A More Sustainable Christmas
Full disclosure. I love Christmas! Twinkly lights and mulled wine, Christmas films and mince pies, getting dressed up for Christmas parties and did I mention the decorating... ohhhh the decorating!
That said, there is no escaping that Christmas has been turned in to a wildly over the top consumer extravaganza. But I truly do believe it doesn’t have to be this way and all the great things about Christmas can still be enjoyed without us causing extra damage to our lovely planet.
Taking a more sustainable approach to Christmas does not sap the joy out of it, if anything it will make you feel even better about enjoying the festive season.
This approach to Christmas has both environmental and economical benefits, so hopefully some of these ideas may inspire with your own festivities this year.
Let's start with my absolute favourite.
The Christmas Tree
Putting up the tree is honestly the highlight of the season for me, getting out my decorations year after year, admiring those little baubles of joy and hanging them on a beautiful fragrant tree.
Yes, for me it really does have to be a real tree, it is the epitome of Christmas and you just can't beat the smell.
According to the Carbon Trust buying a real cut tree has a significantly lower carbon footprint than an artificial tree, particularly if it is responsibly grown, sourced locally and disposed of responsibly. When you choose a tree from a grower who is a member of The British Christmas Tree Growers Association you can also rest assured that your tree has been grown specifically for that purpose and has not been taken from woodland, whats more a new Christmas tree in waiting will be planted in its place.
A potted Christmas tree is always a good option and you can either buy one and keep it in the garden to use again next year or you could look at hiring one, a brilliant service which is becoming widely available.
An artificial tree becomes a more sustainable option if you keep and reuse it for around ten or more years. Whilst I have plenty of decorations that have been hanging around for over ten years I would be surprised if people are still using the same artificial trees, but let's hope so!
A good alternative to a tree is bringing in some festive greenery. A few evergreen branches from your garden, a local florist or responsibly foraged can adorn a mantelpiece, sideboard, banister or mirror and paired with some twinkly lights are more than enough to create a little Christmas magic.
I cannot deny that I fall firmly into the maximalist Christmas camp with plenty of bauble action!
But this can still be done in a sustainable way by building a treasured collection with perhaps a few new decorations each year. Christmas decorations are like heirloom pieces and given that we only see them once a year they become even more special the longer that we have had them.
I have decorations adorning my tree that date back from the year I was born, my teenage hot pink phase, Christmases spent in Asia and a whole lot in between.
I love the eclectic feel of a collection steeped in history but if you don't want it to get too crazy then keep to a loose palette to keep things feeling cohesive.
Keep an eye out for secondhand decorations, there are some beautiful vintage ones on Etsy and plenty in local charity and junk shops.
Consider the different ways in which you can display great finds. I have an amazing set of vintage Christmas lights which would have given an electrician a heart attack but I have strung individually as ornaments to safely adorn my tree and give a new lease of life.
Likewise if you have decorations you know you will no longer use then you can donate them to charity to adorn someone else's home.
The idea of making things for Christmas may well send you running… I know there are plenty of you out there, including several of my good friends, who would literally be rolling their eyes at even the word. The only thing they would be prepared to make is a cocktail.
Well I’m here for that too. If the only thing you want to make this Christmas is a cocktail then feel free to head on down to the bottom of this post to find my favourite Christmas tipple!
But if you are open to a little crafting then but it is a very economical and low impact way to decorate your home. I am seeing paper star tutorials all over the place this year so it seems like lots of people are getting involved in Christmas crafting. Some stars are easier than others but my top tip is choose your paper wisely as this is often the key to getting a good finish. Try to use something similar to that in the tutorial, and of course recycled if possible!
A personal favourite of mine is a multi layered star that I have made many times from those fabulous pink pages of the FT. I can't pretend its quick, but it is beautiful and I have safely stored these away each year to use again. Elements of these lovely stars have also featured in a few of my homemade Christmas cards over the year (including this year) so they are always a top choice for me.
Salt dough decorations are an easy and effective option. They are very budget friendly and as simple as mixing the dough and using some cutters. If you intend to hang them on the tree don't forget to make a hole in them before you pop them in the oven! Recipe here
Another oldie but goodie is dried oranges, cranberries and chillies which you can string individually for your tree or make as garlands. I also love to make oranges with cloves which take me back to my childhood (which I appreciate does sound a little Victorian!) All you need is an orange with a fairly substantial skin, a large needle and cloves. Make holes in your orange in a pattern of your choice, pushing in a clove into each hole as you go. It's a sticky job but it smells amazing!
