I try my best to live an eco-friendly, sustainable life, and that includes a green Christmas. However, the tricky thing about Christmas is that there’s still waste, no matter how much you try to cut down. I was gifted so many vegan and so-called “eco-friendly” products, and somehow, still wound up in a mountain of single-use plastic. My family tried to find things that correlate with my beliefs and lifestyle and in the end, got greenwashed. I tried to be as green as possible but in the end, still had to ask myself how to clean up after Christmas in an eco-friendly way. The environment is one of the biggest reasons people go vegan, so surely, those selling vegan companies would be the first to get sustainable packaging?
Thankfully, it doesn’t all have to go to waste. As I sadly helped my family take down our tree, I realised that we can be smart with all the waste and find ways to repurpose it. Here’s how to clean up after Christmas in an eco-friendly way:
Don’t donate to a charity shop…yet
As “New Year, New You” diet fads sweep the retail industry this month. The Christmas stuff gets cleared out of stores, including charity shops. Which means, if you have old decorations or unwanted gifts, now is not the time to donate them. Charity shops won’t keep out of season goods in the back and take them out next Christmas, so if you don’t Christmas stuff now, chances are it will go to waste. Put the unwanted Christmas items in a box in the regular attic and donate them at the start of the next festive season when you take down the decorations again.
It’s a bit inconvenient to keep it all for another year, but it’s better to do this than for it go to waste. You’re not just sparring items from the bin, but when someone else buys them, the charity benefits. Afterall, that’s what Christmas is all about!
Keep wrapping paper for storing decorations
You might have been eco-friendly and wrapped your presents in brown or recycled paper this year, but the chances of at least someone gifting you something in non-recyclable traditional wrapping paper are high. Instead of begrudgingly letting it go to landfill, use it to wrap up your most delicate Christmas decorations as you store them away. Every year something breaks or comes down from the attic missing a piece. There’s no such thing as too much cushioning for your most sentimental and precious Christmas decorations.
If there’s big in-tact pieces you can hold onto it, and reuse it to wrap something else next year.
Make gift labels with cards
Plain Christmas cards can be recycled, but ones with glitter, glue, and other weird additions cannot be. The same goes for envelopes which are also covered in glitter now! If you’re not keeping any cards for sentimental purposes, then sort out which can be recycled and which can’t be.
If a lot of your Christmas cards are unrecyclable, they don’t all have to go to waste. The images and greeting on the front can be cut out to DIY gift logos for next year.
Not only is this giving what was once a single-use item another go, but it’ll save you money next Christmas when you don’t have to buy gift labels!
An idea for next Christmas, if you’d rather send physical cards instead of an e-card, is to get seed-cards. These are biodegradable cards with flower seeds inside, that can be planted! The bees will appreciate it.
Donate to shelters
People are great for donations before Christmas but forget about it after Christmas. January is still winter which means that homeless people still need warm food and coats. It doesn’t matter that there’s a Santa Claus on a food item, if it’s still in date it should be good to donate. Some shelters list what they need, and what they have enough of so make sure to have a look at your local website first.
If you have old winter jackets, they can also be donated to local coat sharing initiatives to help people brace the remainder of winter.
All the unwanted shower gels, moisturizers, and grooming kits can be donated if you have too many of those! Women’s shelters are happy to take these kinds of luxury items too. It’s not just about giving people the necessities, but it’s nice to enjoy comfort items too.
Homelessness is a problem all year – not just during Christmas.
Dispose of your tree properly
We’ve had the same reusable faux Christmas tree for as long as I can remember, and it still looks great! However, not everyone get’s a reusable tree.
If you got a real tree this Christmas, don’t just throw it out. Every year, I see Christmas trees dumped in the most random places. Although it’s a biodegradable item, it’s not going to biodegrade on the street! Local charities or forestry groups often take old Christmas trees and dispose of them responsibly.
If you have a reusable faux Christmas tree, take it down carefully and store it properly. The better care you take of it, the longer lifespan it has. Our branches go on one by one, and somehow 20 years later, we still have all of them! If you’re considering getting a faux tree, have a look for a secondhand one in good condition first!
What I find worse than wrapping paper is the clear plastic that coats the tiniest of products. What I was the most irritated this Christmas was the big boxes full of unrecyclable clear plastic covering tiny products. It was so unnecessary! Most of the products were in plastic packaging so didn’t even need the big wall of plastic to protect them anyway!
If you’re artistic you can find a good use for this troublesome plastic and DIY some shrink plastic! The art of shrink plastic involves drawing a design in marker on a flat piece of plastic and then shrinking it in the oven. You can make key-rings, jewelry, and more if you’re creative enough. Who knows, you might even end up setting up an Etsy store with your upcycled creations!
Are you trying to clean up after Christmas in an eco-friendly way? Did you encounter any green challenges this holiday season?