Christmas is approaching fast and the holiday spirit is starting to stress you out? Fear not 😉!
1 Less is More
Go easy on the decoration, just reuse what you already have - why add to the holiday stress by wasting your time to buy even more decoration? Just keep it simple and classy.
And remember you don't want to go overboard with these Christmas lights either - they eat up a LOT of electricity.
A feast sure is nice, but not only a buttload of work (= stressful), but also not a lot of fun if you have to eat the leftovers for another week after. Do yourself and planet earth a favor and just tune it down a notch. Trust me, this is THE key to a less stressful holiday season!
2 Don't get that fresh-cut Christmas tree
I'm sorry to be a spoilsport, but cutting down MILLIONS of trees (30 million each year in Germany alone) to have a piece of decoration for merely 3 weeks at most is far from sustainable. In order to plant those pine trees, natural forests are cut down. The monocultural farming methods drain the soil and pollute the ground water.
If you live in colder climates like we do here in Germany, you should also avoid renting a potted pine tree (yes, you can rent potted Christmas trees). These potted live plants do not do well with the drastic changes in temperature when they are suddenly put inside your cosy home and then put outside again after the holiday season. They just die, simple as that.
Instead, consider decorating your live yucca plant or get a potted pine tree that you can keep in your home for years and years to come, dressing it up once a year. Just make sure it's not a rip-off! A friend of mine just told me they once bought what they thought was a potted pine tree - that turned out to be a fresh-cut tree put into a flower pot...
Or make an everlasting tree that you can hang up - which is perfect if you happen to be short on floor space anyway 😁.
Fancy something more designer-ish? How about this really stylish Christmas tree that would blend in perfectly in our interior by the way ❤️! Doesn't look too difficult to make yourself.... Hmmm...
Or what about this really cool blackboard art? We have a giant blackboard at home (landscape though), and it's the perfect decoration! It doesn't take up any floor space, you can change it according to your mood or the seasons (sometimes I just leave it blank), it can keep you organized (I use it as a memo board or for brainstorming ideas) and it's huge fun for kids or your perverted friends that like to draw penises onto everything (including drunk people *coughs*).
As you can see, there are many ways to decorate without killing a tree. You can keep it really simple and classy by using branches or reclaimed wood. OK, enough now, you get the idea, right 😜?
3 Have't found the perfect gift? Give the gift of an awesome experience!
Christmas is approaching, and you still haven't been able to find the perfect present? That's an easy one - just gift an experience! You don't even have to buy the tickets (or whatever) in advance. Go for the homemade coupon (yup, just like the little ones), because you'll want to find a date that works for the person receiving your epic gift.
Not sure what experience you should choose? Well, that depends on the person I'd say 😉. Everyone has some sort of a bucket list. I know I do! There's so many things out there I would pick over STUFF any day of the week! Laser tag (a new laser tag place just opened right across the street 😍 - need to find someone to go with me though, hubby isn't too keen on it), paint ball (I DO know it hurts, so what :P?), sky diving, bungee jumping, beer tasting (OK, been there, done that, but would still be down for another one 😝), a visit to the planetarium, going to a Modestep concert next time they are touring Germany, to name just a few :).
There are so much more maybe less spectacular, but nonetheless really awesome and fun activities to do! Like a fun baking session with kids, a weekend adventure camping trip, going to a fancy restaurant together, a dance class (I know lots of people that are always looking for dance class partners - um, but please do count me OUT 😝), or just going to see the new Star Wars movie!
Anyway, the best part is that you get to spend time together doing fun things with the people you love and care about - so it's kind of a gift to yourself too 😁! For more great ideas for experiences, check out The Kind Planet's list!
4. Homemade DIY gifts
Homemade gifts might be the biggest Mother's Day nightmare (or least that's what I imagine it to be, but as you might have guessed, I don't have kids 😝), but label them DIY and suddenly they are crafty and fun.
I love baking. Sooo much I have been blogging about it for almost 5 years. So I like to gift homemade cookie or cake mixes in a jar along with the invitation to come over to our place to either have cake or have a baking session.
Or you can go for homemade cosmetics that feel totally luxurious like chapsticks, body scrubs, body butter, bath bombs, soaps, or lotion bars! They are surprisingly easy and fast to make, and very (!) cost-efficient compared to store-bought products. Besides, giving away something you have put effort in is so much nicer in itself.
5 Gift sustainable items that don't add to the waste cycle and help reduce waste
Buy fairtrade, buy organic, buy secondhand, buy locally, or order at sustainable online stores.*
- Toxic-free and indestructible lunchboxes made from stainless steel (e.g. Life w/o Plastic, Lunchbots, Onyx Containers)
- Refillable water bottles made from stainless steel (e.g. Kleen Kantine,) or glass (e.g. Soulbottle)
- Toxic-free coffee tumbler (e.g. Joco Cups - so far I have not been able to find a coffee tumbler that is both plastic- and silicone-free)
- Fairphone instead of an iPhone
- Gift long-lasting versatile toys made from wood (I have no kids so I'm sorry to say I do not feel competent enough to give recommendations)
- A live plant. Plants are nice, mostly pretty and they purify the air. But don't just give anyone a plant - chances are that it will end up dead if it falls into the wrong hands (like mine)
* I'm not paid by any of these companies to promote their products! Just thought it might be helpful to you guys because I know I had to spend quite some time researching when we wanted to replace some of our old plastic items. If
6 Donate in the name of the family
Still nothing that works for you? I totally feel you! What CAN you give a person that already has everything they need (and even a butt load more than that)? Take parents for example. Most parents won't even let their (adult and money earning) children pay for a nice meal, and they feel like they can just buy those musical tickets themselves if they really wanted to go. Homemade goods? Nah, they have been using the same products for years, so they don't really want to try these fancy schmancy things young folks use! So even though they will pretend to love it when you give it to them, it will probably just sit in the bathroom for years collecting dust.
