On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a completely ethical Christmas!

It’s that time of year again: the shops are packed (or as packed as they can be this year!), everything’s sold out, and even though you thought you’d got your Christmas shopping done in November, there seems to be an ever-growing list people still to buy for and things still to get! So, I can see how trying to have an ethical Christmas on top of that feels impossible, but it’s not as hard as you think. By making a few little changes to your Christmas traditions, you can minimise your waste and make a real difference. The team at Printed by Us have put together a list of ideas of little things you can do to be a bit more ethical this Christmas 😊

🎁 Buy less and give more

Sometimes Christmas can feel more like an impending doomsday than a fun, festive holiday, and with the famous day rapidly approaching it's easy to be swayed into panic-buying armfuls of cheap, naff gifts for people you don’t even like. So, this year why not just buy a few meaningful gifts for the people you truly care about? This will create less waste destined for landfills and give your family gifts they can truly use and love over the years. Buying lovingly made, unique items from ethical traders ensure that your gifts will be durable. Plus, original gifts are always that bit more meaningful than those presents which have been mass-produced by evil conglomerates.

♻️ Try to use as little plastic as possible

While going completely plastic-free for Christmas would be brilliant we understand that it’s simply not as easy as that. From the very start of the festive season we are bombarded with plastic from all angles: great food is a must-have for Christmas, yet all of the food needed comes in some form of plastic packaging, and if you have children you’ll understand the struggle of going plastic-free when the only toys your kids want are covered in plastic and only last until boxing day. So just do what you can. Doing simple things like buying your Christmas food from local veg shops, using your own containers and bags when shopping, and limiting the amount of plastic items you give to people can really help the environment long-term. If everyone makes little changes to their lifestyle, we can make a big difference.

🔋 Give battery-free gifts

Did you know 40% of all battery sales occur during the holiday season? Batteries are an environmental hazard. The creation of Batteries produces a vast amount of Greenhouse gas emissions as they take a lot of energy to manufacture, and it takes around 100 years for them to decompose when they eventually end up in landfills. This means that for up to 100 years they are releasing harmful chemicals into our soil, which can negatively impact our food, water, and animals. Not to mention all the greenhouse gases they release over that time too. So why not try and buy more naturally powered toys and gifts this year. Its isn’t just the gifts you buy that can have a negative impact, it’s the things that power them too.

💝 Be wary of wrapping paper

A sly way that plastic enters our homes is through the wrapping paper. Wrapping paper made with glitter and gloss can't be recycled, and many wrapping papers are actually lined with a thin film of plastic rendering them unrecyclable. Yet, every year people in the UK throw away 108 million rolls of wrapping paper and use 40 million rolls of plastic tape. This can be incredibly damaging to our environment. But have no fear, there are many great alternatives for wrapping presents: you could use any sort of old fabric for smaller gifts (scarves, handkerchiefs and tea towels can work great!) Newspaper can work and are easy to find and recycle and some outlets do sell 100% recyclable wrapping paper. Plus, ribbons and string can work as unique and aesthetically pleasing replacements to plastic tape. This is yet another way you can go plastic-free this Christmas!

🎄 Choose your Christmas tree wisely

Every year poses the same dilemma: artificial or natural. And truly there is no “right” answer, both can be equally good or bad. If you fancy a natural tree this year, you should try and buy one that has been grown in a sustainable way. A good place to buy sustainably grown and FSC-certified trees are Forestry England.

It’s harder to be sustainable with an artificial tree, but it is possible. Unfortunately, the mass production and then the wastage of artificial Christmas trees every year leaves an enormous carbon footprint on our planet. However, if you do decide to go for an artificial tree, try and make it last. If you keep and re-use the same tree year after year, it will offset the carbon used to manufacture the plastic. Or alternatively, you could try sourcing a pre-loved tree this year?  Or growing your own?

