Tips for a sustainable christmas
It's December! We're sure most of you are looking back at the year wondering where the time went, and how has your little one grown so fast! Since Christmas is just around the corner, you might be thinking about, holidays, baking, travel, etc. While there are plenty of gift guides, there aren't as many ideas on how to make your holidays greener. We figured it was best to round up a few ideas on having a sustainable holiday season and share them with you!

1. "How steadfast are your branches!"
Christmas trees are a staple this time of year, painting a picturesque family scene, but there's a debate on if it is sustainable to have a fresh tree each year. A report in the New York Times, discovered carbon emission from the manufacturing, transport and materials used (PVC, lead) in fake trees produces over 8.1kg of CO2 per year [1]. To compensate for this, a plastic tree would need to be kept for at least 20 years, and most start to break down after five, losing its plastic "needles" within a year. Furthermore, majority of the artificial trees can't be recycled, ending up in landfills.
The study recommends using a real tree noting, live trees clean up carbon, produce oxygen, and provide habitat for birds and animals. As long as the tree is locally sourced, and FSC certified it's better to get a live tree [2]. You can even have a potted Christmas tree, and reuse it until it gets to big (then plant it)! Also, when disposing of your tree don't throw it into the trash, instead find a group that can recycle the tree either by using it for wood chips/pulp or composting it.

2. "See the blazing Yule before us"
We've discussed the horrors of plastic a few times, and the plastic garlands, tinsel, ornaments, and glitter are an issue [3]. Usually, these are single-use, nonrecyclable, produce a lot of carbon emissions, and flood our waterways hurting the earth's ecosystems. Try decorating with natural long-lasting materials, such as organic burlap, cotton, wool, linen, or wood. Bringing in other outdoor elements such as pinecones, branches, plants, stones, and seeds adds a freshness plastic decorations do not. You can also add cozier elements such blankets and pillows, which use natural or recycled fibers for a wintertime feel. Utilizing your creative skills and items like newspaper or straw, you can create garlands and ornaments.
Another idea for decorating is to use food! It isn't uncommon to have a bowl of fruit on the table (for eating) and dried fruit has long since been used in decorations. A Swedish tradition is to hang decorated pepparkaka in the windows or on the tree, and then eat the decorations on Christmas Day [4]. Remember the cookies were only hung up for a few days, so depending on how long you hang them composting might be a better idea.

3. "Around the Christmas lights"
It's darker this time and naturally we want more light around us, which is probably one of the main reasons we use vast amounts of lighting around Christmas time. This year switch your lighting to LEDs; not only do they use up to 95% less energy than traditional light bulbs, but also, they last over 10,000 hours [5]. When picking up LED stands, look at plug timers too. Christmas lights in the yard, balcony, or on the tree are beautiful to have when it's dark and you're awake to enjoy them, but don't need to be left on all night. Timed plugs help by automatically turning on and off the lights to the time you set.

4. "Please have Snow and Mistletoe"
Presents play a role in whichever holiday you celebrate this time of year. There are a multitude of brilliant ecological or green gift guides out there, and we suggest you check out some of our favorites below. Our suggestions take the wrapping into consideration. Foiled and printed wrapping papers are attractive but can't easily be recycled or composted since often they contain heavy metals [6]. Try to use only natural or recycled wrapping paper, which uses natural dyes in the print.
Outside of usual wrapping paper, try finding other materials to wrap a gift. The Japanese wrap presents with cloths using a method called Furoshiki [7]. Not only is it a lovely way to present a gift, but also it reuses fabric scraps. It's two gifts in one!

5. "And a cup of good cheer"
This time of year is full of food, feasting, and dinners. Seeing as we recently did an article on food waste, we won't go to in-depth on ways to use all of your food this year [8]. Overall, it's important to not overbuy, buy organic, try to use the entire plant, and plan the food in advance to prevent over or underpreparing. If you do have too much extra food, please donate it to a shelter or offer it to friends, neighbors, and family.
While you probably have your traditional meals around this time of year, we have a few ideas for what you could add to the menu. If you'd like to incorporate some classic Swedish recipes here are some classic dishes: Gravad lax, julskinka, prinskorv, köttbullar, risgrynsgröt, pepparkaka, lussekatt, glögg, and havreflarn.

