How I am trying to have a more sustainable Christmas, and how I am struggling with it

It’s that time of the year again. The time to be with our loved ones, eat our own weight in delicious food and spend our yearly income in material things to show our love. Only this year, make it eco-friendly.

I have been trying this past year to be more conscious of my habits and making small steps in the right direction, but when it comes to Christmas I am finding it extra tricky. I still want to gift my family things they will love, and feel bad for putting my “hippy habits” on them. So in case you are in the same boat as me, these are some of the things I am trying to do this year to make my Christmas a bit less bad for our planet.

1. Buying things second hand

This is my favourite way of being more sustainable when shopping for myself, because, well, I still get to buy things plus, they are cheaper! So why wouldn’t I buy my Christmas decorations second hand? I got some lovely wood hand-painted ornaments for my tree this year.

However, it can be a bit tricky when gifting, because unfortunately some people still see second hand as “used” or “dirty” and not something you should give as a present.
The exception, I think, is when the thing you are gifting second hand cannot be bought new anymore. If it’s something vintage, a film camera, vinyls… Other than that it of course depends on the person. I am gifting second hand things only to the people who I know wouldn’t mind it, or might even like it like my mother and my brother, but sticking to new purchases for those in my family that I know are a bit more… picky.

2. Gifting more experiences

Gifting experiences is a great way to make sure you buy something that the person never really uses and ends up throwing away in a couple of years. My biggest problem with them is making sure they are a personal gift (I don’t love the idea of a voucher for the cinema, or one of those experience packs), but also planning them properly.

I have thought so many times about buying someone a weekend trip to a near-by city or concert tickets… and have decided not to in the last minute because I wasn’t sure if they would be available on those dates. This is why I choose this kind of presents only for the people that are closest to me, like my boyfriend or my mum: when I know their schedule well enough that I can buy something that is perfect just for them.

But not all experiences have to be as big as a trip. This year I made an advents calendar for my boyfriend full of small experiences like

  • Watching a Christmas movie together
  • Going to a Christmas market
  • Buying him a cup of mulled wine
  • Giving him a massage
  • Tickets to the cinema
  • A reservation for a nice restaurant
3. Handmade gifts and decorations

Making things yourself can be good for the environment if you are wise about buying your materials, it gives you control over them and allows you to buy only recycled paper, organic cotton… you get the idea. When looking for supplies for my Christmas Cards so many of the papers, pens etc where wrapped in layers and layers of plastic. I tried to stay away from those, and buy paper that you could buy on its own, recycle old papers from the Christmas before and so on… and yet I cannot say for sure if it was more sustainable than the alternative.

For the macrame I am sure. A few friends and I got together and bought the supplies in bulk, making sure packaging was reduced to the minimum. And not only that, but it ended up costing 10 euro for two plant hangers: way cheaper than it would be in the store.

Other things that we have made ourselves in my family in the past are: jars of jam, ceramic ornaments for the tree (like the green star you can see in the picture), mixed tapes, photo albums, art for the walls

4. Wrapping in recycled or biodegradable materials

So if I am being honest, I haven’t wrapped my Christmas presents just yet, because I haven’t even gotten all of them yet. But my plan this year is to wrap them in newspapers. Unfortunately we get so much paper in our mail box every day, that no one picks up and goes to the trash every night… So I have been collecting some newspapers and I will decorate them with some organic materials like leaves from outside or cotton string to make them a bit nicer.

I am a bit afraid that it might transfer, so I will have to keep you posted on that, but honestly, I am not a huge fan of the wrapping in fabric idea (I fear some people will also throw that away), and this is what is easily accesible to me. If you are lucky to be close to nicer looking trash, then, be my guest!

5. Be mindful of your party outfits

Realistically, how many party outfits can a normal person need? 4? 5? Probably not even that. Every time a big occasion approaches I get the need to buy a completely new outfit for it. I did it for my prom, my graduation, my aunts wedding, my first two company parties, more new year’s eves that I can count… And I say… NO MORE. I never wore those dresses again, and now they sit in my closet gathering dust. This year I am trying to rewear my old party outfits or borrow some that are gathering dust in my friend’s closets. It is hard to resist the temptation, but right after that “big occasion” I am so grateful I didn’t cave.

And that’s it! Those are my tips and my struggles. How are you preparing for this Christmas’ Are you trying to be more sustainable? Or are you letting yourself go fully crazy? Let me know!