⭐️ Use durable and natural decorations

Putting up the Christmas decorations is what makes you really feel like it’s Christmas, but why not shake things up a bit this year and opt for durable, natural decorations that will last.  Instead of cheap plastic baubles, why don’t you use pinecones instead? If you have children, getting them to make hand-made felt bunting or paper snowflakes could be a fun and ethical activity. Plus, Wood is one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly construction materials there is, so you could always choose to buy wooden decorations this year too!

🎉 Recycle your Christmas cards

Christmas cards are a fun and enriching way of keeping in touch with friends and family and after a year of distance and worry, the cards are more important now than ever. That being said, up to 33 million trees worth of Christmas cards are thrown away after Christmas every year in the UK. You could combat this by not sending any out yourself, but Christmas cards can be a fun tradition and while it’s okay you not sending any out, you’ll still most likely receive cards off others. The best thing you can do to combat this is to recycle them! And if you can encourage those around you to avoid cards with foil, glitter, or gloss as they can’t be recycled.

⚡️ Lower the impact of holiday lighting

It’s not Christmas if you don’t subtly compare your holiday lights to the neighbour’s and with little else to do this Christmas, people seem to be going all out with their lights this year! But the vast amount of electricity needed to power these lights can be a massive drain on natural resources and it’s estimated the UK alone spent around £222 million on Christmas lights last year. However, there are ways to ensure your display isn’t using more energy than necessary.

A simple option is just to use fewer lights this year. Small displays can still be really attractive and, as we’ve already established, sometimes less is more. Although, as another option LED Christmas lights are the most efficient holiday lighting and are a great alternative to normal lights. They use up to 95% less energy than more traditional holiday lighting and can last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. Another top tip would be to turn your lights off when you go to bed, there’s no reason to leave the lighting on with everyone in bed and it wastes colossal amounts of energy. Remember that just doing something as little as that can make the world of difference to our planet.

👗 Don’t buy a flashy new outfit for Christmas day

Everyone wants to look their best on Christmas, even if it is just to mill around the living room! But buying a new outfit can have a massive, and largely unspoken about, impact on our environment. Did you know that if everyone wore a pre-loved outfit on Christmas Day this year the CO2 emissions saved would be equivalent to taking 56 million cars off the road for a day?! That is an astonishing figure and just goes to show the damning environmental effects the fashion industry can have on the planet. We’re all guilty of buying clothes we don’t need and at Christmas, I can understand the urge to treat yourself, but why not just try going a bit simpler this year? Make it fun by wearing an outfit you haven’t worn in a while, or one that you never quite had the courage to put on. You could always just stay in your pyjamas too! There are a lot of options that are cheaper for you and easier on the environment than a brand-new outfit.

🌱 Why not try going veggie for Christmas?

This year why not join the growing numbers of people choosing to go meat-free? The fact of the matter is that avoiding meat and dairy is one of the biggest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint on this planet. According to a report made by the United Nations body on climate science, the meat and dairy industry accounts for 14.5% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, which is around the same as the impact of the exhaust emissions of every car, train, ship, and aircraft on the planet! And it's estimated that cutting the meat in your Christmas dinner will reduce its carbon footprint by 50%. The key thing is that if more of the world’s population reduced their meat consumption, we could significantly boost this planet’s ability to fight climate change. You don’t have to go completely meat-free, but just reducing your meat intake this Christmas can make a big difference. Plus, Turkeys a pretty dry meat anyway! 😉

🥗 Don’t Waste Food

Buying differently and catering for more people can make it difficult to know just how much you’ll food need for Christmas and in the UK there’s a traditional festive mindset that it’s better to have too much than too little. But that’s not the case at all. In the UK, we waste approximately 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million Brussels sprouts every Christmas and it has got to stop! By carefully scrutinising what we buy and if we need it, we could really reduce our food waste, which is better for our environment and our bin men!

👨‍👩‍👦 Start a new family tradition

If you have an ethical Christmas this year, you could begin an ethical family tradition of recycling, buying less and wasting less which sets a good example to your family and friends around you. By instilling the values of sustainable living to your children, family, and community, you are making a much bigger difference than you realise.

It only takes one person making little changes to make a big difference! So let’s make a change this Christmas 😊

By: Abby Hattersley