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Have yourself a very merry green Christmas. Get the whole family involved in minimising your collective carbon footprint this festive season.

If you think that a ‘green Christmas’ is synonymous with a dry lentil and nut roast, dodgy home-distilled elderberry wine and unhappy children sitting around a piece of driftwood topped by a toilet-roll angel as they unwrap gifts like Arctic polar bear sponsorship, you’re wrong. Greening Christmas need not mean anything of the sort.

Wanda Coustas, co-founder with her husband Glen Adams, of eco-awareness blog, says: “Just by making one or two small changes towards achieving greater balance, you will ‘green’ your Christmas. You really don’t need to be fanatical about it.”

The Cape Town-based mother practises what she preaches. A few years ago, for example, her family used a potted nut tree as their Christmas tree. And, when everyone else was vacuuming up the dried pine needles from their living room carpets, the family was replanting their nut tree in their garden.

No need to be extreme

However, she does not advocate a rabid adherence to all things ‘green’. “Extremism doesn’t further the eco-awareness cause,” she maintains. The point is not to stop consuming, full stop. It is rather to stop consuming without tandem conserving. “The main point about adopting eco-friendly practices over Christmas is that, in doing so, you allow the environment to play a role in the ritual. This deepens your spiritual experience of the holiday. After all, the environment is  linked to your spiritual well-being,” explains Coustas.

Do just one of the following

Dinner time

If there is just one thing you do differently this year, make it foregoing that traditional turkey dinner, suggests Coustas. The mass production of turkeys is an environmentalist’s nightmare. Rather:

  • choose free-range chicken with organic, locally produced vegetables.
  • opt for a candle lit dinner.
  • create a compost heap in your garden for your reusable kitchen waste.
  • cut down on packaging waste by buying loose rather than packaged fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • don’t use disposable cups, plates and utensils. Remember tinfoil is reusable.

Look for ways to give gifts that can be experienced, rather than just consumed, advises

  • Choose theatre tickets, a book of movie tickets, entrance tickets to the aquarium or a Wild Card.
  • Buy gifts from local markets, vintage clothing shops and antique shops.
  • For a large extended family get-together, make it a ‘secret Santa’ event in which a gift budget is agreed on and adhered to. Each family member picks a name out of a hat and then everyone buys just one present. (Give your children their individual gifts before the gathering.)
  • Avoid plastic, PVC or unsustainable goods, anything that is overly packaged or made of endangered wood.
  • Look for high-quality items that will have a long lifespan and that you buy from small, local businesses, artisans and crafters. Shop in second-hand book, CD, bric-a-brac, clothing and toy shops. Remember to take your own cloth bags for purchases when you go shopping.
  • Recycle gift wrap, or better still, don’t wrap! If you must wrap, Urbansprout suggests using magazines and old posters.
  • Look for low-energy Christmas lights that use light-emitting diodes (LEDs). They are 90% more energy efficient than regular ones.
  • If you get a traditional Christmas tree, recycle it by chopping it up and using the bark and wood chips as mulch in your garden. Alternatively, invest in a fruit or nut tree that you can replant in your garden and enjoy for years to come.
  • If you’re getting new, replacement or upgraded items over the festive season, don’t just throw away the old ones. For electronic equipment such as iPods and computers, go to for information on recycling these.
  • When buying buying clothes for your children or others for Christmas, try to buy items in organic materials from local markets and other small, independent manufacturers.

Laura Twiggs


Read more about how to make your Christmas budget-friendly and five fun and crafty Christmas-related things for children to make and bake.