I think the current state of advent calendars pretty much sums up the horrors of Christmas excess. Sorry to be a scrooge here but 'luxury advent calendars' with their individual packaged mini gifts does feel a little unnecessary to me. Admittedly I'd probably enjoy the gin one but I wonder how many of these presents actually get used and it feels like they are generating a whole load of waste. And some of them are hundreds of pounds. Hmmmm.
A chocolate advent calendar is one thing but if you see a beautiful paper one then can I recommend this as a great sustainable choice. I have a Liberty advent calendar which I open year after year and have had for over ten years. It is still just as beautiful as the day I bought it.
If you like the daily present idea, particularly for children, then there are wooden and fabric options that you can buy once and pop your own little treats in each year.
Sustainable Christmas Gifts
On a personal level I have committed to a more sustainable and ethical approach to my Christmas gifting, this includes choosing vintage pieces, supporting small and local businesses, buying from B Corps, sustainable and ethical businesses and gifting 'experiences' and homemade gifts.
This might not be for everyone and I have been met with a few alarmed faces when sharing the news! But so far I have found it possible to find something for everyone on my gift list fitting my criteria that I believe they will truly enjoy. Hopefully none of my friends and family will be disowning me come Christmas morning...
Choosing small independent local shops is your best bet if you are looking to do the same. For online options a few of my favourites include:
World of Books - Books are one of my favourite gifts to give and receive. If you are looking to buy any books as gifts then consider using World of Books who are a B Corp selling both new and secondhand books or your local bookshops over the more obvious choice.
Etsy - Supporting small business owners is a much better way to part with your cash and Etsy is a very easy way to do so. Etsy also offset carbon emissions from delivery and packaging on purchases.
Wolf & Badger - Another B Corp selling a large variety of independent brands. Wolf & Badger have a very handy labelling guide for the sustainability of each product on their site.
Edible gifts are also a lovely thing to think about. I made some lovely sloe gin a little earlier this year which I will be gifting and I am hoping to find some time to make these smoky tamarind salted caramels too.
The Japanese, who of course just do everything beautifully, have a traditional way of wrapping gifts in fabric called Furoshiki. It's a lovely way to wrap gifts using fabric that can be used over and over.
Whilst not quite the beautiful art of Furoshiki, I use fabrics pieces that I have cut with pinking shears and pin in place with Merchant & Mills fabulous entomology pins. Whilst this might not work for say a bike, a good selection of cut sizes should see you through most presents and can be used again year after year. Brown paper is also a more sustainable option and looks beautiful if tied up with fancy ribbons and a sprig of greenery.
Wrapping presents is another Christmas highlight for me, and you can create truly beautifully gifts with wrapping and ribbons that can be used again and again.
Yes I do run around on Christmas morning collecting up stray pins, fabric and ribbons, but I'm doing it with a glass of fizz in my hand so it is all good!
Reusable Christmas Crackers
After seeing some absolutely beauties last year that were rather expensive I decided to have a go at making my very own reusable fabric crackers.
Now I must admit that A LOT of hours went in to making my very own fabric crackers but I intend them to be heirloom pieces that in generations to come my great great grand nieces and nephews will dig out each year to use in their futuristic Mars homes remembering Great Aunt Chloé...
If you want to have a go at making your own they can really be as simple or as complicated as you like. It was my crowns in particular that took a fair bit of time although I feel they can be used throughout the party season.
If you want to make your own it is worth using some solid cardboard tubes to base the cracker on, choose fabrics of your choice that work with your scheme and my top tip - ric rac is your friend!
If that all sounds like a lot of hard work check out Etsy, Not On The High Street and Selfridges who all stock fabric options. The really beautiful ones are rather spendy but if you tend to buy expensive crackers every year then they would be well worth it.
If you do decide to make your own then I would love to see them!
Champagne Christmas Cocktail
Well once you have achieved all (or any) of that then it's surely time for a Christmas tipple and a champagne cocktail is the one for me.
Extra special at Christmas but this can certainly be enjoyed all year round.
A beautiful champagne flute
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
A cocktail cherry
A splash of Cointreau
A splash of Brandy
Bubbles of your choice (probably best to save the good stuff!!)
Add the brown sugar to the bottom of the glass, pop in a cherry. Add a splash of cointreau and brandy and top up with bubbles. Cheers!
Right, if anybody needs me I shall be drinking champagne cocktails, eating mince pies and watching Elf!
Love Chloé X