We know that a huge amount of waste is produced every Christmas, with experts suggesting that an extra 30 percent of rubbish is thrown away during the festive period compared to the rest of the year. According to data by the United nations, about 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year—Singapore recorded 665,000 tonnes of food wastage in 2020, with the number rising during the holidays. The UK records an astonishing 270,000 tonnes of food waste every Christmas. Given these shocking figures, it’s no surprise that many of us are considering how we can have a more eco-friendly Christmas this year, particularly amidst growing environmental concerns.
From what presents to buy to how to source a more sustainable Christmas tree, Cora Hilts, founder of UK sustainable luxury e-tailer Rêve En Vert, shares her top tips on having an eco-friendly Christmas.
Rent your Christmas tree, or replant it
“First and foremost, the plastic artificial tree is just a no-go—the materials used to make them are petroleum-based, and they don’t biodegrade. You can even buy a potted tree that you can plant after Christmas, which is another great option. If you’ve already bought your tree, there are people that will collect it and chip and compost it for you.”
Go for natural decorations
“I was reading about the impact of all these decorations that we import, so I’ve been really conscious of using only natural materials for our decorations. We’ve recently moved back to Maine [in the US] so I’ve been going out into the backyard and collecting cedar and white pine and decorating with that.”
Buy a gift certificate, or an experience
“I’m a massive fan of a gift certificate because you can make sure that people get what they actually want and need, and it’s a great way for you to support businesses that you feel could really use it right now. In my family, we’re really focused on experience gifts this year—I didn’t see my family for a year and a half [during the pandemic] because I was in London and they were here in the States, so the really meaningful presents for us are things that we can do together. We also adopt an endangered animal for our niece and nephews every year—charitable donations are really wonderful presents.”
Opt for plant-based where possible
“I believe that we should be eating a lot more plant-based [foods], but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing—I don’t think we’re going to get [everyone] to go cold turkey. If you’re going to eat meat, you can invest in cuts from a local, organic butcher. And it could be that the appetisers or sides are vegetarian this year. It’s a great time to have conversations about the food that we eat and why you might not want to have [meat] this year.”
Avoid food waste, and compost scraps
“Really think about who’s coming for Christmas, and not overdoing it. Equally, ask people to bring things that will genuinely get eaten. At Thanksgiving this year, everybody was like, ‘What can I bring?’ and I said ‘Why doesn’t everybody donate an amount of money to charity in place of what they would have spent on food or wine?’ It’s about changing that mentality of throwing things away. You can give leftovers to guests when they leave, and look into composting your food waste instead of sending it to landfill, which contributes to methane emissions.”
Wear something you already have, or invest
“I don’t think anybody needs a whole new outfit for Christmas, but if you want to buy something new, you can invest in something from a sustainable brand that you will wear over and over again, or buy vintage. Best of all is wearing something you already own.”