Holiday season is just around the corner… Sipping hot chocolate by the fireplace, eating cinnamon rolls, reuniting with loved ones. Ah you gotta love the holiday spirit! 

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to these festive holidays : our holiday actions often have a detrimental impact on the environment.

Did you know that Christmas generates.. ?

Now let’s not ruin the holiday spirit for eco-elves🧝! Here are 8 challenges for an eco-friendly holiday season. Ready?

🎁Choose a zero-waste gift wrapping method

Beautifully wrapping gifts while singing wholeheartedly “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is a favourite holiday pastime for many of us. But traditional gift wrapping (paper, bows, and bags) can be incredibly wasteful. Convinced of doing the right thing, we also tend to throw our wrapping paper into the recycling bin while most are lined with plastic, foil or glitter, and can therefore not be recycled.

Luckily, there are so many ways to beautifully wrap a gift using zero-waste techniques! Let your creativity flow under your christmas tree. 

  • Use old newspapers or magazines: use the comics book section, find a funny or colourful page, grab your scissors and get wrapping!
  • Use clothes or fabric: do you have a scarf lying around? Use it to wrap your gift for the day and it will be back around your neck by night. Check out the Japanese Furoshiki method for different gift shapes. No needles or thread needed, only a piece of fabric. 
  • Use a tote bag
  • Reuse an old cardboard box: decorate it to your liking! 
  • Sew your own fabric pouches and reuse them every year

🍲Prepare zero-waste holiday meals

Holiday meals often rhyme with waste. Overexcited by family reunions, we tend to want to stuff our guests with love and more food that they can handle. Holiday meals also often mean plastic, paper and glass waste. According to Citeo, the tons of glass packaging increase by 20% – and 10 to 20% for light packaging.

This holiday season, give a zero-waste touch to your meals! Here are some simple tricks. 

🗒️ Plan for what you need before you go shopping. Make a list and stick to it. Stay away from promotions that sell you items you don’t need!

🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Don’t over cater. Think carefully about how many people will be eating and what a reasonable meal is. Remember to account for plates your guests might bring.

🥣 Enable your guests to serve themselves to avoid overserving and food waste

🥡 Store food properly. Put leftovers in tupperwares and freeze. 

💌 If you don’t fancy eating the same meal for the weeks, prepare takeaway tupperwares for your guests or for people in need. 

Ditch single use cutlery, glasses or napkins (use fabric ones). Let’s admit it, the dishwashing station is always the most gossipy one. 

💧 At the dishwashing station, avoid wasting water by carefully planning your dishwashing process. 

🍂 Compost your peeled vegetables and leftovers. 

🕵️ Purchase second-hand gifts

What’s great for your friend, your wallet and the planet? Second-hand shopping! 

We all have items in perfect condition gathering dust in a cupboard. Clothes with the tags still on, shoes still in their box or books that we don’t read anymore but that it would be a shame to throw away. Yet, these forgotten and unused items might actually be the perfect gift for your friend or loved one. 

For a thoughtful, less consumerist holiday season, fight the stigma and get your loved ones pre-loved gifts.

  • Support a circular economy
  • Reduce your carbon footprint – choosing pre-loved clothing reduces your carbon footprint by -20kgCO2e per clothing item purchased !
  • Cut down on packaging
  • It’s fun! You’ll love the thrill of thrifting and hunting for a unique treasure
  • You save money and that’s always nice
  • You’ll feel like a rebel fighting against consumerism
  • You might inspire others to do the same! 

Check out Etsy, Vinted, Depop, Wallapop, Le Bon Coin and other second-hand online platforms. Go thrift shopping and find your treasure. Or gift an immaterial gift! 

🎄Choose an eco-friendly Christmas tree

Each year, around 50-60 million Christmas trees are produced and cut down in Europe 😵

We often think artificial trees are more eco-friendly than natural trees. After all, cutting down trees means contributing to deforestation while artificial trees are reusable. And yet, it is exactly the opposite: a natural tree is (almost) always more eco-friendly than an artificial one. 

