\nMake it wonderful, not wasteful\nI see you there, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year… \nOh yes, it’s coming up to the Most Wonderful (aka the Most Wasteful) Time of the Year. \n\nBecause, let’s be real, holidays means more eating, more buying and more doing - and that means more impact on our earth. While real, reliable stats on Silly Season waste are impossible to track down, some sources suggest we throw away 30% more at Christmas time - most of it going straight into landfill. And that doesn’t seem unreasonable - when you think back to Christmas 2018, how much food, wrapping paper, cards, tinsel, paper plates, stupid cracker fillers, already-broken toys and unwanted socks just went straight in the bin? Post-Christmas, the dump is also full of plastic trees, ornaments and fairy lights - used once and then sent on their not-so-merry way. \nThat’s the most visible impact, but it’s almost certainly not the worst holiday eco-crime. According to one paper, our increased consumption over just the three festive days of Christmas can add up to 650 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per person. Over three days, we each can spend 5.5% of our total annual carbon footprint. Again, it makes sense - we have those festive lights blazing, the oven’s cooking huge quantities of food, and meanwhile, we’re nipping all over the city - or all over the country - grabbing last-minute items, seeing friends and family, and taking in the Christmassy spirit. And that’s just Christmas - I haven’t even mentioned the petrol we spend driving home for Thanksgiving or the waste generated by NYE music festivals!\nAnd let’s talk puppies: so cute, and also such a big responsibility. Christmas always sees a sharp uptick in pets being abandoned, or surrendered to animal shelters - people get gifted animals they simply can’t take care of, or leave their animals behind when they head away on holidays. Recently a single charity in the UK fielded 5,000 calls in the five days following Christmas, from people wanting to hand over their dogs. \nBut why do we do it?When did the holiday season become a consumer free-for-all? In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Christmas was just one of many, equally-important feast days - and probably not celebrated at all until 336 AD. In the 15th century Londoners were decking the halls with greenery, but by the early 20th century that had been replaced with cheap tinsel made from aluminium foil. And gifting? It all started with an exchange between social classes - the upper crust giving handouts to the poor. The 1800s saw this tradition shift to children - and the huge marketing opportunity it brought. \nBecause that’s what it all comes down to, really – money. Some estimates say that between 30% and 50% of retailers’ annual turnover is taken over the two or three months leading up to Christmas. Our entire economy relies on you spending up large. Social media has ramped things up too - telling us how our homes should look, what we should be eating, and what we should buy. But when it comes down to it, whether you’re secular or deeply religious, none of that really matters. \nChange your expectations - and set them with family.There’s a reason why holiday time is so wasteful - it’s so steeped in tradition, we’re often swept along by a tide of expectation. For example, you might be a person who hates single-use items in your everyday life, but still feel like you need a box of crappy Christmas crackers - because, otherwise, will it even feel like Christmas?? So before you make any major changes (gasp: no Christmas tree!?) take the time to acknowledge the way it makes you feel - and what really is important to you. Crackers genuinely a must-have? They’ll be worth investing the time to make your own eco-friendly versions. Gotta have a tree? Consider buying a potted plant you can use year after year. Gifting is another biggie – if you’re a family that sits around opening endless presents, each more lacklustre than the last, because that’s just what you do at Christmas, perhaps launch an honest discussion beforehand - maybe you can agree to a no-gift Christmas or organise a Secret Santa. If everyone’s on board, no one has hurt feelings! \nChoose better giftsResearch has come to the same conclusion, over and over again: things make you less happy than experiences. A 2010 study from Cornell University showed that when people buy things, they often suffer buyer’s remorse and compare their goods with others. Those material goods also visibly degrade as time goes on, while we tend to remember experiences more fondly as time goes on. And unlike comparing things, it’s almost impossible to compare the quality of our experiences with other people’s. So yes, give people experiences, not gifts! BUT, things aren’t necessarily all bad. