Every year, many families across the world gather to celebrate one of the most popular international holidays – Christmas. December is a period of lights, food, family and most importantly rampant consumerism. It’s the perfect season to round off the year, but it’s also one of the worst times of the year for the environment.

This year, it seems like the environment has shouldered more bad news than ever before. Scientists have increasingly warned us on how climate change is destroying life as we know it. While that hasn’t prompted any far-reaching changes, there has been a growing number of people who have begun to take heed and act accordingly. Now, more than ever, people are trying their hardest to reduce their carbon footprint and minimise the impact they have on the environment.

And if there’s one thing that takes a significant hit on the environment, it’s Christmas. Every year, unthinkable amounts of food, plastic and scores of useless items like baubles and other decorations go to waste. This leaves behind an enormous carbon footprint. A study conducted by the waste management company Biffa revealed that the United Kingdom creates 30% more waste than usual during the festive season. Environmental organisation, Friends of the Earth, have also warned about the ecological impact of Christmas. According to the group, paper waste during the period could power a bus to the moon and back – 20 times.

This doesn’t mean that Christmas is cancelled. However, our festive traditions definitely need to be re-evaluated in the face of the climate crisis. Here are a few things you can for the environment this Christmas:

Rent a Tree

It may not sound glamorous, but many people are now opting to rent a tree from a professional service. This allows families to indulge in the same Christmas traditions but without the guilt of knowing you’re contributing to carbon emissions. It works very simply: you rent a tree and return it afterwards so that it can continue to grow for the rest of the year. Company London Christmas Tree Rental has already sold out of trees this year due to high demand.

Many people are still using artificial trees believing them to be better than the natural alternative. While artificial trees do last much longer, many people do not correctly dispose of them and wind up in a landfill where it further damages the environment.

Buy Local

The attraction of buying things online from retailers like Amazon is particularly high this time of the year, but as millions of people order things from as far away as China, the level of emissions soars. Instead, opt for buying something locally so you can minimise your carbon footprint.

We waste billions on unwanted gifts each year. Most of those gifts will contain plastic which will end up either in our oceans or in our air. Instead of buying a gift, find an experience to enjoy from the likes of Wowcher or Groupon.

Printed Wrapping Paper

Did you know that a lot of the wrapping paper we use cannot be recycled? With every 1kg of wrapping paper, around 3.5kg of CO2 is emitted for its production – and that doesn’t even cover how it’s disposed of. This makes it even more important to find an eco-friendly alternative, use standard printed paper or even simply use a newspaper.

As businesses start promoting outlandish deals in the shape of glittery wrapping paper or shiny baubles, it’s important to not succumb to the power of marketing. Just a few of these changes can make a wealth of difference. Christmas is a time of celebration, but that shouldn’t come at such a high environmental cost – and it doesn’t have to!

Aisha Mohamed