6. "With every Christmas Card I write"
This might be the only time of the year that we actually send cards and letters in the mail, and the idea not doing this any longer is saddening. Sadly, Christmas cards have the same issues as wrapping paper making them difficult to recycle [9]. If you do send Christmas cards this year find naturals ones without glitter, or foil. Alternatively, you can always make your own! It would be a great family activity, spending time together, and the receivers would feel even more joy when receiving their specialized card!
It would also be imprudent of us to not bring up ecards. We know ecards feel impersonal and aren't as cute as receiving a card in the mail, but there is no waste created form ecards. There are also lots of online ecard makers which creates stunning graphic cards. Otherwise you can test your own graphic design skills and design you own!

7. "Oh, I got red lights all around"
This time of year tends to require you to travel around a bit, from store trips, visiting friends, and family, and all the activities. All the car trips add up, and each gallon of fuel burned by the car produces 19.6lbs/8.8kg of carbon emissions [10]. When you're going to local events like a holiday show, carpool with your neighbors and friends. Instead of driving around everywhere and dealing with instore crowds try buying online in bulk, and on that same note try signing up for a grocery delivery service. When traveling cross country see if you can catch a train instead of a plane. Trains are one of the most sustainable methods of transposition and can be a very fun family trip [11]!

8. "When it snows, ain't it thrilling!"
When was the last time you all sat down together and played a board or card game? The holiday season is really for family, and you should take advantage of it to spend as much time with them as you can. This year you can start a new tradition of something earth-friendly and sustainable! An idea is to take a family hike at a nature preserve, cleaning up at your local park, or decorating an outdoor tree with seeds and peanut butter for birds and squirrels are all wonderful ways to take part of a green Christmas as a family [12].
Volunteering your time at a local shelter, kitchen, hospital, or nursing home, would be a phenomenal way to learn and help as a family. Lots of these people get ignored all year round and spending Christmas alone is never fun. Taking a day with your family this season and spending time helping out at one of these places would not only mean a lot to the staff, but especially to the people they serve. Just remember to call ahead in advance and make sure they have task you can do.

Those are a few ideas we have to aid in creating a more sustainable holiday season this year! We’d love for you to let us know what you all do for a green season. Also, did you see the titles of each section? We’ve created a game for you all! Each of the eight titles is a lyric from a Christmas song. See if you can get them all! (Answers are after the references).

Last Updated: 2018.12.07

Gravad lax (Smoked Salmon): [LINK]
Julskinka (Christmas Ham): [LINK]
Lussekatt (Saffron Bread): [LINK]
Prinskorv (Prince Sausage): [[LINK]
Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs): [LINK]
Havreflarn (Oat Cookies): [LINK]
Pepparkaka (Ginger bread or snaps): [LINK]
Glögg (Spiced Mulled Wine): [LINK]
Risgrynsgröt (Rice Porridge): [LINK]

Green Gift Guides:
Eco Anouk: [LINK]
Eco BnB: [LINK]
Pebble Magazine: [LINK]
Sustainably Chic: [LINK]

[1] Rudolf, J., 2010. "How Green Is Your Artificial Christmas Tree? You Might Be Surprised" The New York Times. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[2] Cooper, M. 2009. "Plastic Christmas trees 'bad for environment'" The Sydney Morning Herald. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[3] Eco by Naty, 2018. "Why we should stop using Oil based plastics" [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[4] Lyckas med Mat, 2018. "PEPPARKAKOR" Lyckasmedmat. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[5] Aldred, J., 2007. "A-Z of tips for a Green Christmas" The Guardian. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[6] Earth Easy, 2018. "Gift Wrapping Alternatives" Eartheasy. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[7] Kyoto Project, 2008. "Furoshiki". The Kyoto Project. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[8] Eco by Naty, 2018. "Food Waste: A Hidden Danger" [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[9] Poppy, 2018. "7 TIPS FOR AN ECO-FRIENDLY CHRISTMAS" The Green People Company Ltd. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[10] EIA, 2017. "How much carbon dioxide is produced from burning gasoline and diesel fuel?" U.S. Energy Information Administration. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[11] FoE, 2018. "21 eco-friendly Christmas tips" Friends of the Earth. [Online] Available at: [LINK]
[12] Earth Easy, 2018. "How to Have a 'Green' Christmas" Eartheasy. [Online] Available at: [LINK]

Game Answers: