Have an Eco Christmas

Our daily consuming habits are in more than one way responsible to the current Climate Crisis and as more and more people are realising this and becoming conscious, responsible consumers. Since we vote with our money, every purchase we make – or lack of it – sends a message to the manufacturers and producers. Are we voting for companies who destroy the environment – or those who respect it?

Christmas is a perfect opportunity to start doing something good. If you are looking for ways to celebrate a more Eco-friendly Christmas this year, this article is for you!

Décor:
We don’t need any more plastic stuff! The planet doesn’t need more plastic and single-use 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 go with nature. Twigs, hollies, cinnamon sticks, leaves, flowers, petals, herbs, pine cones… they make fabulous wreaths and centre pieces. This year, chose LED lights and only switch them on when really needed.

Gifts:
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 ticket 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.

Wrapping:
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. 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 more elegant way to wrap your gifts, go for plain brown paper. You can easily write on it, or you can create your own rubber-stamp for a personalised touch. 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 as they make re-cycling impossible and the whole batch would end up in landfill. Re-purposing ribbons and other materials that you already have is also a good option.

Parties:
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! The invitations, for example can be created digitally and sent via whatsapp or email. Completely paper less and zero cost. For a festive and cozy atmosphere in your home, consider featuring seasonal organic material such as twigs, pine cones and dried leaves. Hollie and Ponsiettas plants are inexpensive and they add an incredibly Christmasy touch to your décor If you’re the creative type you can make some home ornaments yourself and it will be practically cost you nothing if you up-cycle the raw materials. For instance old ugly Christmas sweaters can be turned into cushion covers or some other crafty ornament. What can be a better host gift than a hamper of locally-made goodness? Olive oil, a jar of strawberry jam, an artisan home-made cake or chocolate spread, a loaf of freshly-baked bread make an amazing combination and well appreciated gift. If you prefer the classic bottle of wine, choose a local or fair trade brand. Finally, for transportation, team up with other guests and share a ride, call a taxi, or use one of car-pooling 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.

Food & Drinks
While we consider our responsibility towards the well-being of the planet, let’s 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 that is 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. 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 chemical-free and sustainable alcohol.

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. In any case, there will always be left-overs, so here are some ideas of what you can do instead of throwing them away. First of all left-overs can be refrigerated and eaten on a later date; some food can easily be turned into sandwiches or re-invented into another type of snack. Left-overs can also be composted to make nurturing food for your garden or reach out to the farmers you know as they will probably be happy to have it! Let’s waste not this year.
To finish off, here are some quick tips to use your kitchen wisely:

• Organise in advance what needs to go in the oven and keep the door closed to conserve heat and save energy. Every time you open the oven door, heat is lost and need to be re-covered with more energy.
• 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.

• If you are preparing for a large meal, or a series of meals, be practical and organise a sensible shopping list. Buy in bulk on one trip only.

We hope you enjoyed reading this Eco Christmas Guide and that you found at least one new inspirational idea. The spirit of Christmas is giving, but let’s not forget that the giving does not have to be material. We can give our time, our affection, our advice, our mentorship, and our love!
Most of all, we can start a trend, and inspire others towards a sustainable way of living to last all year round, not just at Christmas.

Happy Eco Christmas!

Monique Chambers
Monique Chambers

Monique started indulge in 2011 and has since created Indulge Me GIFT and Indulge Me FOOD and volume 1 of The Artists Directory - Malta. A marketing professional by trade, Monique's passion is to promote local talent and Malta in general. Free time is her biggest indulgence, when she can tinker in her craft room or the kitchen, or be selfish with a book, the sofa and good glass of wine (of course, wearing something beautiful and with freshly coiffed hair!)

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