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggested that products that help people create an experience for themselves are great too - things like a bicycle, a book, art supplies or music. \nSo why is giving better gifts better for the environment? Because things aren’t really the issue - waste is. When objects are valued and treasured they’re cared for, and never end up on the heap. If we focus on giving fewer things that people will truly love - or better yet, experiences that will get better with time - there’ll be far fewer things sent to landfill. If you love giving, and don’t have the cash for special experiences or items, there are other options: make your own or go hunting in second-hand stores. \nGet rid of the extras Remember the holiday season is a time to buy, buy, buy! You need those cute name tags, that massive pack of greeting cards and the sparkly wrapping paper, don’t you? That’s what message after message would have us believe - but be strong! You’ll almost certainly have things lying around the house that you can use instead. Scour second-hand shops for bits of pretty fabric to wrap things in, send e-cards (or make your own). If you must buy new, look for plastic-free and compostable options. \n\nGet conscious about holiday decor Oh yes, deck the halls, but be smart about it. For starters, make use of the holiday stuff you already have - give that forlorn tinsel another go around, dust off your childhood macaroni decorations, and reuse that plastic Christmas tree until it becomes a bedraggled relic. Considered getting a pine tree in a pot, so you can wheel it out every year, rather than leaving this year’s cut tree to release methane as it decomposes - methane is a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. Forage greenery, make cookie decorations, put out bowls of nuts, berries and other fruit. Let those fairy lights twinkle, but turn them off before you go to bed - and if you’re buying new, look for solar-powered ones. \nEco foodYour food is a big one too. This time of year means enormous amounts of food wasted and that’s bad news. Wasted food means we’ve also wasted the energy and water it took to grow, package and distribute - wasted food is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some handy tips to make your Christmas feast lighter on the earth.\n\nGo heavy on veggies - even if a totally plant-based menu won’t suit you, try limiting your animal products.\nSalads don’t need cheese, potatoes can be roasted in oil, and a single meat-based protein is more than enough - no need for a ham and a turkey.\nThe rest of the feast can be made up of incredibly delicious plant-based sides.\nAim to use only locally-sourced, seasonal produce too - if you’re down here in the antipodes, that means fresh greens, summer berries and mountains of tomatoes, hurrah!\nWinter Northern-Hemisphereans will have more traditional fare - brassicas, root veggies and winterfall apples and pears, also hurrah! \n\nBut what about leftovers? Let’s face it, they’re going to happen! Stock up on reusable containers (jars are great) or ask guests to bring some themselves, so you can divvy up the leftovers. In the lead-up, work on eating what’s in your fridge and freezer so you have space to properly store and preserve the Christmas goodies - and space to keep leftovers. When all’s said and done, and food must be chucked, put it on the compost, in the worm farm, or as a last resort, bury it in the garden, where it’ll feed bugs and decompose with oxygen - so it produces far, far less methane.\nGetting around There’s no getting around it, we’re stuck in a fossil-fuel dependent society - sometimes driving and flying are the only options. But where you can, choose earth-friendlier ways to move. If you’re travelling locally, public transport is far lower impact (and bonus, you can read\/watch Netflix\/play Candy Crush while you’re chauffeured around). If you’re heading out of town, look into buses, trains and ferries - it’ll take longer, of course, but might end up being far less stressful with roomier seats and a chance to watch the world go by.\nLove the earth, change holiday habits and be merryEverything wasteful we do for the holidays could be called ‘tradition’, but really, it’s all just habit - we do it because we’ve always done it. But when you acknowledge what’s really important - loving your family and friends and caring for the planet that nurtures you - with just a little thought and effort, holidays can be as eco-friendly as the rest of your year, and more fun too. Those things aren’t difficult, they just take mindfulness. Remember, you’ll feel a lot happier when you aren’t going into debt, competing for the best gift, eating until you’re bloated, or filling your trash cans with single-use rubbish.\nWe wish you the merriest, most eco Christmas ever!