Christmas is the time of year when people consume the most products and create the most waste-gifts, wrapping paper, food-it can all become very expensive ,and it’s easy to forget about being environmentally friendly or ethical. However, attempting to make Christmas eco-friendly can be a good idea on a student budget, and can prompt creativity and ingenuity at a time when these energies are most depleted. Here are some tips to help you save money and look after the world at the same time!
Cards and Wrapping Gifts:
- Save up old magazines and newspapers to wrap presents with. If you want to spruce the paper up a bit, try painting them or making a collage before wrapping. This gives the paper more use before it goes into recycling, and avoids over-priced Christmas paper.
- Try to salvage any re-usable wrapping paper and save it for next year. Otherwise, make sure to remove any tape or ribbons and recycle it.
- Make your own Christmas cards. Everyone loves a handmade card, and even if it looks a bit rough or messy, it will still have that personal value that no shop-bought card can give. Try printing off a photo you’ve taken of friends or family, or a pretty nature photo; it’ll be memorable and appreciated. Alternatively, send an online card or email.
- Use last year’s cards that you received as gift labels. Cut out shapes or characters such as Christmas trees and snowmen. You can do the same with old wrapping paper.
- Make sure you don’t leave any electronics or fairy lights on unnecessarily-it’s a massive drain of energy and money, and shouldn’t be forgotten. If you want added atmosphere, try vegetable-based candles which do not emit smoke, are biodegradable, and use no electricity.
- Go on a nature walk and pick up any interesting things you find which could make a good decoration; holly leaves, pine cones, etc. Clean them a bit and decorate your house with them, for a rustic feel. Plastic decorations can take up a lot of fossil fuels to produce and be non-biodegradable, so picking up natural foliage can be a lovely way to decorate without harming the environment at all. Whilst you’re out, take your camera and snap some nature shots for your Christmas cards!
- If you have the time and space, growing your own Christmas tree is a long-term sustainable alternative to plastic trees. It can be rewarding to watch it grow, or you can buy a living tree to plant outside if you have a garden. If these options aren’t suitable, a plastic tree is rarely eco-friendly but will last for long time, so don’t feel tempted to throw it out. If you can go without a tree, try holly branches in a vase or wreaths.
Food and Gifts:
- Buy locally produced food, to help support your local producers and reduce carbon emissions from imported food. Buying in bulk may also reduce costs, especially if you’re feeding a large crowd. Look out for organic and fair-trade products if you can, for extra ethical points. They may be a little more expensive, but will reward you in quality and value.
- Like food, gifts should be bought from local companies and stalls. Find out when there are markets or craft and art fairs on nearby, and check out local independent stores. You may be surprised by the affordability and quality of products when you ditch the online or high street store.
- Look for food and products with little packaging, or that can be reused or recycled.
- Try baking gifts. This is fun, cheap, and a sure hit. Cakes and gingerbread biscuits are festive treats which can serve as extra decoration or centrepieces after Christmas dinner. Make a batch of cookies or cakes and put on a plate to feed a crowd, or make somebody’s favourite treat as a personal gift.
- Charity donations may seem a bit sneaky for a gift, but can be quite useful if you’re unsure what to get somebody. There are many different options, ranging from buying gifts in a charity shop or on charity online stores, as well as ‘adopting’ endangered animals, or gift card schemes which tell you what your money is going to support. All these options allow different amounts to be spent, so suits any budget.
The ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ mantra is never more valuable than at Christmas. Make sure you don’t get caught up in the festive chaos and keep you’re ethical head on-you will find yourself buying far less than usual, and enjoying yourself far more. Happy Eco-Christmas!