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Hand-picked tips for an ethical Christmas

Tearfund campaigners from around the UK share their tips and ideas for a more sustainable Christmas

Megan Hermes | 08 Dec 2021

Christmas present wrapped in brown paper packaging and string (Unsplash/ Priscilla Du Preez) 

The countdown to Christmas is on! We asked our Tearfund UK Campaigners Facebook group for their favourite tips to make their Christmas celebrations more sustainable.

This is a great time of year to try different ways of reducing waste to demonstrate love for our global neighbours and for God’s creation. Here’s a selection of home-grown ideas that you might like to try.

Giving good gifts

  • 'Last year we twinned bins for a few people in our family and this year we have agreed with our family to give gifts sourced in charity shops. I have found some great second-hand books and clothes to give.' – Ruth
  • 'We’ve done a few gift experiences like an online Indian cooking evening… We try to really tailor these to relatives’ interests! We’ve also twinned toilets and bought plastic-free, ethical gifts.' – Nicky
  • 'We use recyclable paper and paper gift-string instead of tape.' – Naomi 
  • '[We asked] for Christmas and birthday gifts that don’t contain single-use plastic… with the unexpected result that family and friends have become more thoughtful about their gift-buying too: soaps, shampoo bars, perfume sticks etc. Also, all gift items [are] packed in jute shopping bags or containers that can be reused.' – Denise
  • 'I keep old Christmas cards and cut out the details from the pictures, provided they’re blank on the back, and use them as name tags on presents.' – Colin

It's easy to forget about the ripple effect from making more ethical choices – but your actions may have more impact on others than you realise!

Round the dinner table 

One of my favourite things about Christmas is gathering around the dinner table with loved ones. Here are some of the tips we received about making festive meals more ethical.

  • 'I have reusable crackers with Fairtrade chocolate inside, a handmade fabric crown and a handwritten joke, and we wrap our gifts with fabric or pillowcases tied with string.' – Jennie
  • 'Our fruit and veg are being delivered by Riverford and we’re eating much less meat. (There will be a few vegan main dishes.)' – Nicky
  • 'All the food we’re eating is locally sourced and there’s no beef for the first time. We’re doing mix-and-match crackers from those we have had left over or found in charity shops.' – Emma
  • '[We joined] a local veg/fruit box scheme where everything is grown and produced locally! I love that it means we’re eating seasonally again. Our scheme also gives great info about what grows well in our area, and blogs on cooking ideas.' – Sandra

Eating locally means fewer emissions are involved in getting the food from its source to your plate. It also benefits the local economy by supporting local farmers and producers. Local fruit-and-veg box services can be an easy way to get local produce delivered to your door. 
 
It’s estimated that 40 million crackers end up in our bins on Christmas Day. While some crackers can be recycled, those that use foil or glitter can’t – and the plastic toys inside are often headed straight for landfill! We received many comments from people who had replaced their Christmas crackers with eco-friendly alternatives, including fair trade chocolate, wooden toys, fabric ties and upcycled charity finds.

Deck the halls 

For many of us, hosting Christmas festivities means decorating the house and trying to keep warm! These tips focus on making a cosy environment while reducing the harmful impact on our planet.

  • 'This year we have been making Christmas trees out of old cardboard boxes, a recycled craft to decorate the house.' – Joanne
  • 'Home energy-usage is important, so try to ensure your house is well insulated as much as possible and draughts sealed. Also, look at your energy supply tariff to try to ensure you use renewable electricity.' – Garth

Time to reflect

Many of us use this end-of-year season to take stock. It’s a good opportunity to review your daily choices and habits, and prayerfully consider what the next steps towards more ethical living might be. A few Tearfund campaigners shared their thoughts about taking action, and what’s been helpful for them along the way.

  • 'It isn’t about striving, it’s about heart change. You don’t have to do it all perfectly to do something.' – Christina
  • 'I stepped back and looked at the bigger picture by doing a festive waste audit. I thought about what parts of the season cause waste and tried to think of ways to cut them out!' – Laura
  • 'It’s helpful to know that long-term change is built by stacking up lots of smaller steps. It can be a really fun thing. It became like a mini-challenge for my wife and I to see what we could replace for more sustainable alternatives.' – Kiran

 
Whether you’ve been doing everything listed above for years or you’re just getting started, we can all take action towards making our Christmas and our daily choices more ethical. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a chance to try out all of these ideas this year: it’s all about taking the next steps. 
 
If you’re still looking for more inspiration, take a look at our 25 ideas for an ethical Christmas blog from 2019. 

  Megan Hermes

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