead of plastic. Bamboo lunch boxes from Goods for Life are as practical as they are sustainable. And Echtkind has cuddly toys made of organic cotton.