When I told some friends I was writing about an environmentally friendly silly season there was sniggering over 'tofurkey' and tie-died Christmas decorations.
Despite their misgivings, I believe an eco-friendly Christmas doesn't have to suck all the joy out of festivities and adds a very positive dimension, not the least of which is in setting a great example for those who love Christmas most of all - children.
The components of Christmas which have potentially the greatest impact on the environment are food, presents and waste. With very little effort it is possible to have 'Christmas with a conscience' and in some cases it will make preparation even easier.
For many people, food is the big event on Christmas day. Tradition dictates certain items and there must be lots of it. In my own family, if Aunty Pat's trifle is left off the menu there's some serious questions asked. There's no reason to leave any of the family favourites out, rather it's a case of taking a closer look at where these items come from or what we put in them.
If you're challenged in the kitchen like me, it's a matter of checking the ingredients on the pavlova box to make sure palm oil is not one of them. This sneaky product finds its way into everything from cosmetics to kumara chips and is responsible for massive deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia and the very real threat to the survival of species such as the orangutan.
Look for locally made Christmas goods. Not only does this support Kiwi industry but it helps to reduce the impact from the transportation process of imported goods which contribute to greenhouse emissions and global warming.
Don't support animal cruelty by purchasing factory farmed chicken, ham or turkey. It costs more to buy free range or crate free, however the money you save is well and truly paid for by the suffering of the animal before it ends up on your table.
• Are you guilty of animal cruelty?
Many supermarkets now stock cruelty free products, otherwise specialty butchers will order these in for you.
Guilt Free Gifting
I had some great ideas for eco-friendly gifting, however I found most of these and some even better ones from Sam Judd, another
columnist. Check these out
Look for locally made gifts and those that are not buried under a stratum of packaging. Living plants, trade aid purchases and the World Vision and Oxfam 'give a goat' type concepts are my top picks.
For those people that have everything, live in small spaces or the seniors, why not give a voucher for an activity or excursion or even just a commitment to a few hours gardening.
Another way to cut down on multiple present purchases is to assemble gift baskets of goodies for entire families.
At the end of the day Christmas is a mass producer of waste. Kerbside collections following the event speak volumes with masses of packaging and wrapping paper - much of it unrecyclable, and extra bags of rubbish destined for the landfill.
Avoid glossy and metallic wrapping paper which cannot be recycled. Consider buying a roll of blank newsprint and having the kids decorate it. Twine or sections of flax to secure the paper looks great and will avoid the use of tape which can negate the recycling process. Use tiny pinecones or fresh flowers on the day instead of bows and ribbons.
Plastic tableware is an environmental nasty, lingering in landfills for potentially hundreds of years. Perhaps under threat of withholding leftover trifle, get family and friends to take their turn on dishes duty. Food scraps (other than meat) can be composted - maybe hint at a worm farm or composting bin for Christmas.
• Minimising festive food waste (+recipes)
Invest in some quality Christmas decorations that will last so as to avoid being tempted by the masses of cheap glittery offerings year after year. These low cost options constantly need replacing, are usually imported and certainly don't meet the criteria for 'eco friendly'.
Celebrating the Christmas season doesn't need to be at the expense of the environment. Consider spreading some of your festive goodwill to the planet that sustains us all.
Do you have more eco-friendly Christmas ideas to share?