Living

A guide on how to have the ultimate ethical and green Christmas

30th November 2017

Don’t let your Christmas be destined for landfill. From presents with provenance to DIY decorations, here’s your ultimate guide to a more ethical and green Christmas.

green Christmas

Jazz up festive napkins with fresh herbs and twine. Easy.

There are many things in life that are taken over by the big corps – don’t let Christmas become one of them. As retailers are doing their darnedest to get you to part with your pennies and line their pockets (thanks to 7-foot monsters, Paddington Bear and big, big budgets), there is another way. This Christmas, we invite you to make your mark by embracing an ethical and green spirit, so you can leave a smaller one on the planet. Together, let’s not forget what really matters this festive season.

Gift’s galore: what is a good green Christmas gift?

Christmas is undoubtedly a time for giving and receiving, sharing and loving (Joey knows it). It’s also an ideal time to exercise your spending power wisely and give a meaningful gift that your friends/mother/lover will rave about in years to come (rather than regret the skincare set that was ⅓ off but looks dodgy at home, away from the shiny high street lights). Broaden your ideas of what a gift could look like and you’ll set the wheels in motion for winning the in-family award for ‘most thoughtful gift 2017’.

Gift an experience

Photo: Hobbs House Bakery/Mark Lord.

How about the gift of a bakery course with the Fabulous Baker Brothers? Photo: Hobbs House Bakery/Mark Lord.

Try giving an experience or course where the lucky recipient will try or learn something new (this also handily requires little or no packaging). There are plenty of online and in-real-life courses out there to satisfy every curiosity. Help someone get to grips with all things sustainable with a course at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Powys, Wales, where they cover all aspects of green living: from environmental building, eco-sanitation and renewable energy to energy efficiency and organic growing. Help save ancient woods under threat and create new native woodland in the UK buy gifting a membership to the Woodland Trust.

If they’re a foodie, consider fermentation, pickling and jam making with our award-winning producer Newton & Pott in Hackney or a casual afternoon whipping up British free-range charcuterie in the Norfolk countryside with Marsh Pig for the wannabe self-sufficient carnivore. Send them to Hobbs House Bakery in Chipping Sodbury for a course by the Fabulous Baker Brother Tom Herbet or for the ultimate last minute gift pop ’em a Farmdrop gift card. There’s always foraging and mushroom hunting to be done too, just so it’s clear your friends and family know you’re a funghi to be with

Give less, give better

Don’t bundle up on gifts. Tempting as it may be to add on a few little extras here and there, it’s makes for a much better experience for the giftee to bask in the glory of one lovely, wonderful thing that needs no accompaniments. By giving less you’re also contributing less to the vicious cycle of cheap and disposable items destined for landfill. Wave goodbye to presents without provenance and give a warm welcome to lovingly-made homegrown items that’ll last and are made by ethical traders where the people behind them are treated fairly.

Try Nudie jeans – they’ll literally last a lifetime with their free repair service and have transparent production to boot. Or how about a mighty fine umbrella? Ince Umbrellas are the UK’s oldest makers and they pride themselves in a sustainable supply chain. Rest easy in the knowledge that the one thing someone living in Britain will always need is a proper good brolly.

Sustainably secondhand

Pre-used goodies might not scream Christmas, but you’ll be amazed at what you can find on sites such as Preloved or Oxfam where you truly can contribute to the reduce, reuse, recycle cause. Many items listed are brand new and have never been used at all, and some perhaps just once for a special occasion. If you have a certain gift in mind, spend a little time searching and you could save a lot of money and help the planet out too.

Green Christmas tree, oh green Christmas tree

green Christmas. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

To buy a real tree or not to buy a real tree? Did you know 8 million Christmas trees are felled each year in the UK? The majority of which land in the tip a few weeks later. Some will say it’s not a proper Christmas unless you have the scent of pine wafting around the living room and yet many of the trees available in garden centres will have been intensively farmed on a large scale. Some may even have arrived at the petrol station forecourt via a long-haul journey from overseas.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are ways to bring the German-born tradition of a decorated tree indoors without leaving a huge environmental footprint. 95% of Christmas trees grown in the UK are from farms that provide habitat for wildlife. So whilst a freshly cut spruce is greener than an imported fake tree, here’s what to look out for for a green Christmas tree.

