Ultimate Guide to a Conscious Christmas

December 9th, 2019

By Nikki Harper

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

The festive season is in full swing and across the land, and the sound of cash tills ringing is deafening. There’s nothing wrong with wanting all the bells and whistles at Christmas – it comes but once a year, after all – but it’s easier than you think to have a very merry Christmas indeed without creating excess waste, harming the planet or lining the pockets of unethical big business.

Conscious Gift Giving

First and most important, buy less. Between Thanksgiving and New Year, Americans throw away an extra 1 million tons of trash every week. Before you buy, think.

Consider gifting an experience instead of a product. You can buy experience days or taster days for just about everything you can imagine, and some you probably wouldn’t want to imagine.

Think laterally when it comes to gifting an experience. Maybe you know someone who would love to try out an escape room game experience, or perhaps one of your loved ones wold enjoy a vegan cookery lesson? How about a behind the scenes tour of their favorite bookstore, or a day shadowing a national park warden?

Courses and lessons make brilliant Christmas gifts and can even change someone’s life by introducing them to a new hobby or a new way of life. Maybe an introductory bee-keeping course, or a distance learning study course which will teach your loved one how to meditate? Or how about a subscription to a magazine or a streaming channel around their favorite subject?

Home-made certificates are good gift ideas too – give someone the gift of a future promise that they can trade in at any time. You could offer a number of babysitting sessions, help with gardening, or give them a certificate for a day to be spent with you doing all of your favorite things together.

Charity gifts are also a favorite for those who don’t want to waste money at Christmas. There are many places where you can ‘buy’ something meaningful in your gift recipient’s name – start with your favorite charities and see what they offer.

If you do want to buy a physical item for someone, a good rule of thumb is to buy just one thing but at the best quality you can afford, as this is more likely to last and not perpetuate a waste problem. If you’re buying someone an item of clothing, for example, look for good quality clothing made from natural materials and by a workforce which is treated fairly.

Look for labels which tell you where your item was made, what it’s made from, how it was made, how it was bought, and so on. Fairtrade or zero waste items are a good start, as are items made by social enterprises or social co-operatives.

Consider buying your gifts from a thrift store, to avoid creating new demands on scare resources, or buy second hand or preloved from an online marketplace like ebay.

Think about secret santa too, even within the family if other family members are willing. This kind of system ensures that everyone gets a gift they will love, while cutting down how much everyone has to spend and how much waste and environmental impact the family is creating. Most people would agree that kids like to have multiple presents, within the family’s budget, but do the grown-ups really need so much stuff?

Lastly, but by no means least, think about whether you could make your own gifts. If you love to bake or you have a creative hobby, it should be easy enough for you to create delicious or beautiful handmade gifts for your loved ones. Don’t despair if you can’t cook or craft though – again, think laterally. How about making a scrapbook of memories you share with your recipient? Or create your own gift hamper with a few select cheaper items you know they’ll love? For the older generation, try a jam jar filled with questions about their life written on little strips of paper – they can pick them out and either answer the questions verbally or even write them down to share with the generations.

Choose Your Christmas Tree Wisely

Fake Christmas trees may last longer than real ones, but they don’t biodegrade, and most will end up in landfill. If you don’t like the mess of real trees, either keep re-using your existing tree for longer, or purchase a second-hand or preloved tree rather than a new one.

The better choice for a conscious Christmas is a real tree – but choose carefully. Wherever possible, buy a tree which has been grown locally and sustainably. Most authorities will collect real Christmas trees for recycling in the weeks after Christmas, so don’t forget to leave it out.

Even better, did you know that these days you can rent a Christmas tree? Yes, really. Companies like this one will provide you with a living, potted tree for 30 days rental, after which they collect it and replant it, so that it can continue growing and provide pleasure for another family next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.

Conscious Christmas Decorating

Some of the most beautiful Christmas decorations are surely those you can forage for yourself – greenery from your local area, pinecones, herbs and all manner of rustic, outdoorsy bits and pieces which say Christmas where you live.

