In Focus

Published on December 25th, 2021 | by Jasmin Liebsch


Eco-Friendly Christmas

Christmas is for some people the most wonderful time of the year and for others the most stressful time. A lot of things need to be done like Christmas present shopping, baking shortbread, and cookies, getting a Christmas tree and decorating it, or visiting friends and family.

However, regarding the latest events like the COP26 and increasing numbers of storms and floods another issue becomes even more important: Is this good for the environment? Is all this buying and consumption destroying our future? Is it possible to maintain those traditions without increasing the carbon footprint? Compared to the year almost five times more carbon dioxide is produced in households through the festive season. Changing habits and traditions could make a huge impact on the carbon footprint of each individual.

One factor that increases the carbon footprint is the presents that are gifted to each other. Gifting is important for society. It is a way of showing each other the valuation of a relationship(1). What is the best way to change this, while Christmas without gifts is for the most not imaginable? It was deduced that most people perceive second-hand gifts as rude, green gifts as coercive and homemade gifts as not valuable enough(1). But a study found that reducing the number of gifts, asking the other one what they would like, and thinking about the necessity to give something at all, can still satisfy the valuation of social bonds between each other(1). The study concluded that without any unwanted gifts, almost 80kg CO2 per person can be reduced.

Another issue is the yearly purchase of a new Christmas tree. Although it seems that growing a tree is good for the environment, the methods farmer use (use of fertilizer and other practices to speed up the growth) leads to greenhouse gas emissions(2). To avoid this, special trees from sustainable farms can be bought. Those farms avoid those methods or use them in a reduced way. An even better solution is an artificial tree if it is reused 7-20 times according to the Carbon Trust. The best  solution is a rentable tree because the disposition of a tree is even a higher green-house gas source than the production and reduces the CO2 emission by 80% (3).

But also, gift wrapping has its consequences. It is a lot of waste that is produced each year. Additionally, some gift wrapping contains different kinds of plastic, which makes the recycling process impossible and even the process of recycling other material more difficult(4). The best is to use old waste like newspapers, carton boxes (e.g. shoe cartons), paper towel tubes, or old fabrics. This can be decorated with pinecones or a ribbon. If that is still not festive enough, gift bags are also a good alternative. One which is thicker or out of fabric can be easily reused the next year(4).  

It is not realistic for everyone to celebrate a completely eco-friendly Christmas. But if everyone changes only a small part of their traditions, it could make a huge difference.



1. Farbotko, Carol, and Lesley Head. “Gifts, Sustainable Consumption and Giving up Green Anxieties at Christmas.” Geoforum 50 (2013): 88–96. Web.

2. Timmons, Tori. “All I Want for Christmas Is a Carbon Sink.” The Hastings law journal 72.4 (2021): 1347–1384. Print.


4. DEE-ANN DURBIN AP Business Writer. “On the Money: Making Gift Wrap Sustainable.” Missoulian (Missoula, Mont. 1961) 2019: n. pag. Print.

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