How to Host a Stylish and Sustainable Christmas
Written By Hannah Pendlebury for VELA.Life
Host with the Most!
So you’re hosting your very first Christmas? Oh, the pressure! You want it to be perfect but at a time of year where abundance is in excess, you’ve got sustainability on your mind too. Good for you.
You can now tie being green and eco-friendly with your love for a beautiful, stylish lifestyle.
Say it with us: Less. Is. More. It really is. And if you put extra effort into the less, maybe you'll have more fun!
Why is Sustainability Important At Christmas?
Christmas comes knockin’
There’s no shame in getting wrapped up in the joy of the festive season. Coming together with loved ones and celebrating what’s important to you. But Christmas tends to be a time of wreckless affluence.
Buying unnecessary bits and bobs to feel ‘in the spirit’ is the consumerist message some brands push upon us.
Choosing to purchase thoughtfully from sustainable companies, particularly those who have a focus on sustainability in design, makes you feel great and cuts the holiday waste!
What Is Sustainability In Design?
Sustainability in design means that all parts in the process of creating a product have been considered.
Some questions you can ask yourself are:
Are all the materials used in the products as sustainable for the planet as possible?
Is the packaging eco-friendly?
Has the product been designed to last?
Will it transcend trends and fads to become a ‘forever piece’?
If the answer to all of these questions is YES you have sustainability in design.
Less Waste at Christmas
Tis’ the season, for wastefulness
It’s widely reported that the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) stated that waste over the festive season increases in households by 25%. Equating to an extra million tonnes of garbage each week. GWP Group reports this is 30% in the UK.
Food waste is even larger of a problem, with hundreds of tonnes of food hitting landfills. All this food waste when plenty of people go hungry at this time of year. Which is why food sustainability at Christmas is a hot topic.
Maximise all this to a global scale and you can see we have a huge, messy problem.
So where can we start to reduce this when hosting our own stylish yet sustainable Christmas?
1. Making A List, Checking It Twice
Important. Super Important. Super Duper Important.
Santa might be making a list and only checking it twice, but we advise you do it WAY more times than that. A good plan will reduce your waste significantly. Eliminate the guesswork. And the earlier the better. You’ve probably got a thousand lists too. Not to worry, there are plenty of ways to focus your listing obsessions and create a solid plan this Christmas.
Apple has always told us ‘there’s an app for that’ and, trust us, there is. Simplify the planning process for yourself by downloading a Christmas planning app. There are plenty on the market designed to make your life simpler, but personally we prefer Christmas Planner as it’s a one-stop-shop for every list you need to create.
Knowing specifically how many people you’re buying gifts for and intending to feed on the big day will ensure you can plan ahead of time. Stay strong and do not waver from the plan, even when things look really shiny in the shops or delicious on the shelves.
The little details count too. Do you have a large family? Are there enough places for them to sit? Plates for them to eat from? Forks to eat WITH? Knowing roughly how many people you have to cater for means you can borrow crockery, cutlery and seating if things are getting out of hand. Or if your family is really big look into bio disposables for crockery.
2. Food Glorious Food!
As adults, the presents become less and less important as the years go by. Though some probably wouldn’t turn away a Polly Pocket brought to us by a jolly fat man, we can really admit what we’re here for - the food.
Making sustainable food choices at Christmas can be a difficult balance to find. Especially when the time of year calls for indulgence! However, there are some great steps to take to ensure your choices are sustainable.
First, create a menu. Whether you plan to do a set-course, sit-down meal or a more buffet-style spread, you can still plan out what will be on the table to avoid excess Christmas wastage. Find out if your guests have dietary requirements ahead of time and, if it’s affordable, build your menu around these. No one needs to know it’s gluten-free Christmas cake if it’s just as delicious.
Locally sourced deliciousness
Using a meal plan app could help here too. We like BigOven since it’s packed with recipes. You can also add clippings from other places, create shopping lists and organise things into handy folders. If your family are the type that each brings along their own dish, get them to commit to what they’ll be bringing and plan around it. No one needs (though they may want) three potato bakes.
Sourcing local ingredients from producers who have sustainable and ethical processes is a must. Having said this, for small-batch, organic and local producers this can be a truly crazy time of year. To ensure you don’t miss out, decide on your menu early and start making orders. You’ll be first in line to ensure what lands on the table is top quality and the producers will want to be your friend.
The final tip to consider when it comes to food sustainability at Christmas is to cut down on the meat. We’re not saying throw away the prize turkey, but perhaps consider having vegetarian starters, salads and sides.
3. The Inevitable Christmas Excess
Everyone loves a doggy bag
If there are inevitable leftovers, create Christmas takeaway boxes. Ask everyone to bring an empty tupperware dish to the big day and make sure you hand out all the leftovers. Even though you may want to hang on to all those roast spuds and trifle, guaranteed by day three you’ll be ready to throw them in the bin.
There’s plenty of food leftover recipes you can find to help you reinvent what is left in the fridge too. It all adds up to making Christmas more sustainable.
With the true spirit of the festive season being to give and spread joy, it’s a perfect time to take a look into local organisations that give back. When it comes to food waste, in Australia, there’s organisations like Oz Harvest who collect excess food and deliver it directly to charities supporting people in need. In the USA, there is a similar company called Copia. Do a little research to see who’s available closer to you.
