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 A Festive Sustainable Guide to the Holiday Season

 A Festive Sustainable Guide To The Holiday Season

The streets are covered with twinkling lights and Christmas bells are ringing. Ice cold outside, cozy warm inside. There is no arguing about it: December is the most cozy and jolly month of the year. It is the time for friends and family, sitting next to the fireplace, singing Christmas carols and eating lots of delicious food. Perhaps you already have your house all decked out with Christmas decorations, or for the last-minute folks among us, you wait to put up the Christmas tree until the day before Christmas. Or maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas at all and are looking riotously toward New Year’s Eve for the Oliebollen (you know, those deep-fried balls of dough with raisins and covered with sugar, yum!) or you are ready for a fresh start in 2023. Either way, the last week of the year is a time of love, togetherness, and reflection.

Yet these important values sometimes get sidelined by the ‘’Christmas deals’’ that are thrown around by stores and the pressure to buy gifts. Before you know, sustainability can take a backseat. So, how can you be more sustainable during the holidays? Not to worry, here is a sustainable guide to get you through the holidays! 

Vegan Christmas menu

People celebrate Christmas in different ways, but one thing they all have in common is that it is a time of love. For many of us, a major way of spending time with our loved ones during the holidays takes place around the dinner table. Is there a better moment to go all out with delicious food? I don’t think so! And would it not be nice to have the food you share with loved ones also come from a loving place? A true Christmas spirit shared among everyone. There is no need for an animal to lose their life or babies for us to enjoy a great meal. It is also much more sustainable for the planet, and often healthier too!

Perhaps you are already vegan, and this is your moment to shine by preparing a delicious vegan dish for your family! Maybe you are a vegetarian or flexitarian and you are curious to try something new! There are many examples of vegan Christmas dishes and menus on the internet. To make it easy, here is an overview with some finger-licking vegan Christmas menus for you, from main dishes, roasts and side dishes to appetizers, cookies and fancy drinks! Or what about these fantastic Christmas themed desserts? The wonderful thing is that these delicious recipes are not only suitable for Christmas, but also for other festivities that take place around this time of year, such as Yalda night!

Sustainable gifts

For many people, gift giving is a big part of celebrating Christmas. Here are a few tips to make it more sustainable:

  • Give an experience – Don’t buy something to just to give something, give an experience instead! Not only does this mean you don’t buy something new, but an experience shared with a loved one is also much more memorable (for both parties). For example a vegan wine & cheese tasting at Willicroft in Amsterdam?
  • Something useful – If you do buy something, let it be something that you know the person will actually use. Buy from a sustainable and fair-sourcing brand. For example a Zustainabox, our author Bine wrote a great article about them which you can find here. Or take a trip to a secondhand store. I personally love to browse through the secondhand books stalls at the Oudemanhuispoort Book market and take home some gems! 
  • DIY Another great sustainable (and heartwarming) gift is a homemade gift. I once gave a jar to my sister filled with 60 suggestions of things to do and years later she still uses it!
  • Give the gift of giving Have you ever thought about making a donation in someone’s name as a gift? Talk about sharing the Christmas spirit! You can find a charity or project (maybe even one that is related to the persons interests) and give money in their name. Many NGO’s and their projects give a certificate and this is something you can share with your loved one. An alternative is to pay to carbon offset someone’s footprint for the coming year! This is often done through tree planting or more socially oriented projects such as cleaner cooking stoves. Supercool!
  • Gift wrapping Who doesn’t love a nicely wrapped gift? Except maybe trees 😉 . Luckily, there are many green and festive ways to wrap your gifts! Some wonderful alternatives are given here

Alternative to cards

Did you know that the Netherlands alone ~170 million Christmas cards during the holidays? In 2020, PostNL deliverd 14 million Christmas cards each day during the last weeks of 2020. While cards are a lovely way to let someone know that you’re thinking of them, they certainly create a lot of waste. Furthermore, they are are often not recyclable due to the inks and dyes that are used that contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which have a long-lasting impact on the environment. Here are some alternatives:

  • Give a call old-fashioned but never out-dated! Christmas cards are often written in a row and not very personal. If you give a family member or friend a call to wish them a merry Christmas, they will certainly be touched that you made time to do this!
  • Plant a tree Rather than giving a card to wish someone a merry Christmas (or happy birthday for that matter) is by planting a tree and attaching a nice online message to it. I often use Tree Nation to do this. You can select a specific (re)foresting project, the tree sort you would like, and write a nice note and can even add a picture if you want!

Dress to impress

If there is one thing I used to do a lot before becoming more sustainable is spending a lot of time shopping online trying to find a new Christmas outfit! Try to wear something you already have, there is no shame in wearing the same pretty dress or dress shirt that you wore last year! You can check with family or friends, perhaps they have something you can borrow. You can even do a clothing swap! Or take a look at a second-hand store, who knows what pearls you can discover here 🙂 .

Take some time for yourself

Lastly, a sustainable holiday season also means that you reload your energy for the new year! So take some time to do nothing but relax. A clear mind equals a happier soul! So, I have a challenge for you to help you get in the mood of relaxation and just being present.

Somewhere in this festive last week of the year, set your phone in flight mode for 24 hours. Or if you really want to go for it, make it two days. No Whatsapp, no e-mails checking, no social media. Take the time to spend time with family and play board games, or read a book with a hot cup of vegan chocolate. Maybe journal a bit, meditate, take a walk outside or build a snowman.

This week is also the perfect moment to reflect on your past year, and to look forward to the coming one. Don’t set any unrealistic goals, but simply sit and think for a while. What made you happy this year andhat is something you are proud of? What do you want to do more (or less) next year? Is there someone in your life that really surprised you this year? What, or who, is something you are grateful for?

Set an intention, what is something you want to do more (or less) next year? And then also write down WHY you want to do this, and when you plan to do it. For example: 

I will try to meditate every day, even if it is just for a minute. I want to do this to feel more at peace throughout the day. Therefore, I will do this every morning, as a little start-of-the-day gift to myself. 

Remember to be kind to yourself. And have yourself a jolly Christmas and a happy new year!

If you want to read more in-depth about sustainable living and travel, from eco-tourism and slow-travel, to carbon-offsetting and outdoor adventures, I recommend you to take a look at

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