  • Artificial trees are made out of petrol-based products
  • The production of 1 artificial tree emits between 20 kg and 50 kg of carbon dioxide
  • Natural trees come from cultivated forests: it takes them some years to grow and when they are cut, they are replaced
  • Natural trees are carbon sinks: they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
  • This carbon benefit depends on the way the tree is harvested, used and disposed of

In short, natural trees are generally more eco-friendly than artificial trees. Under the best conditions, you should be able to keep your artificial tree for more than 10 years so that it emits less CO2 than a natural tree. 

How to choose your eco-friendly tree?

  • Choose trees from certified sustainable forests
  • Choose a tree harvested locally
  • Think about how you will bring your tree home? What’s the most eco-friendly way?
  • Choose LED or low consumption bulbs to decorate it
  • Recycle, compost or take care of your tree all year long

Some other options ⬇️ 

  • Rent a tree
  • Choose minimalism: your cherished house plant might enjoy a new festive look
  • DIY Christmas tree

💡Switch to LED lights to decorate your home

During the holiday season, your house literally lights up as you decorate it and get ready to welcome your guests. This year, make the switch for both the planet and your wallet. 

Why switch to LED lights ? 

  • Safer: LED lights emit less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs
  • Longer lifespan: new LEDs can last 50,000 to 100,000 hours or more. The typical lifespan for an incandescent bulb is at best 1,200 hours
  • More energy-efficient: LED lights use up 75% less energy than traditional lightning methods
  • Free of toxic substances and easily recyclable
  • Cost-effective: since LED lights reduce energy consumption, that means lower costs!

🌞 Donate heat

This winter, energy will be a scarce and expensive resource. For people living in fuel poverty, it is a double hardship: they live in poorly insultated homes that increase their heating bills and thus make it even more difficult to make ends meet at the end of the month.

Don de Chaleur is a challenge to help others, so that the energy you save will benefit those in need. How does it work?

  • Download the Don de Chaleur application and register
  • Choose a project close to your heart from a selection of projects that fight against fuel poverty
  • Connect your Linky meter to the application to track and measure your energy savings
  • Learn new ways to reduce your energy consumption
  • The project is funded in proportion to your kWh saved by Don de Chaleur’s partner energy supplier

It’s good for: 

💰 Your wallet: reduce your energy bill by 10% without freezing

🌎 The planet: housing energy accounts for 10% of our CO2 emissions

💚 Making a difference: fight fuel poverty, without paying a euro

🚆 Travel using a sustainable means of transport

Getting together is at the heart of the festive holidays and so is travelling. There is no escaping family holiday get togethers, but there are ways to reduce your travelling carbon footprint. It takes some planning ahead, but you can end and start the year a little more carbon-friendly.                             

🚘 Carpool to reduce the number of cars on the road

🚆 Get the train and take stock while admiring the beautiful landscapes

🚴‍♂️ If you live close by, brace yourself against the cold and walk or bike

🚍 Public transport is always a safe choice

✍️ Make a wishlist

How often have you received a gift that you did not need? Or did not enjoy? An ugly sweater? A cooking book when you never had plans to improve your cooking? Countless notebooks?

No, you are not too old for wishlists. Can you name a better way to avoid overconsumption and people buying unnecessary things for you? Don’t leave people guessing!

🖆 Write down a list of things you need or really wish to have

👚If it is clothes, don’t forget to write down your size

🔗Add links to the specific items to avoid mistakes

📨 Share it with your loved ones and ask them to do the same in return

It’s easy to do and, let’s be honest, it makes gift shopping much easier and more efficient!                        

And that’s a wrap for our holiday tips and challenges ! Now that you have the means to act and mitigate your impact on our beloved planet, what will you do? 

Keep in mind that Chritsmas might not be as festive for everyone – so share, donate and spread your love. After all, that is the magic of the holiday season! 🥰

Cover picture · jeshoots on Unsplash
Christmas tree picture · Kieran White on Unsplash