4. Deck The Halls - Sustainable Christmas Decor
Here’s what not to do - go out and buy a flimsy, one-use, $20 plastic tree that won’t last. Though it’s not the highest on our recommendation list, if you ARE going to buy a plastic tree - invest more and have it last you many years. If you choose to pick a real pine tree (remember these die faster in the Southern Hemisphere heat), choose one that is FSC Certified.
It can be a time for the shiny, sparkly and artificial. This year, why not make a conscious effort to opt for more sustainable Christmas decor?
5. Go Au Naturale
We’re talking hessian table runners, wooden or material ornaments. Lots of local fashion markets will have handmade choices. Choose fewer and simpler, that way the pieces become timeless and can last you for Christmases to come.
Make your centrepieces natural too. Simply take a stunning vase and fill with natural foliage. Australian eucalyptus mixed with pine can look stunning.
Think candles instead of fairy lights for a beautiful ambience. Teamed with timeless candle holders, these can make the focal point of any table.
6. Sustainable Christmas Gifting
Gifting at Christmas is SO easy to get out of control quickly. But once again, creating a plan and sticking to it will help you avoid the excess.
When hosting your first sustainable Christmas, you’re in charge! Tell your friends and family that you’d like to commit to drawing names from a hat and only buying ONE gift for ONE person. That way you can pool your Christmas spending and only purchase one forever piece that your loved one really wants. And what do they really want? Well, you can set up wish lists and share them with family and friends with handy apps like ChristmasListApp.
There are also sustainable but stylish apps like Depop. Here you’ll find perfectly good, unused, items that people no longer want, need or suit, which could make a perfect designer gift.
If your family and friends are passionate about purchasing a gift for all, there are sustainable Christmas gift options. Consider consumables that will BE consumed. Gin is in and our handy gin tasting kit is the perfect accompaniment to a locally made bottle. Want bath products? Head to Lush. Their no-plastic policy and natural ingredients make at-home luxury more sustainable.
Shop local designer markets or, if you haven’t got the time for in-person shopping, a quick Google search of ‘sustainable designer Australian gifts’ will present you with a plethora of companies attempting to give back. Urban List has even put together a handy guide for you.
Got someone into fitness? Try workout wear made from recycled plastic water bottles by Team Timbuktu or a multi-use marble dumbbell for pure luxury. Know a coffee fanatic? Grab some reusable coffee pods from Crema Joe. How about a fashion lover? Try a voucher for fashion rentables store Glam Corner.
There are MANY possibilities out there, the key is to be thoughtful and considered in your gifting approach.
7. Wrap It Up
While we’re on gifts - have you thought about wrapping? Lots of Christmas wrapping paper can’t be recycled and each year over 227,000 miles of wrapping paper goes to waste. Try sourcing previously recycled paper. Plain brown paper or newspaper with string adds a beautiful rustic touch. Perhaps try the japanese art of furoshiki, wrapping your gifts in fabric.
8. Regift and Donate
Waste not, want not
Donate, donate donate - this goes for your old Christmas ornaments too. Do this ahead of time so people can snap them up for their OWN Christmases and they don’t end up in a landfill. Bring some Marie Kondo into your world; she is a tiny Japanese joy angel who helps you think consciously about the products and things in your life.
If there are kids in your life, reminding them about the spirit of Christmas (kindness, sharing, empathy) is vital. Ask them to choose three toys they don’t play with as much and go with them to take them to the local homeless shelter. Don’t do it for them. To understand the impact of the situation make sure they go with you to make their donations.
If you’ve been roped into a Secret Santa with friends or people around the office, ask everyone to make it a re-gift Secret Santa.
9. Festive Fun and Frivolity
Remember to laugh, it’s just Pictionary
You want your first Christmas hosting experience to be FUN. Between gift exchanges and overeating it’s great to mix the day up with some games. Whether it’s adults only or you have kids coming to play, there’s plenty to choose from. Just be sure to choose carefully so things don’t get too out of hand with your competitive Uncle, or Grandma doing the Santa limbo after one too many sherries.
10. Take Care Of Yourself At Christmas
A little more time for you
We’re not necessarily saying ‘treat yourself’, though you may likely do that anyway at Christmas. But practice some real self care every now and then and recognise that this can be a truly crazy time of year, ESPECIALLY if you’re the host.
Shopping centres, ‘out of stock’ signs, rude staff, rude shoppers, frantic children, traffic jams - they all come with the gig at Christmas. Perhaps pull out your yoga mat and squeeze in a few more sessions in the morning before a big day, or practice mindfulness meditations to try and stay in the moment.
11. More Presence Less Presents
It’s mushy, but true
Overall, keep in mind that it’s just one day. So going to excess with gifts, food, money or stress really isn’t worth it.
With a solid plan in place and early preparation you can enjoy a stylish but sustainable Christmas that everyone will remember for years to come.
Focus on what the day is truly about: spending quality time with loved ones, giving thoughtfully and spreading a little joy for goodness’ sake, it’s (almost) Christmas.