Know where your tree is grown

To make sure your tree is grown in the UK, check out the British Christmas Tree Growers Association. Look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved trees (as well as cards and wrapping paper or even paper-craft to decorate the tree with and keep little ones busy). These trees are grown in a well-managed forest, minimising the use of pesticides and protecting forest plants and animals. The Forestry Commission have a list of Christmas tree sales centres where you can buy a sustainably grown, local tree. The Christmas Forest is small and independent family business who provide sustainable trees from 10 sites across London (or you can order online). Every tree cut after its nine-year growing cycle is replaced, and for each tree sold, another is donated so it can be grown by a family in Africa through Tree Aid.

Go locally grown or organic

If you can’t get an FSC tree, you could try sourcing one that is organically or locally grown by a nearby farmer, which can provide benefits in terms of pesticide use and carbon footprint reduction as well as the added benefit of organic Christmas tree farms providing a rich habitat for wildlife. To find a retailer selling organic trees, head to the Soil Association’s website.

Rent, reuse or recycle a tree

Did you know it’s possible to rent a tree? You’ll receive your tree in a pot and it’ll be returned to the ground after Christmas so it can happily live on. Try Forever Green Christmas Trees in Essex. Or try reusing a potted tree or using an existing (i.e. secondhand) fake tree year after year and win brownie points in the reducing-waste department. If you do go for a real cut tree, make sure it does some good to the environment by giving it to the council and recycling it – it’ll be shredded and then go on to be compost or wood chip mulch. Check with your council on their Christmas tree recycling scheme or try www.letsrecycle.com.

Hello Christmas dinner (and some)

Know where your food comes from

There’s almost nothing sorrier than scrambling around a crowded supermarket, fending off the rest of your neighbourhood for the last sad bag of sprouts. By avoiding the stress of the last minute supermarket dash not only will you save yourself time and energy, you’ll also avoid mass-produced food without provenance that’s been sitting around in distribution centres reaching your plate. Not what you want for your festive feast, aka best-meal-of-the-year, right?

Source local food where you know how it’s been produced and where it’s come from. How can you know how your Turkey was raised? Go for a free-range or organic turkey from a source you trust. (Catch farmers Peter and Henri Greig who started Pipers Farm ‘over 20 years ago, with the goal to produce healthy meat that we, as a family, could enjoy eating with complete confidence’ and Nick & Jacob at Fosse Meadows with their turkeys on video).

Make a meal of your leftovers

The average family wastes around a third of the food they buy at Christmas. Save your pennies and the planet by planning in leftover dishes that you and the gang will really look forward to. Try a few simple tricks and tips, such as throwing leftover herbs into a frittata or going hell for leather on a cracking bubble and squeak. Make stock by roasting turkey bones and simmering them with water and leftover herbs. Be the ultimate Christmas multitasker and leave it to simmer whilst your favourite festive film is on. Leave to cool and freeze in an ice cube tray and it’ll see you into the new year. And there’s always room for turkey tacos and a panettone bread and butter pudding

Say goodbye to BOGOFFS

Avoid waste by resisting erroneous buy-one-get-one-free deals. Don’t end up lumbered with a mountain of not-so-special sweet treats you and your family simply won’t need after all that tasty turkey and nut roast. Notoriously designed by supermarkets to get you to buy more, BOGOFFS aren’t there to help you, but help line their pockets.

green Christmas

Win ultimate thrifter by whipping up gift tags using old Christmas cards.

Decorations and all the trimmings

During the festive season alone, in Britain we create 3 million tonnes of waste (gulp). We use over 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper over Christmas, which creates over 83 square kilometres of rubbish – that’s enough to cover Guernsey (blimey, let’s just call the whole thing off…). Together, we can ease contributions to the rubbish pile by using recycled paper and recycling it again after use. As an alternative to buying anything new, try using old wallpaper, posters or even newspapers to artfully wrap gifts. Get your crafting hat on and embrace homemade decorations such as timeless paper chains and easy-as-pie snowflakes. Try our 5 easy and sustainable DIY craft ideas with what you have at home and impress your guests with your crafty-prowess. Soon enough you’ll find yourself saying: ‘You won’t be able to find these beautifully handcrafted… foraged in a shop’.

Sick of the big companies owning Christmas? Big corps pay themselves at this time of year. We give our producers ¾ of the retail price all year round. Other retailers give as low as ¼. Have more ideas for a green Christmas? Share your tips below.

Pre-order your free-range festive turkey and centrepieces and browse everything you need for a stress-free Christmas at farmdrop.com. Go behind-the-scenes in this video at Fosse Meadows farm and discover their secret to slow-grown poultry.

This article originally featured on the Farmdrop blog in December 2016 and has since been updated.

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