A sustainable Christmas is in our hands
Have you ever heard the expression “You light up more than a Christmas tree”? When Christmas comes around, everything seems to change its appearance. Streets, shops, monuments, squares and houses are filled with various decorations, but have we ever stopped to think if all this ritual can be a little more sustainable?
Trees, ribbons, balls, socks, lights, figurines, tinsel, candelabras… Every year, at the beginning of December, coloured lights spread throughout the geography of the countries that celebrate Christmas. Switching on the lights in public spaces has become a social ritual, but it is also a ritual for many households to dedicate time to decorating spaces with Christmas elements.
Although plastic continues to lead the way as the material from which Christmas decorations are made, in recent years the disposable model of society seems to be beginning to be called into question. It is with this in mind that natural elements are increasingly present at fairs and are a good alternative.
Natural elements, moreover, once the festivities are over, are 100% compostable and decompose in a short space of time. On the other hand, if you can’t find what you are looking for at the many fairs around the country, there is always the option of making them yourself, with what you have at home and what nature has to offer. With a little imagination you can make unique ornaments!
Tree, tinsel and balls, do it yourself
Although it is true that having an artificial Christmas tree, which you can keep and put up again the following year, can be considered a sustainable practice, because you reuse it, it is also true that they are usually made of plastic and, therefore, will take about 400 years to decompose. On the other hand, they are usually manufactured on the other side of the world and their transport already represents a significant carbon footprint.
Taking all these points into account, natural Christmas trees are one of the options to consider. Their sale is regulated, they are local and local councils usually collect them after the festive season. Most recycle them, sometimes turning them into compost. Another alternative is to use your imagination and make a Christmas tree out of natural materials such as wood, rope, pallets, ribbons, etc.
The same goes for the tinsel and balls used to decorate the trees. They are usually made of plasticised material. We have more natural alternatives, such as balls and tinsel made from clothes, wool, fruit (with dried orange and lemon peels, which also scent the atmosphere). On the internet you will find many tutorials on how to do it.
Wreaths and centrepieces
You can also make your own Christmas wreaths to hang on the door. With wires, stuffing and cardboard, we can make the circumference, which we can then cover with pine cones, dried citrus peels, acorns, nuts, fir branches, balls and wreaths made of felt, clothes, paper, etc. We can paint or not the different elements with gold, copper, red and silver colours; and put coloured ribbons, such as blue, red, gold and silver.
Christmas is a time for get-togethers. Meals are one of the most important moments of the festive season. Christmas and St. Stephen’s Day meals, New Year’s Eve dinner and Epiphany are occasions that require special attention to the tableware.
On special occasions, once again, taking care of the details is important and using disposable crockery and cutlery can lighten our workload, but it also means making a lot of waste and that the occasion loses glamour: the food doesn’t taste the same if it is served with paper plates as it does with porcelain crockery; nor will the wine or water taste the same.
So, if you can, it is always better to use metal cutlery, ceramic or porcelain tableware and glass or crystal glasses. Good tableware also deserves good tablecloths and napkins, and if they are made of cotton or linen, better than paper or plastic. And, to give the table a personal touch, you can decorate the centrepiece by making a path with natural fir branches and unscented candles, pine cones, nuts, etc. No tall centrepieces, which block the view of the guest in front of you!
Gift wrapping: the ‘furoshiki’
According to data from Idescat, each of us generates 1.44 kilos of waste per day. At Christmas, the waste generated by the public increases by 3%, according to data from the Catalan Waste Agency. Food waste, glass and paper and cardboard are those that increase the most. For this reason, it is important to calculate the quantities of food and to think carefully about the gifts you give. If the gifts are useful or intangible (tickets to shows, concerts, massages, subscriptions, etc.), the volume of waste is reduced.
As for gift wrapping, it also represents an extra generation of waste. Therefore, it is also crucial to be creative when wrapping gifts. There are many ways to do this, from using paper from magazines and newspapers or reusing paper from other gifts. And, one innovative way is to use a Japanese method, known as ‘furoshiki’.
The ‘furoshiki’ is a traditional Japanese quadrangular cloth used to wrap and transport objects, from clothes to bottles and gifts. It is similar to a handkerchief for making bundles. The gift is wrapped with this scarf and the recipient can reuse it to wrap another gift. It can even find its way back into your hands by wrapping another gift.
Another way to reduce waste is to give an unused item as a gift. This is a good idea for Secret Santa: what you don’t use or don’t like can be given to someone else. Making Christmas, one of the most consumerist and waste-generating times of the year, sustainable is also in our hands.
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