It is without a doubt the time of year when we consume and buy the most. By all means, let’s celebrate and enjoy together this special occasion, but we can do it without damaging further our environment. Think about all the non-recyclable single use stuff that goes to waste during Christmas and end up sitting in landfill for hundreds of years … bunting, tinsel, bows, wrapping paper…. Whether you are the host, or the invitee, there are a few really simple tricks for a party that doesn’t cost the ‘Earth’ – both financially and ecologically. Yes, having a zero-waste party will actually save you money!
With all the bursting shop displays and markets popping up in every town, it is difficult to resist the temptation of buying something. The most important ‘green’ aspect to consider when buying something is where it was made. Buying local is important as it has a very low carbon footprint. Most mass-consumed products are made in Asia, even branded products. Choosing handmade and home-made is an excellent choice as you are buying a genuine product, that can be personalised to your wishes, all the while keeping a circular economy. However, it is becoming increasingly popular to buy ‘experiences’ rather than products. The choice is practically endless and it is a very sustainable choice. Classic options are cinema tickets, pass for museums or archaeological sites, dance or music lessons, spa, gym, concert tickets, etc… For an original twist, consider buying tickets for a lecture or a summit that you have heard them showing interest for; or a workshop about gardening or to learn how to grow food at home if they have a green finger; an exteme sports experience such as zip-line or an escape room activity, if they are the adventurous type; or perhaps a voucher to use one of the many alternative methods of transport now available in our country. If you are looking for inspiration to purchase eco-sustainable gift ideas, take a look at Eco Market’s Christmas Gift Guide.
The most sustainable way of wrapping your gifts is by re-purposing existing materials. A colourful magazine, comic book, children’s drawings, old maps or newspapers are some of the options. This is ideal for wrapping the gifts of your children – fun and different; family members – they know you like things the eco way; and your eco-conscious friends who will appreciate and respect your thought. Once the unwrapping is done, everything can simply go in the recycle bag… or if they are still in good condition, consider keeping them for re-use. If you are looking for a packaging for colleagues or peers, something that is neat and elegant, the best option is to go for plain brown paper. You can easily write on it, or you can create your own rubber-stamp for a personalised touch. Brown paper can go in the recycle bag. Instead of ribbon, buy a roll of earth-colour twine or hemp string. Then use dried leaves, flowers, pine cones, berries or small pieces of twigs to place in the centre instead of a bow. Avoid tape and glue. They make re-cycling impossible and the whole batch would end up in landfill. Tissue paper is a great way to embellish the gift wrapping and it is 100% recyclable. Another alternative to wrapping gifts is cloth – known as the Furoshiki method, it is a traditional Japanese art of wrapping, originally used to transport goods. Clearly the cloth should be re-purposed or used for another gift-wrapping.
The planet doesn’t need more plastic stuff. Here is an opportunity to start brainstorming ways to decorate and embellish your home in an original, stylish and sustainable way this Christmas! There are two simple rules that I follow when it comes to any kind of decor: first, choose a theme; second, less is more. Choosing a theme for Christmas is a personal choice, but if you want to know the most Eco-friendly way, is to follow nature. Twigs, hollies, cinnamon sticks, leaves, flowers, petals, herbs, pine cones… they make faboulous wreaths and centre pieces. They also add a beautiful touch to your existing home decor; a lantern, a candle-holder, a curtain rail, a vase, a frame… You can be creative and make your own ornaments for the Christmas Tree and around the house with these natural and organic pieces. If you have kids, consider a mini craft session where they create their own ornament. They can write their name and the year on them, and it can become a beautiful yearly tradition to look forward to! The internet is bursting with DIY crafts for Christmas. Make sure that your base material is something sustainable, such as wood or cloth. You can also make a myriad of decorations from old Christmas cards. Finally, the lights: they create an amazing atmosphere and we all have them. This year, chose LED lights and only switch them on when really needed. There is no need to keep all the festive lights on all the time. Let the cables sleep at night too
Food and Drink
While we consider our responsibility towards the well-being of the planet, let us also consider all the other earthlings that share our ‘home’. Going vegan is a personal choice, however choosing not to eat meat or fish for the Holidays is a truly selfless gift you can do. You can find many delicious vegan savoury and sweet recipes or you can always order from an establishment or hire a vegan chef for a home-cook out. Try it this Christmas and discover how Vegan food can be as much delicious and satisfying as any other food! When preparing your Christmas meals, remember the number one priority to choose local seasonal ingredients. The food will result in homely, fresher and tastier food. For a traditional menu, you can easily find the main ingredients from a local manufacturer with whole-some home-made products. Local organic farmers are at the forefront of sustainability as their own livelihood depends on it. Don’t forget to take with you when you go shopping your own container and bags and you won’t be paying for extra packaging. If you are shopping for an exotic ingredient, take a moment to read the label. Where does it come from? What’s in it? Who made it? If possible go for Fair Trade and/or Certified Organic labels. Look for the same labels when it comes to drinks and alcohol too, and invite your friends and guests to try new brands of modern organic, biodynamic and vegan alcohol.
Let’s start with one of the biggest culprits for waste at parties: disposable plats, cups, cutlery, straws etc. All you will ever need are reusables. Take the occasion to bring out your finest dinner set. Make sure the dishwasher is always fully loaded – or if you are washing by hand fill up the sink with soapy water and only change it when you really need to. Remember to use eco-friendly detergent so that the water can be re-used to water the plants, for instance. When you go for a grocery haul before you whip up all those (plant-based) Christmas dishes, make sure you buy ingredients that are locally sourced to avoid air-flown emissions. If you’re thinking to purchase some cake, support a local baker, and so on. Make sure that your shopping list is prepared ahead of time, buy in bulk and save on money, time and transport energy. Organise in advance what needs to go in the oven and keep the door closed to conserve heat and save energy. Set up recycling bins throughout your party, for cans, bottles, paper products and food compost. Make sure your guests know where to dispose of their items, and how to do so properly at the beginning of the party – it could be a great icebreaker and with the festive spirit abound, friends & fam may be open to ways they can reduce their environmental impact. According to NSO statistics, Malta throws away 22% of perfectly good and edible food every year due to over-cooking and mis-management. Let’s try and prepare responsible amounts this year and avoid food waste. Team up with other guests and share a ride, call a taxi, or use one of car-sharing options. That way you don’t have to worry about drinking, driving or parking, and you will not be adding to the fumes and pollution in the city. Finish off your eco-party with a gift bag that doesn’t leave behind any waste. Homemade granola bars or gingerbread men wrapped in paper, for instance, would make a great treat. Plants or seeds to grow their own herbs at home, such as the Eco Gardener Kit, would make another green gift.
Let’s celebrate responsibly this year. We can all enjoy the festive season with our special humans without the need to over-buy and over-consume. All it takes is a little thought and good will.