By Ellen Casey, Sustainability Administrator for Eversheds Sutherland Ireland & member of Green Team Network's "Knowledge & Content" Working Group.
A graduate of Environmental Science from Trinity College, Ellen has a keen interest in environmental sustainability with a particular interest in sustainable practices and environmental restoration.
As we gear up for the holiday season, now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on our environmental impact and think about ways we can be as sustainable as possible. Here I have provided you with some tips on how you can make this festive season your most sustainable yet.
Sustainable gifting – This festive season, consider giving the gift of sustainability to your loved ones, contributing to the well-being of our planet. For those challenging-to-shop-for individuals, tree planting stands out as a meaningful choice. Consider gifting a tree planted in Barretstown’s Enchanted Forest or Hometree, both of which use native Irish tree species. Your loved one will receive a personalised gift certificate, adding a unique touch to the environmentally conscious gesture. Additionally, for the younger members of your circle, animal adoptions make for both an educational and impactful present. Organisations like Seal Rescue Ireland and the World Wildlife Fund offer adoption packs that contribute to the protection of endangered species while also educating the receiver of the gift with an information pack about the species.
Dress sustainably – If you like to have new outfits over the festive period, avoiding buying anything
new is a great way to lower your personal carbon footprint. Alternatively, thrift something new in one of the many vintage and charity shops that can be found in the city centre or shop online using Depop. Christmas jumpers are one of the worst examples of fast fashion and should be avoided. According to the BBC, one study found that 95% of the Christmas jumpers available on the market are made from wholly or partly of plastic materials. Instead, keep the one you had from last year and make it your Christmas tradition to wear it every year. They can also be found second hand in most charity shops at this time of year.
Experiment with Vegan cuisine – The festive season provides a great chance to enjoy quality time with loved ones over a nice meal. A simple way to make a positive choice for the environment is to dine sustainably by trying a vegan or vegetarian meal. This is because vegan and vegetarian diets produce less greenhouse gases and require less water to produce.
Use your energy efficiently – Ensuring you are using your electrical equipment as sustainably as possible is a great way to reduce your emissions and save money. This Codema pamphlet provides lots of information on how you can maximise the energy efficiency of your home.
Donate unwanted gifts - If you find yourself with an unwanted gift this year, donate it to your local charity shop. This helps to prevent unnecessary waste ending up in landfill and supports the circular economy.
Recycle your electronics – From treating yourself to a new set of headphones to Santa bringing someone in your house the latest gaming console, please ensure that you are disposing of your old and unwanted electrical items correctly. Old gaming consoles and phones can be sold online or to stores like CEX that resell the item which contributes to the circular economy. If an item is broken and beyond repair, please ensure that you recycle it correctly. When electrical goods are not disposed of correctly, they release dangerous substances into the Earth and can pollute our drinking water. Information on free recycling centres for household electrical equipment for Dublin residents can be found here.
Travel sustainably – Consider the way you travel over the holidays and save money on fuel. If possible, avoid driving for short journeys and instead cycle/walk/use public transport. If you are getting a taxi, request an electric vehicle, this is an option in most taxi apps. If you are on the market for a new car this year, consider investing in an electric vehicle. There are many benefits to making the switch, according to the SEAI, they are cheaper to buy, fuel, and maintain.
Start a new Christmas tradition and connect with nature – Introduce nature into your Christmas traditions by enjoying a walk in your local park or beach front. You can make this an activity by recording any species that you spot on your walk and uploading it to the National Biodiversity Data Centre citizen science portal. This is a fun activity that educates children about biodiversity while also helping with the conservation work that is carried out across Ireland. Wildlife organisations across Ireland such as Seal Rescue Ireland and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust also offer volunteer days which are a fun and meaningful activity that you can take part in over the festive period.