“May your ways be organic and clean, and may all your Christmases be green…”
Christmas and consumption go together like Santa and Rudolph, and normally, I would love indulging in festive food, a new outfit and going overboard on seasonal décor! But if, like me, you want to change this around (2020 has been tough enough without additional eco guilt!), read on for tips on having a more environmentally-friendly festive celebration.
When it comes to seasonal sustainability, my mantra is very much progress, not perfection. If we all make a few tweaks to our festive habits, collectively we can create an impact. Think the Three R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse – and only if there is no other option, then Recycle (yes, it’s better than going into the landfill but still not ideal). Here are four easy changes that I plan to implement this season to have a more eco-friendly Christmas in Hong Kong.
Read more: How To Teach Your Kids About Sustainability
Conscious Living: Eat, Drink And Be Merry
For almost all of us, Christmas means a whole lot of traditional treats. This year, those imported goodies from “home” will replace many of us actually being at “home”, so it’s a given that there will be an additional carbon footprint on festive food. While that is understandable, where possible, to have more eco-friendly Christmas, I will try to buy locally, and look for items that are both fairtrade and organic – it is more beneficial to local farmers and those in the supply chain.
Did you know the wholesale fruit and veg market in Kennedy Town is open to the public twice a week, and you can buy a vast range of local and imported produce cheaper than the supermarket prices and with little or no wasteful packaging? If you are buying from a deli counter take your own containers to save on single-use waste. If you are a list freak (like me!), create a menu plan and a shopping list; you’re less likely to overbuy and will save money and waste less.
Baking and cooking with the Christmas tunes blasting is a great way to get festive at home – include the kids and consider this a family activity. The results will be more nutritious and less wasteful than the shop-bought version and perfect for gifting!
For your festive tipple, support local vendors such as My Wine Man and SOHO Wines. Wine specialist Corney & Barrow is donating 5% of the sales of the special festive packages (available at a 10% discount, so there’s more reason to buy!) as part of their on-going support for the charity, SoCO.
Ethical Fashion: Get Your Glam On
For your and the children’s holiday wardrobe, consider preloved (yes, that’s a trendy way of saying second hand!) items. There are so many ways to do this: HULA, Retykle and The Green Ladies all have a retail experience so you can browse and try on these festive threads. You might discover a fabulous brand or treat yourself to something that would be out of budget if brand new.
A great way to be socially and stylishly sustainable is to host a clothes swap. You can have fun with your friends and the chances are you won’t bump into someone wearing the same thing! Don’t forget to include Christmas jumpers, often a one-season wonder as with children growing and adults suffering from “I wore this last year” syndrome! If all that sounds like too much effort, just restyle one of your favourite pieces (using Pinterest for some style inspiration).
If you do lust over something new new, ensure if it is something you can wear it in lots of ways, to many places for years to come. So often party wear is only worn once. Consider doing some eco-friendly Christmas shopping with Hong Kong brands who demonstrate ethical values, create minimal waste, and use sustainable materials. Check out local independent brands such as Tove & Libra, The R Collective, Basics for Basics. For children, look at the collections from The Wee Bean, Malabar Baby and Velveteen.
Sustainable Choices: The Season Of Giving
Let’s face it buying gifts can be as hard as it can be enjoyable. This year has been financially tough for many so agreeing with friends and family to cut back on some unnecessary gifting feels like an easy win.
It’s a running theme, but consider where you spend your dollars, does that businesses ethics and values align with your own? Local brands and independents need our support more than ever, check out The Lion Rock Press, Mirth, Bookwise and Jane Eve Candles. The money generated by local business is more likely to stay within the community and these small businesses often donate prizes to local raffles and work to do good in the community.
There is a continuing trend for gifting experiences rather than tangible items. Other than the usual spa treatment or gift card, consider museum or club memberships or an annual pass or magazine subscription – it’s the gift that keeps giving (last year’s Ocean Park pass has been used four times despite 2020 restrictions!). These types of gifts are a great way to easily gift overseas avoiding the posting drama.
Less can be more. Arranging a secret Santa with a bigger budget for some family and friends ensures everyone gets something that they really want. We’ve all opened one dodgy bath set too many and sent straight to the regifting drawer – what a waste!
Amongst all the festive fun and cheer, do take the effort to donate either your time or money to an organisation or charity that really need your support this year. Helping others is often the best gift you can give this Christmas.
Eco-Friendly Christmas: Deck The Halls
For me, the one thing that really must stop is the giving out of all that plastic tat – all those packs of clappers, blowers, sequins and all kinds of single-use uselessness! Restaurants, save your money; these items are not needed to make tables look and feel festive and no one wants it afterwards. If you get one on your table please return it unopened, it is the only way to get the message across.
Wrapping paper, cards and decorations: for some, these are a must. If you want these, consider buying responsibly sourced wood or FSC-accredited paper items that are available at Thorn & Burrow, Marks & Spencer, etc. For a paper-free alternative, think fabric tied with ribbons in a Furoshiki style or a zero waste gift sack or give an old gift boxes an eco-friendly makeover this Christmas.
Lastly, we can’t talk about Christmas without mentioning the tree, real or fake. You could make your own tree as a DIY project with the kids, recycle and reuse one for many years to come or if you want to go for a real one, make sure it comes from a sustainable grower. This is often a hot topic for festive debate, so instead of joining in, I will revert to my mantra of Progress, not Perfection, and advise you to do what works for you!
After all, when it comes to consumption (as with parenting), it’s best to pick your battles. Wishing you a peaceful and sustainable Christmas!
Read more: Tips And Advice For A Peaceful Christmas