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Jacques Lawinski

Jacques Lawinski

PhD candidate in philosophy and ecology at Université Paris VIII, visiting researcher in Lesvos, Greece. A writer, an activist, and an avid walker, I explore the planet and what it means to relate to nature, finding new, ecological ways of being.
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In amongst the turkey, ham, barbecued meat, plastic toys, wrapping paper and gifts that you didn’t ask for, lies the desire for a Christmas where the main aim is not to consume as much as possible. This special day is for spending time with friends and family, whatever your religious beliefs. It’s also a time of year which we don’t have to dread – if we decide to choose sobriety over hyper-consumption.

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Image: AI-created on perchance.org

What can we do to make our Christmas eco-friendly, and more about people than presents? Here are some of our best tips for the holiday season.

1. Have a vegetarian Christmas

Switching your meals from meat-based to plant based is one of the most effective actions you can take to lower your carbon footprint and the resource impact your food has on the planet. By choosing to skip the turkey and sausages, and instead opting for a vegetarian burger patty, a vege lasagne, or roasted or grilled vegetables, you will be reducing the ecological impact of your Christmas meal. This choice will also have a positive impact on your health!

2. Minimise the gifts, make your own, and wrap them in a paper bag

Instead of giving gifts from each member of the family to every other one, decide to have a Secret Santa system where each person gets a gift for one of their family members. Not only does this simplify your Christmas gift-giving, it also cuts down on wrapping, plastic packaging, and ending up with too many gifts that you don’t really need. Opt to put your present in a plain brown paper bag, instead of using wrapping paper with a plastic layer on it, which often cannot be recycled. Fold the top of the bag instead of using cellotape, and write a message on the bag with a felt-tip pen. As for the choice of gift, making them yourself, or choosing something without plastic packaging, such as experiences, gift vouchers, and second-hand objects, are effective ways to reduce the waste produced at your Christmas party.

3. Avoid online shopping, instead use local stores

Instead of buying gifts from the other side of the planet, and giving your money to global billionaires like Jeff Bezos, choose local stores who will benefit from your purchases, just as you will benefit from their local products. Choose bookstores not billionaires, shop local, and other such campaigns point to effective ways to reduce transport emissions and support community businesses. The ecological transition is not only about carbon emissions, it’s also about creating a just and fair world for all. This includes challenging the wealth of global billionaires, which we cannot do whilst also shopping using their online platforms.

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4. Think twice about the Christmas tree and decorations

Although it’s nice to have a Christmas tree, the trees often come from monoculture plantations where trees are planted and grow just for the Christmas period. Perhaps worse is to have a plastic tree, unless you plan on keeping the same plastic tree for the next thirty or so years. Avoid buying more plastic decorations, tinsel, and the like, for your tree. Make some decorations with your kids or friends using paper and origami if you’re short on decorations. Only turn the lights on at night when you can actually see them to save on electricity use and power costs!

5. Decide on your Christmas convos before the day

It’s likely there’s one or two climatosceptics amongst your Christmas group, so think about other topics you can discuss with them during the day, or ways that you can talk about your sober decisions this Christmas that aren’t patronising or moralising towards them. Engaging others in a healthy discussion about their actions is good, but try to avoid blaming them. You could talk about the origins of Christmas being celebrated on the 25th of December, for example – around the celebrations of the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and decorations of houses with leaves and branches hoping for good regrowth of the plants and food crops in the new year to come. This period of the year, in the Northern Hemisphere, is traditionally very connected with the natural cycles of the Earth.

6. Make your resolutions for 2024 ecological

Christmas is also the time of year when we think about the New Year to come, and for many, make resolutions about the things we could change in 2024. Making at least some of these resolutions related to your impact on the environment, your relationship with nature, and your efforts in restoring the natural environment, are important steps. If you are already very engaged, resolving to take time for yourself doing things you enjoy, or making other small steps towards further reconnection with nature, are good ideas. Bringing up the conversation of climate goals for 2024 could be a good idea at your Christmas party – up to you to choose, depending on the people!

A vegetarian Christmas...

Southern Hemisphere:

    • Aubergines and tomatoes cooked in the oven, with optional fresh feta sprinkled on top afterwards
    • Buckwheat salad with rocket, tomatoes, capers, olives, and grilled vegetables
    • Lightly grilled courgette halves, on the barbecue
    • Rock melon with mozzarella, honey, and balsamic vinegar, basil leaves on top
    • Lentil burgers with your favourite spices, cooked rice, breadcrumbs and olive oil
    • Vegetarian pizza cooked on the barbecue with your favourite toppings
    • Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs, rocket, olive oil and lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

Desserts with local fresh summer berries are always nice, such as pies, tarts, trifle, pavlova, etc.

 

Northern Hemisphere:

    • Oven-baked fennel, cut in half, sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil
    • Wok-cooked broccoli with soy sauce and ginger
    • Japanese-style green beans, blanched with a sesame dressing
    • Mushrooms with olive oil and garlic, served with polenta
    • Roast potatoes (boil them slightly first, then roast them in olive oil and salt until golden brown)

Desserts with oranges, apples, pears, and dried fruits are perfect for this cold season – Christmas cakes, apple pies…

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