Noël alternatif

Alternative Christmas: what if we consumed differently?

A few weeks away from Christmas Eve, the ecological question remains this year again as a major problematic. Endless waste source, almost 20% of waste will be produced during these holidays. While our trashcans suffer from indigestion, there are alternavtive solutions for a sustainable Christmas.

Christmas an endless source of waste

Despite the general excitment, the massive impact on the environment remains the reflection of an obvious over-consumption. Starting on November 24th, Black Friday launches the beginning of Christmas shopping, a month before Christmas Eve. Between disposable Advent Calendar, yummy electrical decorations, plastics Christmas trees and toys with a high carbon footprint, Christmas is not a gift for the planet.

Advent calendars: ecologically speaking, the reality is alarming

Even before entering in the 24 first days of December and thinking of gifts, an object has slipped into our habits for over a century. An indispensable Christmas product, the Advent calendar has rised up to the rank of tradition and even became a staple Christmas object. The last few years, the market for this cardboard has diversified to the extreme: beer, beauty, animal food, lingerie or traditional chocolates… brands compete severely with creativity to make you buy theirs. In 2014, mass distribution calendars brought profits of 387 million of euros.

Financially, the calendar has a big commercial potential. From an ecological point of view, the reality is alarming. Each year, thousands of tonnes of cardboard and plastics go to the waste collection site.

Concerning the content, calendars containing chocolates are rarely issued from a sustainable chain and other calendars supply supplementary packaging (glass bottles, plastic packaging…). From an ecological and healthy point of view, Advent Calendars are based on industrial chocolates sold in mass distribution and contain many artificial colorants, additives, synthetic ingredients and soy lecithin often from GMO soy or non-sustainable plants. For a vegan alternative, which excludes any form of animal exploitation, avoid chocolates containing traces of milk, which is not easy in traditional selling points.

In order to reduce the environmental impact and consequences on our health, a more ecological choice and zero waste is possible. In fact, there are solutions such as:

  • Buying calendars that are organic, vegan or fair. They can be found in specialized stores or internet,

  • Making your own calendar is the best alternative. Several options are possible: wood, cardboard, paper or cloth. If made entirely with materials that are recycled, the Advent Calendar can reduce waste while preserving its tradition. Reusable year after year and economical, it can develop your creativity while controlling the content of each box.

Christmas tree and environmental footprint: is it possible?

If the calendar is a staple for the end of the year (about 850 000 calendars with traditional chocolates sold), it is far from the 7.1 million trees bought in 2016.

Symbol of tradition, the Christmas tree is at the heart of ecological debates. Natural or artificial tree? Which one is the best environmental choice?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Made in plastic (usually from fossil fuel such as petroleum, gas or coal) the artificial tree is not renewable. If it represents 15 to 20% of Christmas sells in 2016 according to a survey from Kantar TNS, its production process is energy and plastic consuming and produces greenhouse gases. Often imported from Asia, it is changed every three year in average in France, which does not cover the pollution emitted during its fabrication, transport and destruction.

For environmental reasons, prefer a natural Christmas tree issued from dedicated plants specialized in this activity. Entirely biodegradable, the tree is also the habitat of wild animals. Nevertheless, some conifers are the exemption of the rule. It is important to be aware of the provenance and label of the tree.

The French Association for the Natural Christmas Tree (AFSNN) emphasizes that natural Christmas trees “limit greenhouse gas by absorbing CO2 during its growth” and advise to prefer collective territorial labels such as “Légende du Morvan”, “Morvan, Nature et Talents” and “Marque Savoie”. Other labels such as « Blue Planet » or « issued from Organic Agriculture” are proof of durability. For its destruction, municipalities from large cities such as Paris, Lyon or Bordeaux opened temporary collecting sites where Christmas trees can be dropped off and crushed in compost. Other solutions exist such as decorating an interior tree which is for sure sustainable.

Light garlands: the planet screams LED

If most French cities are committed to reduce the electricity consumption of Christmas lights by changing standard bulbs, there are more sustainable solutions that exist. LED garlands (LED for light emitting diode) have a 60 to 75% lower electricity consumption compared to classical incandescent light bulbs.

If a classical bulb consumes in average between 5 to 20 watts, the LED bulb will only use 0.05 to 1 watt which is 5 times less than the classical light bulb. Choosing a solar garland to decorate outside is also an option. Environment-friendly and economical they are hard to find and quite expensive compared to a classical garland.

Objective zero waste

During the holidays season, the quantity of waste generated by gift-wrap is significant and fills our trash cans actively. Massively used, they are often made from non-renewable raw materials.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

To reduce the impact on environment, there are ways to gift wrap responsively, such as using recycled paper. The symbols FSC or PEFC are indicating that the paper comes from a sustainable plant.

With a zero-waste approach, wrapping gifts in a cloth using knotting method is the best alternative and is both economical and personal.

If changes towards more ecological and responsible holidays season have started the last few days, a zero-waste and 100% sustainable Christmas for all is still a goal that is far away. To reduce our impact on the environment and bring a shift to mentalities, anyone can act by choosing alternative solutions and make other people discover them. After all, sharing is the main value of Christmas.