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Green christmas

Celebrate a Carbon Neutral Christmas!

Anyone not noticed it? Yes, of course, it is December – another annual epidemic of Christmas euphoria has spread, threatening to wipe out the last bit of tranquility and peacefulness modern cities have kept. I am currently touring Europe and whichever city I visit – Vienna, Berlin, Copenhagen, Brussels – I repeatedly witness the same cacophony of Christmas fairs. If you will allow, I would like to take this occasion to venture an allegorical Christmas outburst:

I cannot prevent myself from seeing Christmasophile commercialists who creep through Christmassy decorated city centers, incapable of resisting the rapturous shopping rage, embedded in the internationally replaceable acoustic recurrence of Christmas carols.

Having said that (yes, a great relief, thank you!), here are some suggestions for turning your personal Christmas into a sustainable festivity. First of all, Christmas is the time when you get together with other people and to do so, to see your kinfolk, you need to move. What is the way to travel with maximum charity?

  • Walk
  • Take the train
  • Take the bus
  • Fill your own car with people, or commute with someone else

There are online platforms for commuting to basically everywhere. A quick google search will reveal the carpool, rideshare, commuting service in your area. If you have kids, and need to travel with your own car, why not call an old friend who you expect would otherwise celebrate Christmas alone? By inviting him or her to join you, you increase your car’s per capita mileage, and you fight social isolation at the same time. Positive side-effect: I bet your relatives behave more politely when a “stranger” is present…

Attention not only to transport, but also to consumption is essential for optimizing the Yuletide’s environmental effects. Apart from the obvious – giving organic, local and/or fair trade products as presents – there are numerous options:

  • Re-use old stuff (books, toys, bikes …) as presents – from your basement, from flea markets, from ebay
  • De-materialize your presents – give a favor, a massage, a service instead
If you absolutely need to buy something, check the label. More and more consumer products contain information on their carbon footprint. However, don’t be mislead by ambiguous claims. In the US, Greener Choices has an online eco logo guide and in Britain, defra’s Green Claims Guidance, to give another example, provides insight into the most common tricks. But there is now an increasing number of positive examples of how environmental product labeling works well.

Last, but not least, there is the menu. Keep searching for a butcher who really knows the origin of his or her product. Get local meat, get organic meat, or even better: have a vegetarian Christmas dinner. The bravest will shock their relatives by cooking a vegan dish. More Christmas recipes at vegan family or at vegan society.

These were some introductory suggestions, I am sure you can come up with more. Feel free to share your personal sustainability idea for Christmas with us, just post a quick comment!

Article image shows Green Christmas. By Moritz Buehner, based on this picture by ralpe on the Nuremberg Christmas fair.

moritzbuehner

2 comments

  • One more option for an alternative xmas gift among friends or within your family: Make a collective donation for an environmental or social project instead of buying ordinary presents. A good German example is to “buy shares of the Green Belt” (http://www.erlebnisgruenesband.de/en/startseite.html), i.e. your donation is used to buy some natural land along Germany’s former inner border and thereby prevent it from being used for non-ecological purposes.

    • Good idea! The purpose you mention sounds great. I cycled along a part of the former iron curtain last summer. Not inside Germany, but between Austria and Czech Republic. That part is now marketed as Czech greenways, with an extensive network of hiking trails and cycling opportunities. Beautiful.
      By the way, I indeed had a vegetarian dish for Christmas – delicious brazil nut roast in puff pastry, along with aniseed carrots and brussels sprouts.