Have yourself a merry green Christmas: A guide

Christmas can be a joyful and affectionate time for many. But it is also a difficult time for raising awareness about the environment. Looking for some tips on how to reduce your impact on Mama Earth this festive season? Check out this guide on how to have a very green Christmas.

Christmas is not just the best time of the year, it is also acknowledged that it is one of the most wasteful periods in all 365 days in terms of waste of food, money and energy. Ireland is well-known to be a green country. But is it for real? Like many EU countries, Ireland has tried several times to reduce the environmental impact of smog, intensive agriculture and industrial fumes, especially in Dublin. This impact only intensifies over the holiday season. Below is an inspiring guide with a few tips on how to be as ecologically friendly as possible this merry green Christmas

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In Ireland, food with a value of €42 million is wasted every year during the Christmas holidays. Irish shoppers waste 50% more food during Christmas week than during the entire rest of the year, a shocking new survey carried out by Aldi has revealed. However, this is where Foodcloud plays a substantial role. First things first, if you’ve never heard about Foodcloud, that’s what it is. It’s a is a non-profit organisation which distributes perfectly fine leftover food for charities and charity organisations. Secondly, it’s the one who deals with food waste and manages to reallocate it once it arrives at their Hubs. Find your local hub here, pop in to drop off to some local big supermarkets like Aldi or Tesco. Foodcloud will deal with the distribution to charities and local communities. 

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Brown wrapping paper

Stop buying all the fancy wrapping paper that you already know for sure will be scattered all over your living room and sadly disposed into the bin. Do something clever for you and for the environment: use biodegradable paper, fabrics, or brown paper wrapping. If you feel a bit more creative and happen to snoop around your old cupboards, you could also use road maps. Fix them with some twine or ribbons. PRO TIP: if you want them to look as though you haven’t just found it in the trash bin, or hidden under your bed, use an iron to smooth out kinked ribbons. Then use the ribbons how they were originally intended: to seal packages closed in lieu of plastic tape.

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Real Christmas tree (but make sure it’s Irish!)

The Head of Agriculture, Fish and Marine Ministry urges as many as possible to buy an actual real Christmas fir tree. The main reason is that, even though the plastic ones are definitely more durable in terms of storage and life, they’re plastic. Secondly, it’s a great way to reduce the carbon footprint in this country since each conifer sucks up over a ton of CO² a year. Typically each tree cut down is replaced with one or two new trees in Ireland. Furthermore, trees brought to local authority depots are turned into mulch for parks, putting carbon into the soil. 

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Zero Waste Decorations

Be creative and bring out your inner artist. Collect some pine cones, bake some ginger biscuits and tie-down some ribbons around your Christmas tree branches. Create some Christmas balls from newspapers and wrapped them with fabric or colourful tape. Every single year we throw away so many plastic bottles and wine bottles, try to keep them with you this year. They are a valid option for handmade decorations with some LEDs or candles in it. Or even the plastic bottles can be easily reused to embellish some corner of your house, making it even more Christmassy. Use LED lighting instead of the normal light bulbs or string of lights. It’s more efficient in terms of energy and it will help you save lots of electricity. LED lights generally don’t produce heat, making them ideal for the tree while also reducing the risk of fire hazard. 

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Make your own wreath

And speaking about decorations, wreaths represent one of the most loved decorations in every household. A great way to avoid buying already made ones, or worse, plastic ones, would be to reuse all the discarded parts of your gardening on Sunday morning. Collect discards from conifer branches, pine cones, berries and apples to make a very tasteful wreath for your front door. Take a stroll in your local park and go hunting for leaves, berries or any sort of flowers you think it may turn your decoration into a pretty one. 

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Sustainable gifts/handmade gifts

Now that Christmas has turned into a festival of glittery excess, it’s tempting to go the other way and look for greener, kinder gifts. It’s not just eco-warriors who care about the amount of plastic being wasted in the name of this holiday season. If it’s true that Christmas is supposed to bring the best out of us, let’s make it real. Start buying presents from your local crafts supplier, support local businesses to help boost local economies and don’t bolster the capitalism craze. There are multiple ideas you can definitely focus on from eco-friendly shampoo and shower gel, to comfy and colourful reusable food wrap fabric for your pocket sandwich lunch. Think green, use stainless steel straws instead of plastic ones and look for certain eco-friendly brands. Gifting fair trade consumables can be a great way to promote the movement and raise awareness among family and friends of their power to buy ethically. And if you feel even more daring, making some donations to environmental groups, associations: following their cause and supporting them financially is still a pretty good item for green Christmas presents!

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Bike around!

EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, is setting up some monitoring stations in partnership with Dublin City Council and Trinity College Dublin to check the levels of pollution in the city. This includes locations identified by this work as having the highest levels of CO2. Recently EPA has found that during some car-free day trials in Dublin, the level of air pollution rose by 50%. This was due to a terrible traffic jam that inevitably occurred from making roads pedestrian. Sadly, it seems like no one can really win in this situation. But don’t despair, hope is the last to die. Carpooling, cycling around, and carsharing are always valid solutions. From doing the huge Christmas shopping to just hanging around to the pub on the 26th, these can be valid ways to reduce your impact on transports.

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Given that a gift, no matter its nature or type, is always a gift and needs to be accepted as a random gesture of kindness, it may happen sometimes that certain sort of Christmas presents aren’t so appreciated. Whatever the reason, unwanted gifts can’t go to waste even though it may take a bit longer to sort out other options. In this case, the most obvious answer would be a full list of charity shops that strive to allow many other people to have the chance to experience Christmas with a smile. Try also the several refugee associations scattered all over Ireland and check their closest to you drop-in hubs. They encourage the donation of new underwear, pyjamas and clothing items. If it’s toys you need to get rid of, donate children’s toys, games and products to a children’s hospital ward or hospice if they accept donations. All over Ireland, there are associations, like TempleStreet or Cuan Lee Refuge, to mention a couple, who collect toys, teddy bears, board games or video games and consoles, as donations, obviously in good condition. 

All in all, Christmas is also about being conscious of our actions. We can try to forgive ourselves for poor behaviour we had in previous months and hope we can learn from our mistakes. Being aware of the real challenges we need to face environmentally speaking must be a fixed thought in our oblivious minds. We need to fully understand that changing our habits and holiday routines can actually make a huge difference in the rising climate emergency.  So, have yourself a merry green Christmas, after all, baby steps are still steps.

Carlotta Cutrale
Carlotta Cutrale

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