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Low impact celebrating

As the nights draw in and the clocks go back, many of us start to think about Christmas, something to bring some joy into the darker days, and a time to spend with family and friends, whether in person or virtually.

This year may be more strange than normal, if so it will go with the rest of 2020. Strange or not, it is good to think about our environmental impacts when preparing for a celebration – not to put a dampener on it, rather to reduce the hangover afterwards. And often these can be cheaper too.

This week’s guest blog is from Susheel Rao, environmentalist, jewellery maker/ creative and volunteer at Sustainable St Albans…

Lets create ‘peace and goodwill to ALL’ and by that I mean the planet as a whole. Can we have the same positive impact to people without the negative impact to our planet?

What are the environmental impacts of our festivities?


The joys of a feast! And for me, the joys of leftovers! If you have a tendency to over cater, think about how you can use any leftovers. Take care over where you source your food from, look for Fairtrade, local, organic, depending on the food.

Photo by Emy-unsplash


Don’t we all love presents? Or perhaps you don’t. Whether it is the joy of thinking what someone might like, the giving of it or the receiving… think about the impact your present has – can you use local suppliers or craft people? Make it yourself? Repurpose something you have? Or give a gift of time?


Whether you are decorating your tree or doing a display for Festive Streets, can you reuse or repurpose?  What ever you do, think about the impact and be creative!

Take the “12 Green Days of Christmas Challenge”

Enjoy more low impact festivities at Christmas and beyond.

Photo by Lesley Flowers

No. 1 : Have a vegan day, or a vegan main meal for your celebration

If that seems too hard, how about a vegetarian day or meal? Download the recipes below from Danielle Durant at The Cobbled Kitchen for a vegetarian feast; most are actually vegan, or can be with a simple substitute of butter to oil or margarine.

No. 2: Celebrate left overs

Challenge yourself to how many different meals you can make. For instance after a roast chicken, you can then make chicken curry, boil the carcass to make chicken soup, and also to make stock for other meals. At Love Food Hate Waste they have loads of recipes for your left-overs.

No. 3: Car free day(s)

And reduce the use of the car generally – Probably more realistically this year, think about how you travel for short distances, to the shops or to visit friends locally. Can you combine trips, or plan so you reduce the amount of trips you need to do? Can you take a walk or cycle rather than a car trip especially for a day out?

No. 4: Buy local food

Buy 90% of your food from the UK, and ideally much more local. See here for local shops . Buy organic or where you know the producer has a similar ethos where you can. Reducing food miles reduces the embedded carbon in our food, and can support local businesses.

No. 5: Buy Fairtrade / Rainforest Alliance / organic whenever you can.

Fairtrade organic coffee, tea and chocolate not only ensure the planet is looked after, but also the people. You can also buy jewellery made from Fairtrade gold and silver. Or look out for things which are ethically sourced.

No. 6: Make your own decorations and displays

Do this especially for ‘festival streets’. If you are buying, consider buying decorations that may become family heirlooms, from artisans and artists. Can you make your own decorations? Reuse ones from previous years rather than new each time. Buy local, from local craft makers and artisans. For outside lights, can you use solar? As you replace lights, can you use LEDs (although yours may already be them!)

No. 7: Give gifts of time

Cook friends or family a meal (if lockdown allows); give a voucher for 1 day of time for you to help in the garden or decorate, do baby sitting, or take them somewhere to spend quality time with them.

‘Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show’

Photo by Lee Wood of Ember Designs

No. 8: Shop Local

If buying Christmas presents, #shoplocal where possible, whether that is local shops or with local artisans. This supports local people, and can create more vibrant communities. Did you know that for every £1 spent locally 63p remains in the local community, compared with 40p with larger businesses.

No. 9: Wrapping presents

Use reusable, recycled or recyclable wrapping, and keep it plastic free. You can make your own from old magazines or decorate plain paper that comes in packaging. You could use old fabric or scraps or even an old scarf that you think the recipient would like.

No. 10: Christmas cards

Make your own, buy from local artists, or send virtual cards. Steer clear from glitter (made with plastics)! And avoid other plastics.

No. 11: Christmas Tree

If you are buying a real Christmas tree, think about buying one with roots, plant it out during the year and bring it in the next year. When it gets too big, plant it out forever. Or perhaps, rather than a tree, decorate a branch or something else, be creative.

No 12: Celebrate your low impact Christmas – let other people know about it!

More Resources

Jen Gale’s Sustainable’ish: Beginners Guide to a crap free Christmas

Friends of the Earth: Five Ways to Help the Planet this Christmas

Make your own wrapping paper – You Tube video

Festive Streets: Get creative this season and join in the district’s Festive Streets – brought to you by Sustainable St Albans’ Playing Out team. Decorate your streets with your neighbours!

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