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Whether it is the Christmas tree, presents or the festive meal Christmas is one of the most wasteful celebrations of the year. Our aware_ team reveals how to turn it into one of the most sustainable festivities.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” goes Edward Pola’s and George Wyle’s famous 1963 Christmas carol. But in the nearly 60 years since the Christmas hit appeared at least if you look at litter numbers that “most wonderful time” has turned into a “most wasteful time of the year.” Every year, around 400 million tons of waste accumulate in Germany. According to some estimates, the waste mountain even grows by up to 20% at Christmas time: Discarded items end up in the trash and packaging piles up (Bundesregierung). In a world where most people have everything they need, the extra gifts are often tucked away in the closet and basement or even end up directly in the garbage can.

Whether it is the tree, the gifts, the Christmas dinner, or the decorations, we asked the aware_ team how they make sure they do not lose the sustainability mindset entirely in candlelight and tinsel this holiday season.

“We have been forgoing Christmas trees for a few years now. Renting Christmas trees is a great alternative to not throwing the tree on the mountain of discarded Christmas trees after the festivities, but to plant and rent it again the next year.” – Luis, Sr. Manager New Business & Strategic Partnerships at aware_ 

When you think of Christmas, the smell of fir branches and the image of a decorated tree comes to mind. But does a tree, such a perfect and natural CO2 saver, really have to be cut down for our festivities and sold for a few euros? When buying a tree, in addition to the usual fair and organic seals, attention should be paid above all to the origin of the tree. Unlike the classic Nordmann fir, which is often imported, domestic conifers such as the German species Douglas fir, spruce, pine or silver fir are sustainable alternatives. Many foresters or farmers also offer to cut trees themselves during Advent or to buy them directly on their property. 
In addition, more and more suppliers are offering Christmas trees for rent. An example of this is the company Weihnachtsbaumfreunde. Here you can rent or buy a Christmas tree in a pot, in which the trees are grown and not ripped out of the ground. The company’s suppliers have developed a special process in their nurseries to get a particularly healthy root system, with which the trees achieve a higher growth rate after the Christmas stress. Meanwhile, Weihnachtsbaumfreunde can even serve most of its customers’ needs from its own crops. The rented potted trees are then cared for in the nurseries throughout the year, so that they can enjoy more Christmases in the years to come.

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“When it comes to decoration, you can do a lot yourself and especially reuse. You can also find things in vintage markets or charity stores. Under no circumstances should you overconsume, fall prey to the Christmas craze and thus put extra strain on yourself and the planet. Christmas is a time to calm down and stay at home.” – Leonie, Social Media Manager at aware_ 

If the basis of the tree is created, of course still missing are candles, tinsel, Christmas ornaments & Co. When buying candles, look for the RAL Quality Mark, which specifies health and ecological limits. Candles made of beeswax, soy wax or stearin are also a good alternative. However, with candles, nowadays a luxury item, the question of sustainability must be answered in a more differentiated way. After all, strictly speaking, soot particles are already formed during burning, which is not necessary to begin with. Candles made of beeswax are undoubtedly the most environmentally friendly option, especially if the wax comes from an organic apiary. These candles are much more expensive, but they are a natural product. Of course, if you want to make a few sacrifices when it comes to atmosphere, you can also opt for energy-saving and reusable LED candles (BR). 
Those who reach for the fairy lights to decorate the tree instead of candles should also think about buying LEDs. These consume up to 90% less electricity and are up to 20 times more durable.

“For years, our family has been wrapping gifts exclusively with uncoated wrapping paper, which can at least be recycled, and decorating them with reusable accessories or pinecones and twigs from nature. In addition, we usually pay more and more attention to the fact that we experience something together as a family and gift e.g., train tickets for a weekend together or similar.” – Niklas, Experience Manager at aware_ 

Christmas is not just wasteful when it comes to materials, the holiday is also one of the most self-indulgent in monetary terms. This year, Germans will be spending an average of up to 522 euros on their Christmas gifts (Statista). With over 80 million inhabitants in Germany, that is a lot of money. Of course there are a number of sustainable gift ideas like the bags of the brand Pssbl, made from 100% recycled PET and nylon from used drinking bottles and old fishing gear, the seed boxes of Rankwerk or the jewelry of Noëmvri made from recycled gold and silver. But donating to an eco-friendly cause or gifting CO2 offsets, as with ForTomorrow, could also be a sustainable gift alternative. To tie back into the tree topic, trees can also be a viable alternative: With PRIMAKLIMA, you can give the gift of trees around the world, including a personalized tree certificate. PRIMAKLIMA has already been able to plant over 14 million trees through its projects, and thus relieving the atmosphere of harmful CO2. Also, time spent together on projects such as trash clean-ups can also be an excellent gift idea.

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“We have a tradition of watching Christmas movies together with the whole family. We have not yet decided whether to watch Love Actually or When Harry Met Sally, but since last Christmas we have been offsetting our Netflix emissions from the comfort of our couch with the help of Plantyfix.” – Marie, Communications Manager at aware_ 

Christmas and a festive meal are inseparable. And there are sustainable options here, too. Here, above all, the motto is: homemade trumps store-bought. With homemade cookies, for example, you can look not only for natural ingredients, but also for sustainable and environmentally friendly packaging. When it comes to the dinner menu, regional and high-quality ingredients should be the mainstay. And when it is time for the couch and your favorite Christmas movie after a heavy meal, you can relax and do something for the environment, too: Plantyfix offsets the emissions based on your Netflix streaming behavior, by planting trees. 

At aware_, aesthetics and sustainability go hand in hand without having to raise a finger. We hope to have given you a guidance with our Christmas tips, but also with our magazine articles throughout the year, and wish you a wonderful sustainable Christmas! 

by Marie Klimczak