Every year the same old question: What to do at Christmas? Depending on your cultural and family background, this one might be a hard one to answer. On one side, Christmas stands for contemplation, calmness and traditions - on the other it often also stands for stress, consumerism and indulgence.
The simplest and most Zero Waste solution was suggested by one of our Zero Waste Living in Leipzig community members - Henna just does nothing for Christmas. No tree, no deco, no gifts, nothing. Even though I find the thought kind of freeing, of course, this might not be the most suitable solution for everyone! So let’s have a look at how you can reduce your wastefulness during the winter holidays.
At first, please note that I started to work on this blog post way before the new restrictions were announced. I have now deleted some sections which are not really relevant at the moment anymore (think Christmas markets etc.). I nevertheless hope that there are still some useful tips and tricks left for a low waste and joyful Christmas. Stay safe, my friends!
Meals and food
I think the most important thing when it comes to food during the Christmas season is trying to avoid food waste. Try to not overshop and overcook/overbake, i.e. shop and prep only the food that you and your loved ones are going to eat. And if you happen to end up with too much, please try to act on time and freeze it or share your excess food through one of the Foodsharing platforms. I normally use the Foodsharing Leipzig Facebook group or bring some food to a Fairteiler point set up by the Foodsharing network close to my place. But I know there are many local Telegram groups as well with a food sharing theme, e.g. for Leipzig general, East, West, or South East.
Another thing that you can always do is try to buy your ingredients with less packaging or package free. That way you can buy only the exact quantities that you will need. I might be weird first, only to buy 10 cloves and two tablespoons of ground cinnamon, but no one will look weirdly at you if you do. In a separate post I already wrote about the Zero Waste shops in Leipzig and there are also some other shops listed where you can shop package free in Leipzig.
A nice map of package free shopping options in and outside of Leipzig was put together by the folks of Einmal Ohne Bitte. So, check it out.
Also another good point to think about - is it really necessary that every meal contains meat or animal product?! Try to challenge yourself (and your loved ones!) and experiment with some vegetarian or vegan recipes over the holidays! Just in case you didn’t know: Consuming meat and dairy in excess has an immense impact on our planet, with livestock accounting for around 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions each year. According to the New York Times, that’s roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today.
When it comes to holiday decorations, the best option with regards to zero waste - use what you have! For example hang up the Christmas cards you receive and use these as bunting-style decorations. Mr. Bean demonstrated already in the 1990s how that could work.
Christmas Tree - you can easily craft a “tree” without sacrificing a living tree using natural materials like sticks and twines or pine cones. If you want to have a real tree, you could consider having one that comes in a plant pot and can be planted outside after Christmas or reused again next Christmas. From what I hear, this strategy only has a limited success rate, as many potted trees aren’t likely to survive the year until the next festival season. But it’s definitely worth a try, I’d say. If you do actually and up with a dead tree, here is the link where you can leave your Christmas tree for the City cleaning to pick it up - I will try to figure out what they actually do with the trees. If I get an answer from them I will update it here.
Also, if you have a fake plastic tree - use that one. It was already made, you already have it, so you should use it as long as possible. It does not make sense to throw it out just because it is made of plastic. Just don’t buy a new one next time!
Christmas decorations can be easily made using certain kitchen items, like cinnamon sticks, dried orange rings, popcorn garland or items from nature, like pine cones or holly. Great fun is also to bake your edible tree decorations (e.g. cookies) and eat them afterwards, one by one.
If you need to buy new decoration, try to invest in decorations that can be reused time and time again. Try to avoid the ones made from cheap plastic or the ones that look like they will break easily. And strictly no glitter; glitter is basically microplastic. Even “biodegradable” glitter is a bad for the environment as the classic stuff, according to a recent study led by Dr. Dannielle Green of England’s Anglia Ruskin University, studied the impact of two types of biodegradable glitter on freshwater habitats.
I really like to give vouchers for experiences. It can be something self-created or commercialized.
Some ideas for self-made vouchers - special lockdown edition:
- Nature walk with nice hot tea or mulled wine in a thermos (just be aware that consuming alcohol in public will not be legal during the Christmas lockdown
- A treasure hunt through the city, great fun with kids!
- Family craft beer tasting. Again I am not being paid or affiliated or anything, I share all the eco-initiatives that I come across. Rettergut teamed up with the Brewdog and came up with a New England IPA - PLANET A - RETTERBIER where they use not-so-perfect peaches and unsold bread to brew the beer.
Some ideas for commercial vouchers:
- Rent board games from Ludothek in Leipzig
- Discovering city of Leipzig with Leipzig Card
- Or a super Zero Waste program - surprise someone or even yourself with an early bird ticket to the next Zero Waste Berlin Festival that will take place next summer at Malzfabrik. You will find me there, for sure!
Donating for a good cause on someone’s behalf can also be a nice present. Here is some local ideas that I found:
You can start with checking out one of my previous posts on all the locally produced products here. Or you can make something on your own. You can find so many great ideas online, I link here a blog post that a friend of mine wrote with many amazing recipes This year we made home-made quince, orange and lemon liquor for our friends and family.
Another nice initiative is Crowdfarming, where you can adopt for example a potato field in Germany or an avocado tree in Spain and many more. It is a double win, as you give a sustainable and edible present with the delayed gratification and you support a farmer.
I like to surprise people with seeds to plant something later during the next year or a book that I read and enjoyed.
A fellow Zero Waste Living in Leipzig member, Andrea, is making beautiful (and practical) upcycled origami bags. Super zero waste, handmade in Leipzig. Check out her Instagram account and surprise someone with an origami bag!
The Leipzig Recipe Calendar (in German) is also a great and local present. You can order online or find it in the Zero Waste shops around Leipzig.
And do not forget shopping second hand is a great way to avoid unnecessary packaging. eBay Kleinanzeigen is a great place to look for presents.
Switching from disposable gift wrapping paper to wrapping in fabric, or even a reusable gift bag, feels like giving two presents in one! Or you can just simply use old newspaper or brown craft paper. If you do buy wrapping paper, try to avoid the shiny glittery ones!