We know about the common good suggestions like buy locally, freeze your left-over food, turn your houseplant into a Christmas tree and choose gifts that last. No matter how you approach Christmas, I think we can all agree that the decisions we make really matter.
- The Christmas Tree
- The Christmas Meal
- The Christmas Gift and Wrapping
- The Christmas Table Essentials
1. The Christmas Tree
What would be Christmas without a Christmas tree and the ornaments? But is a fake or real Christmas tree more sustainable? There is no doubt that a real tree brings with its distinctive smell some nostalgia in the house while an artificial tree can be less expensive, especially when purchased secondhand.
Both Christmas tree options are having an environmental impact when disposed. While artificial trees will end up automatically in the landfill, the carbon dioxide footprint of a real Christmas tree depends if it can be recycled.
“According to the Carbon Trust, a 2m tall real tree that ends up in a wood chipper or bonfire has a carbon footprint of 3.5kg of carbon dioxide (CO2). If the tree ends up as landfill, the footprint increases significantly to 16kg CO2. Both of these figures pale in comparison to the carbon footprint of a 2m-tall artificial tree, which is estimated to be 40kg of CO2.” 1
There are also concerns regarding the toxicity of artificial Christmas trees that are made out of aluminum, and steel and PVC (plastic) which can contain lead. Because the exposure to lead is dangerous, a study from 2004, published in the Journal of Environmental Health, tested the lead exposure from artificial Christmas trees in U.S. households.
“Results from these experiments show that, while the average artificial Christmas tree does not present a significant exposure risk, in the worst-case scenarios a substantial health risk to young children is quite possible.” 4
It’s difficult to decide if there is a perfect sustainable Christmas tree solution. If you have a garden, balcony or if space allows it, it is for sure worth it to plant a tree that can be used as a Christmas tree every year. We actually collected this year different size branches in the forest, placed them in a "vase" and decorated them nicely.
2. The Christmas Meal
The Christmas Meal is often all about traditions. At Christmas in Germany, Christmas goose, carp, sausages with potato salad, raclette and fondue are traditionally served.
We, as humans, like to hang on traditions, especially when they have been passed down from generations in the family. They are more than just food, they are memories. They are about coming together for an experience which is of course also delicious.
Yet, well educated doctors, who on their own initiative studied the relation of health and food, all agree that a plant-based diet is the healthiest for us and the planet , but don´t take my word for it.
Dr. Greger says in his latest book “How not to die” the following:
“Most deaths in the U. S. are preventable and related to what we eat. Cholesterol, the main cause of our most common cause of death (heart diseases), can be attributed to the consumption of animal products and industrially processed junk food.” (page 21, German edition)
Plus, industrial meat causes deforestation globally which leads to the extinction of wildlife and increases the risk of future diseases like coronavirus. Greenpeace says that: “The climate impact of meat is enormous – roughly equivalent to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world.” 2
Last but not least, let´s mention the animal cruelty, a topic that we try to avoid as much as possible. In my last blog posts I spoke about the animal cruelty in the textile industry, so there is no doubt, without going into details, that a massproduction of all animal products goes hand in hand with cruelty.
After looking at all the good reasons for not eating animal products this year, let's get excited about the endless opportunities to discover new recipes. And what about our traditions? Well, traditions are in the end just long-established beliefs that have been passed on over generations. They all started with a thought, an idea, a belief at one point. In a fast changing world like ours, where new science and knowledge spreads quickly, it seems to be the right time to set new ideas based on new beliefs that will be traditions generations from now.
Red Cabbage Rice Roll with vegan cheese 😋
Red Cabbage might not sound appealing to you at first glance but this recipe that I developed is truly tasty.
Ingredients (for two people):
a small head red cabbage
For the filling:
2 cups of brown rice or rice/quinoa mix
½ cup of onions
½ cup of tomato sauce (We use chopped tomatoes from 100% fresh tomatoes with tomatoes being the only ingredient of the Italian Brand Pomi)
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 red bell pepper
3 slices of vegan cheese or vegan parmesan cheese
Water or vegetable broth
Nutritional yeast to sprinkle on top
- Wash the red cabbage and remove 8 leaves. Blanch in boiling liquid 5-8 min, take out and drain well.
- Cook the brown rice according to the package instructions.
- Peel the onion and garlic and sautée them for a few minutes at medium heat. We only use water in the pan, alternatively vegetable broth is recommended.
- Mix tomato puree, rice, onions and garlic and season with pepper and paprika.
- Place four of the cabbage leaves on top of each other and wrap half of the filling in it, placing half a slice of cheese between them. Place the roll in a casserole dish filled with a little water and place a slice of cheese over the roll. Repeat the process for the second red cabbage roll.
- Place everything in the preheated oven at 375*F. Then serve right away with some nutritional yeast sprinkled on top.
Sweet Christmas Treat
Sweet treats belong to Christmas like ornaments to a Christmas tree. The delicious smell of fresh baked cookies is what most of us are looking forward to during the Christmas time.
Why not try some healthy and nutritious Christmas cookies this year?
I don't have my own healthy, vegan cookie recipe yet but I absolutely love this one from Cara. It's raw vegan and made with Peanut Butter and raisins among others. Simply follow her recipe.
3. The Christmas Gift and Wrapping
Do you have these fun memories of unwrapping gifts on Christmas Day? In Germany, we actually celebrate and unwrap our presents on Christmas Eve.
As much we all like colorful and sparkly wrapping paper, it's mostly just used once and the different components with Christmas ribbons make it difficult or impossible to recycle.
One option is to keep the wrapping paper and use it again but this is only possible to a limited extent.
That's why there are already sustainable fabric gift wrappings available. Also my fashion brand “Anke Wonder” offers two different eco-friendly Gift Wrapping options to make your gift more memorable.
Alternatives are recycled gift wrapping paper or simply wrap your gift in another gift like a garment, tablecloths, towel or fabric napkins.
4. The Christmas Table Essentials
A festively decorated Christmas table is one of the central parts of the Christmas ambience. Silverware and napkins are one of the essentials on the table. Fabric napkins can be particularly romantic, spread even more charm and they are also the environmentally friendly solution.
One example of creating a magical looking Christmas table can be collected and hand painted pine cones, pine needle twigs and branches. A red and white design, inspired by candy canes can give your table a joyous and charming look.
Or simply leave your collected pine cones, pine needle twigs and branches unpainted for a natural and rustic look.