We have been donating in the name of the family instead of giving them any presents at all for a couple of years already. It was a bit weird the first year, but they agreed that it was actually a wonderful idea to put the money where it does good, instead of feeding consumerism.
There are many good causes out there that need funding! These are three eco projects that I personally really like, but there are plenty other out there.
- There is the Story of Stuff project that raise awareness for environmental issues, fight to ban plastic bags and other unsustainable practices and stand up to the big evil corporations like Nestlé.
- The Rainforest Connection uses old smartphones to halt illegal logging in rainforests. The dwindling of the rainforests is a leading cause of climate change, and illegal logging is the main culprit.
Still not sure what to get your loved ones? Go get Anna's straightforward 2 tips for a stress-free eco-friendly Christmas! Or check out the Ultimate Zero Waste Christmas List or Tiny Yellow Bungalows article for inspiration!
7 Ditch the wrapping paper
I haven't wrapped ANY gifts for years! Well, ok, it wasn't because of environmental reasons in the beginning. I'm just terribly bad at it. My friends actually ASKED me to NOT wrap their presents because they looked so terrifying they made them feel I hated them...
Anyhooo... Roughly 8,000 TONS of wrapping paper is used for Christmas in Germany alone. And most of it is so fancy, shiny, and glittery that it cannot be recycled. Boooooh!
Use a piece of cloth, a scarf, a handkerchief or even a kitchen towel instead. Tie a bow around it. Put it in a jar to make it look DIY-ish. Use a tiny cloth bag that can be used to buy nuts, dried fruits, or legumes in bulk later. Tie pine cones and sticks of cinnamon to it.
Or just wrap the person you're giving the present to in a hug instead of the present itself and save yourself the trouble all together. Tell people it's because you believe in less is more and strive to become a minimalist, so they won't think it's because you're just embarrassingly bad at it...
8 Try to add vegan dishes and cookies as much as you can
First of all, if you're not hosting, chip in. Bring a couple of dishes or homemade cookies. This way at least you can reduce the overall waste generated because you will probably try to buy your ingredients in bulk whereas your family probably won't.
So why vegan? Because meat, eggs, and dairy products have a ginormous carbon footprint and waste an insane amount of water. The livestock industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. To produce one steak 4,500 liters (1,188 gallons) of water is needed!
If you're hosting and not very experienced in cooking vegan, suggest a potluck Christmas feast. This saves you the immense amount of work and adds variety. However, keep in mind that most family members might not buy their groceries as consciously as you do. But then again, stay sane!
9 Use sustainable candles or just go for LEDs
Personally, I have never been a candle person. My parents did light candles, but I have never quite liked the smell. And because I was quite the wild child I hated that I had to be careful with candles around.
Now, years later, I still don't have even a single candle at home. We have a flashlight you can power manually for emergencies though. Not very romantic, but then again, romance and flirting have never been my strong suit.
Hence, I'm not too well-informed with regards to sustainable options. I do know that most candles are made from petroleon, and it should be obvious that using those candles is not exactly what you could call a sustainable practice.
- Candles made from soy wax: Like a lot of soy products, these seem to be debated, but they do burn up to 50% slower and seem to be the most eco-friendly option so far.
- Candles made from palm-oil, which I would strongly advice against, since palm-oil extraction is the reason why rainforests are being destroyed acre by acre, which in turn leads to climate change. So thanks, but no thanks!
- I know a lot of environmentally conscious people out there love beeswax, and it is pretty easy to get your hands on beeswax candles. However, I'd like to remind you that the practice of farming honey and beeswax has led to overbred bees that are now suffering a dramatic decline in population. This in turn is threatening the entire agriculture.
You can also make more or less sustainable candles and make them smell really nice by adding some drops of essential oil (here's a simple zero waste recipe, it's in French though).
Anyway, my tip is to switch to LEDs instead. Use fairy lights, they come in all shapes and sizes (+ lengths and colors 😉), so go crazy with those! They are super energy-efficient and you can use them for years to come!
10 Talk to friends and family about sustainable practices!
Last but not least, keep the communication going. Suddenly doing things differently on a holiday that cites traditions can come as a surprise to your family. Prepare them, ask for their support, plan the holiday with them.
However, don't force your ideals on them. Everyone has their point of view. If you want them to accept your ways you'll have to accept theirs as well. But there's nothing invasive in explaining your personal life project to live on a smaller footprint and in asking for their cooperation when it comes to activities that involve all of you.
So what how do you spend the holidays? What are your sustainable life hacks?