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10 tips for a sustainable Christmas

When Danish families sit down to their Christmas dinner, many preparations have taken place. Presents have been bought  and wrapped, Christmas cards sent, the Christmas tree cut down and decorated, and food bought and prepared. Christmas is a great festival, and its traditions are what characterise the festive season. With a few tips and without cutting back too much on the traditions, you can celebrate Christmas with a green conscience.

Christian Poll of the Danish Society for Nature Conservation gives these tips for a sustainable Christmas.

Outdoor Christmas lights create a nice atmosphere, but they also use a lot of energy. 
Outdoor Christmas lights create a nice atmosphere, but they also use a lot of energy.


1. Roast pork

It is best to forego the roast pork if you can, since pig production is among the livestock industries that cause the most pollution and adverse impact on the climate. If you do want to serve roast pork, choose organic, because this ensures that the pig has been raised in an environment that aims to support its natural needs.


2. Duck

Duck production impacts the environment and climate less than beef and pork production, making duck a better choice from the environmental perspective. Choose organic duck. Roasting a duck is energy intensive because it typically needs two to three hours in the oven. If you put the duck in the oven a couple of days before Christmas evening and set the timer to start at 1 AM and switch off again at 3 AM, you will use electricity at a time when there is usually a surplus from wind energy production. Then all you need to do is give it a short time under the grill before serving. If you do not have an oven with a timer, you can prepare it in the late evening of the day before, preferably after 10 PM.


3. Fish

Fish is healthy, and if it has been obtained from sustainable stocks without using a trawl, it is a good environmental choice. Unfortunately, the MSC label is not enough to go by, so use the guide on www.hvadforenfisk.dk, (website in Danish only) where you can see that cod from the Barents Sea and the eastern part of the Baltic Sea is environmentally ok.


4. Fruit and vegetables

Vegetables are an integral part of the Christmas meal, and should naturally be organic. Save a bit on the exotic mandarins which are transported over long distances and so impact the climate, and instead choose fruit and vegetables that are cultivated locally. If you like nuts, it is also best to buy those that are produced close to Denmark and not imported from the other side of the earth.


5. Coffee and confectionery

Aim for goods that are organic and fair-trade labelled. The same applies to ingredients for  biscuits.


6. Christmas tree

Buy a Christmas tree that carries the Danish eco-label (red Ø symbol). Ask for it if you cannot find one. This will help make the point that there are customers who want a Christmas tree that has not been grown using pesticides which can pollute the groundwater. The best alternative to an eco-labelled tree is an "old-fashioned" Norway spruce, which is easier to grow with less use of pesticides and fertiliser than Nordmann fir.


7. Transport

If you are celebrating Christmas away from home, using public transport can cause difficulties if you expect to receive large presents. Perhaps it could be part of a sustainable Christmas to give each other smaller presents and find other ways to appreciate each other. If there is an agreement to do so, you can bring a spacious rucksack for presents with you on public transport. If you absolutely must use a car, share it with others – it will also make your journey more sociable.


8. Presents

It is popular to give experiences as presents and it is a good, idea since it helps to limit the consumption of the Earth's resources. Don't choose however to give airline tickets or a visit to a health resort with a spa, because they are very energy-consuming. You can also give second-hand presents – this is a very modern, excellent choice in terms of sustainability which entails less waste and less consumption of resources. There are many shops that sell second-hand goods. Alternatively, you can give away some of your own things, such as toys. If you think that may seem too stingy, such a present could be supplemented with theatre tickets, cinema tickets or a romantic stay at a hotel.


9. Outdoor Christmas lights

Outdoor Christmas lights create a nice atmosphere, but they also use a lot of energy. Here are two ways to keep the energy use down: use only LED lights, and use a timer so that the lights are only lit when it is dark.


10. Christmas cards

Sending Christmas cards is a tradition that many people maintain. But using conventional cards involves a lot of transportation and paper consumption which can be avoided if you send your greetings via e-mail. The worst thing to do is to buy Christmas cards with audio and light effects, because the electronics involved generate problematic waste which often ends up in the wrong place – in the household waste bin.