Have yourself a truly green Christmas surrounded by the natural beauty of real Christmas trees, beeswax candles, homespun Irish table linens and recycled napkins. Sip organic wine while you roast root vegetables, baste your free-range bird and chomp into a box of Fairtrade chocolates. Cut down on excess gift shopping and unnecessary waste by being mindful of your shopping bag’s contents.
Careful festive food shopping is one way we can eat our way to a greener New Year too. Ahmad Mu'azzam and Hugh Weldon of evocco.comare two Trinity graduates who studied engineering and thought of their own unique way to tackle climate change by creating a shopping app that we can download. It basically helps people track their grocery food consumption and its carbon impact on the environment. "It gives the Christmas food shopper a hands-on tool to buy wisely and make better climate friendly decisions," says Ahmad. After shopping you can upload your receipt to the app see how you fared and check the carbon output. The app also offers advice on how to improve your trolley next time.
“The biggest decision is to reduce the amount of high impact products like meat and dairy, so for a greener Christmas dinner make new traditions by replacing some meat dishes with vegetarian recipes. Root veg is seasonal so source your vegetables locally and replace a beef wellington or large hams with tasty veggie alternatives,” advises Mu’azzam who will be sharing a vegetarian meal with friends at Hugh Weldon’s home this year. “Ahmad and Hugh practise what they preach by shopping in the Dublin Food Co-op in Dublin’s Kilmainham, refilling their cereals, flour and condiments etc with reusable containers and choosing carbon-neutral foods.
The Ballykelly Farm in Co Wicklow is committed to growing sustainable Christmas trees to support their small local economy. Andrew and Catherine Hatton, along with son Conor and daughters Kate and Claire, will also help the weary elf to choose the perfect real tree every year. Check out christmastree.iein Co Cork who also do potted trees that can be replanted outside in the new year. Don't buy an artificial tree as they are made of plastic and mostly imported from China and have 10 times the average emissions of a real tree due to transport emissions and oil content.
"Buy locally grown trees rather than imported ones as for each tree cut down in Ireland, another is planted," explains Hatton. "Our award-winning Christmas trees are also available from outlets in Dún Laoghaire and Fort Lucan and our friendly and experienced workers will help you find your perfect tree. They'll even help you tie it on to your car roof or manoeuvre [it] into your boot!" says Andrew.
Christmas Trees and Bees is another source of fir and pine trees in Co Carlow. They also make excellent decorations like wreaths, garlands and swags. Alternatively if you are in town you can donate to the Vincent De Paul by buying one of their excellent pine trees with all proceeds going to those in need.
For an eco-friendly Christmas table setting, the Stable of Ireland website has a striking array of Irish linen napkins and tablecloths. Jennifer Slattery makes exquisite embroidered linen table runners inspired by her years sketching in the Botanical Gardens and studying at NCAD. Her large linen tablecloths will be treasured and passed on to the next generation while the forest green tablecloths are made to order for €190 and blends beautifully with the Christmas glassware.
The Little Green Shop does exactly what it says on the tin – offering recycled wrapping paper with raffia twines, paper straws, cardboard lanterns, reusable mugs and kitchen refill containers. Add a finishing touch by decorating presents with a sprig of holly instead of wasteful name tags and ribbons. Swap cheap baubles and tinsel for natural foliage like holly and berries for a luxurious homespun image. If you have children or arty friends – get together one evening and make your own Christmas garlands or decorations using crepe paper, forest pines and wild berries.
Beautiful Irish beeswax candles can be bought from Brookfield Farm in Nenagh. Ailbhe Gerrard the candle maker and owner also sells traditional handmade gifts like her wild honey and lotions wrapped up in gorgeous gift boxes. The candles are dipped and hand poured and can be scented with botanical essential oils. “Our balms and salves are made with premium Irish beeswax that is hand blended with almond oil, grape seed oil, cocoa butter, vitamin E and a little raw Irish honey to add moisture and care for your skin,” says Ailbhe.
FéRí designs of Wexford is a slow-fashion brand with lots of unique pieces designed to be treasured as a special present. The designer, Faye Anna Rochford, was fortunate to grow up surrounded by nature and antiques and wanted to recreate this natural feel with her capsule collection. "Our dresses and designs are made in small quantities to avoid excessive production. Everything we create is 100 per cent designed in Ireland including all of our prints and embroideries which are drawn and hand painted in the FéRí studio in Wexford."
She uses Irish linen, vintage fabric, up-cycled trims and locally made covered buttons. "Our fabric supplier in India works with our small quantities and does not engage in mass production and we also prefer digital textile printing as it's far more climate conscious than using dyes," she explains.
Wonderful handmade toys can be found in small shops like Jane Carroll’s Design Shop in Blackrock. It’s a gorgeous haven of wooden toys, eco-friendly games, handmade quilts, fabric teddies and dolls along with fun gifts like musical Maracas, miniature drums, hand painted dolls’ houses and safari skittles. Carroll is a fashion designer and graduate of NCAD who also designs clothing for babies and toddlers.
Whether it’s a pair of lace booties or a handknitted cardigan, Carroll has the ideal present that can be treasured for years. Meanwhile in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, there is reliable Nimble Fingers Toys who also excel in Arts and Craft toys that inspire creativity and imagination. Other ideas like Saturday Workshop in Dublin 4 is worth visiting as they make safe toys from sustainable Irish beech wood painted with child-friendly paint. Alphabet Jigsaws have been creating original handcrafted wooden jigsaw puzzles since 1997. They are designed in the west of Ireland. When it comes to building sets there is enough old Lego in the world to build another Empire State Building – so no need for new box sets! You will find bags of loose blocks online in the toy sections.
Jiminy Eco Toys is also a specialist toy company, distributing the earth-caring toys across Ireland and the UK. Named after Pinocchio's conscience, Jiminy Cricket, it's the brainchild of Dublin mum Sharon Keilthy who was tired of the lack of green choices. "Nearly everything was plastic and shipped 22,000km from China! So I set up Jiminy to give customers more options to promote green activism through business."
Also, why go to the expense of buying new iPhones, laptops and PlayStations etc when you can buy perfectly good second-hand ones at Cex in Stillorgan (webuy.ie) or mintplus.ie.
Save money and cut back on waste by picking up perfectly good mobile phones and gaming devices that are refurbished or alternatively donate your old laptops to educational charities like camara.orgwho distribute them to Africa.
And you can swing by your local Barnardos charity shop to find a whole range of pre-owned gifts from high end fashion to books all in pristine condition. "Everything in our shops has been pre-loved and that makes it a very sustainable option this Christmas," says Barnardos retail manager Bernadette Harrington. "We have a very wide range of gifts like jewellery and ornaments and homewares. Also, a lot of people get engaged around Christmas and people should come to our bridal shops to see our bridal wear which is donated by Irish designers and wholesalers."
For globetrotters out there who have already put their two Yeti-sized carbon footprints into our earth’s demise – this is the season to repent, recycle and resist drastic plastic. As Mu’zzuam of evocco adds: “Really the best gift we can give this season is the one that helps to save our planet.”