Handmade Christmas decorations are also brilliant for a conscious Christmas – and if you have kids, you’ll have plenty to keep them busy with, which is always a bonus! Start simple with recycling old Christmas cards into gift tags, or creating potato prints to jazz up simple brown wrapping paper. You’ll find heaps of green Christmas crafting tips online, but here are a selection of ideas to get you started.

Don’t forget that your Christmas lights are also having an environmental impact. Switch to LED lights if you can and turn them off whenever you’re not actively present and enjoying them.

Christmas Wrapping Eco Style

Wrapping paper – I mean, it’s paper, right? So, it can be recycled? Sometimes. But much of it can’t be, especially if it’s glittery, metallic or covered in sticky tape. Even in a small country like the UK, it’s estimated that 50,000 trees are cut down to provide the amount of wrapping paper used each year. You can and should hang onto any paper on gifts you are given so that you can try to re-use it yourself in the coming years, but for your own wrapping, why not ditch the paper altogether?

Think about wrapping gifts in re-usable fabric. In Japanese culture, Furoshiki is the art of wrapping items decoratively in fabric, and it’s hard not to see the appeal – you could buy particular fabric to re-use or simply use a square of fabric you already have.

Alternatively, recycled, unbleached paper is good for wrapping, as is ordinary brown paper. Both of these can be prettified with natural twine or pretty raffia and sprig of herbs or you could draw or paint on the paper first.

Christmas Cards and Christmas Crackers – Must You?

Christmas crackers are probably the biggest festive waste of money known to humankind – and they’re single use and full of plastic rubbish to boot. Yes, it’s traditional (in the UK at least – some other countries have managed to avoid the silliness) but really? If you must have crackers, think about making your own with recycled loo rolls and your own handwritten jokes and newspaper paper hats – tissue paper is not recyclable. Pop some sweets inside and you’ll be much more in tune with the originals.

As for Christmas cards – why not send an ecard instead? Or better yet, write a letter or make a call to people on your Christmas card list and engage with them in person. If you’re creative, you may enjoy making your own cards, and a card made with love is always a good thing – but do try to use recycled and recyclable materials for when your card ends up in the season’s end trash.

Conscious Christmas Food

The biggest conscious contribution you could make to Christmas dinner is to have a vegan meal. Not only is it an ethical and moral choice, it’s also an environmental one too, since we know that a vegan diet is better for the planet  – although arguably a flexitarian diet is more likely to be realistically adopted by more people, leading to more actual change.

If you’re not already vegan, it’s understandable that you may not want to use possibly the year’s biggest set piece meal to experiment. In which case, you can still make choices which will improve the impact your Christmas meal has on the rest of the world. For a start, make sure you know where your food is coming from. Buy local and buy organic whenever you can afford it.

Buy your festive fruit and veg loose rather than in excess packaging and stay away from festive ‘special offers’ which entice you to buy more than you need. It’s not for your benefit, it’s for the supermarket’s bottom line and you’ll only end up wasting some of the food you buy. Having a festive meal plan outlined before you go shopping will help to minimise any waste you do end up with, which you can then compost.

Don’t be snobbish about your leftovers – there are dozens of delicious snacks and meals you can make from the traditional Christmas leftovers.

If you’re having a Christmas party or lots of guests, avoid disposable plates and cutlery. Use the real thing, even if you have to hire extra and cope with the washing up.

Conscious Christmas Means Spending Your Time, Not Your Money

Having a conscious Christmas is about being green, clean and ethical, yes. It’s about safeguarding environmental standards, human rights and animal welfare, yes. But it’s also about more than this: it cuts to the heart of what you think Christmas is about. If you’re a Christian, then of course your faith will be at the heart of the matter. However, research shows that more and more people celebrating Christmas each year are doing so for secular reasons.

So, if you’re not religious, then what is Christmas about for you? It’s probably a welcome pause in the year, a time to gather with family and a time to reconnect with your loved ones, right? So, why not turn off your devices and focus on the real significance of the festive season in your own life – and try to spend more time, more consciously, with those you love the most.

About the author:

Nikki Harper is a spiritualist writer, astrologer, and editor for Wake Up World.


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