How to have a greener Christmas
By Zoe, The Green 52
I can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas! Last week we saw the Halloween decorations across town be swiftly replaced with Christmas bling - it’s time to start planning!
While many agree that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year”, it does not have the most wonderful outcome for our planet. Christmas encourages mass consumerism which prompts people everywhere to buy more than they need, and create a lot of excess waste. Does anyone really need that laughing, dancing Christmas tree ornament?
Making more mindful choices about how your family celebrates this year can make a significant difference to the waste sent to landfill at the end of the season.
The key to a less wasteful Christmas is being as organised as you can. Make sure you choose the best options for you and your family. For example don’t plan to make everyone’s gifts if even the thought makes you worry about time, instead choose to source more sustainable, useful gifts.
Here are our top tips on how to reduce the impact of your festivities this year, as well as start some new traditions.
Let's Begin With Christmas Trees
A Christmas tree is a big part of Christmas for many of us. If you cannot bear to say goodbye to your Fir or Pine make sure you recycle it properly. The EPD run an annual “Natural Christmas Trees Recycling Service”. It's a thoughtful idea to share the closest collection point to you with your neighbours too! All the trees are processed into composting materials. For more information click HERE for last years details (hopefully this years will be up soon).
There are also some alternatives to a traditional tree this Christmas:
Decorate a potted tree that grows locally to you. In Hong Kong you can choose a Palm tree or, for something a little more traditional Christmas style, a Dragon Chinese Juniper Tree.
Think outside the box. Get creative and decorate something different. A couple of years ago in the villa we stayed in in Bali they had a birdcage painted green and covered in Christmas decorations- it looked amazing! To store it for the rest of the year you could fill it with some house plants.
If you decide to fake it choose your supplier carefully. Oncor Trees are made of 100% recycled PVC plastic and they claim to last at least 30 years. For Hong Kong they are even better as they are not being shipped from afar, so not adding to your Christmas carbon footprint.
For your Christmas tree decorations try to choose ones that are locally made and long lasting. This reduces your carbon footprint and you will be building your family's collection of decorations. In our family we buy one decoration each year. We are collecting the gorgeous Hong Kong themed decorations from The Lion Rock Press.
If you need an activity for your children (or just love being creative!) you can also make your own decorations. Every year when I was growing up we made cookies to hang on the tree with ribbon. They are a lovely family Christmas tradition.
It's time to start planning the countdown!
Choose a reusable advent calendar. There are so many options out there - little sacks, trains, etc. Until my daughter was 6 I got away with sweet little notes and challenges everyday. Now she has cottoned on to chocolate advent calendars I need to add a little treat too! Sometimes I use a note in the calendar to start a treasure hunt. These are fun to put together and really get you in the Christmas spirit.
We love this locally made advent calendar from MINT.
Sadly most wrapping paper cannot be recycled, due to the glue and glitter used to make it as well as the tape we use to secure it. Here are some alternatives to traditional wrapping paper to keep your gift presentation green.
Follow in Maria from The Sound of Musics footsteps and make brown paper packages tied up with string (or beautiful ribbon from Sham Shui Po). Make sure your brown paper is not lined or treated with plastic as this will make it unrecyclable. Make sure to collect all the ribbons at the end of present opening to reuse the following year!
Have your kids make their own special wrapping paper, by decorating a roll of recycled paper. Give them some Christmas stamps and let them get creative.
Buy or make cloth wrapping paper (or Furoshiki). This is this years green Christmas trend. Use a sarong, Turkish towel or bandana to make the wrapping an extra gift. If you make your own you can use old material/ clothes. This year we made some wrapping bags from old tartan pyjamas. Stay tuned - reusable Christmas gift wrapping will be available to purchase with Retykle late November 2018!
We are working on some Retykle reusable Christmas gift bags - coming soon!
When you do buy wrapping paper, choose your supplier carefully. Paper Roses Designs and The Lion Rock Press both use FSC certified paper and can both be recycled (just remember to remove any tape and ribbon).
Paper Rose Designs have also made their wrapping paper extra strong to encourage people not to rip it but to open gifts carefully and reuse the paper.
Store bought Christmas crackers are known for including cheap plastic toys that often break before the day is over. Make your own or buy a pack to make. The best part of this is that you choose what goes inside each one. You can make them personal by adding a little note for each guest and giving a gift they will actually enjoy rather than loose in the mayhem of the Christmas table.
If you really can’t do this then make sure you choose crackers with something useful or fun inside, like a game. If making them from scratch is not for you or you run out of time you can buy “Make your own cracker sets”. We found ours in Marks and Spencers last year and you can also source personalized ones from Gifts Less Ordinary.
Invest in a good quality stocking that will last for years to come, and can even be handed down within the family. We love hand knitted ones and have found some great ones on Etsy.
My father bought my Christmas stocking from the Oxfam shop in Hong Kong 35 years ago and we now use it as a Christmas decoration. I adore it (too much to give to my children!).
Christmas can easily lead to an oversupply of “stuff” none of us need. Instead of “things”, consider giving experiences this year.
This year there are trying to keep to the 4 gift rule to help reduce the excessiveness:
Something I want
Something I need
Something to wear
Something to read
If there are things you need, search for more sustainable companies, for example Retykle if your little one needs a new jumper or dress, or give pre-loved gifts. Our local community started a “Green Christmas” group on Facebook. This platform allows everyone to sell or give away previously unwanted gifts or pre loved toys in good condition. It is an amazing way to avoid waste from packaging and also give items that still have life a new home.
Keep your eyes open for local gift fairs too. Green Queen have just announced their first “Green Queen Zero Waste Christmas Market” on Saturday 15th December from 11am to 5pm at Garage Academy in Wan Chai. All vendors will be local, zero waste, eco friendly, socially conscious and healthy products. Add the date to your diaries!
Simply by writing this article I have become aware of more and more ways to clean up our Christmas, without becoming a Scrooge!
In particular I have started thinking about the meal we feast on and the crazy amount of meat in it. In my family we have pigs in blankets, ham, turkey, meat filled stuffing, and I am sure there is more! I’m not sure my brother would join us for a vegan Christmas but there are definitely some changes to the menu that will lessen our impact on the environment. We will try our best to only shop for our ingredients locally and reduce our meat this year, two rules we live by when it comes to everyday food but somehow festive menus can make us forget to make this a priority.
Christmas is such an amazing time of year to create traditions that our children will remember forever. Let’s all try to make those traditions a little greener.
Zoe is the co founder of The Green 52, a weekly tip on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Zoe’s goal is to help show people how simple it is to make small changes that will make a huge difference to our planet.