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When this time of the year comes around you are either in good spirits or glad it's all over. But, we can all agree on, this Christmas is certainly going to be more of the same as last year and instead of Grinch, Omicron is here to steal our holidays. However, I have put together a list of things you can do to make your Christmas and New Year celebrations greener and joyful.

Christmas is a time of excitement, fun, and joy. It is a time when you adorn the house in “pretty little things.” It brings much cheer to a lot of people to see decorations evoke such happy thoughts and feelings. Christmas decorations trigger the love hormone (oxytocin release), the same hormone we release when we cuddle.

Choosing the right Christmas decorations can completely transform a space to reflect the personality and value of the household that it’s a part of. Some of us get into the festive mood by decorating as early as November and removing them in January or some just leave them hanging for the next Christmas. Nevertheless, we can all agree on decorations can be used to channel your inner Grinch or your inner Santa Claus.

While we are having fun and spreading Christmas cheer and joy, we should remember the environment.

Consider These Amazing Zero-Waste Decorations for Your Perfect Christmas.

Ultimately, the faux garlands, custom wrappers, and defective lights live far longer in the environment than they will ever do in millions of homes across the world. In 2016, we threw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, bought around eight million fake Christmas trees, and bought over 5 million real Christmas trees.

Developing an awareness of this impact is sobering but it doesn’t stifle the joy of experiencing Christmas sustainably. New traditions can be created around developing eco-friendly decorations and supporting your local environmental friendly businesses.

1. Buy Sustainable Christmas Decorations Locally or Make it Yourself

One of the first things to consider is purchasing local eco-friendly decorations to reduce carbon emissions. This is a great way to do your part in ensuring to reduce your waste. You could swap tinsel out for one of our handcrafted ornaments or if you enjoy a bit of craft, you make decorations out of recycled paper. Here is a tutorial for 6 easy hanging ornaments that don't require a lot of time or set it as a fun kid's activity, it sure will keep them quiet for a couple of minutes.

2. Rent a Christmas Tree

At this point in planet Earth’s history, we can all agree that trees are very important to our future. So, what’s better than cutting down a tree? Renting a live tree from a Christmas tree farm, returning it in January, and then renting the tree every year until it’s old enough to be planted into a forest. If you already have a traditional tree, fake or real, there’s enough time to put your name on the environment’s ‘nice’ list.

3. Eco-Friendly Christmas Tree Disposal

The most environmentally friendly way to dispose of a Christmas tree is to complete the natural life cycle. This means turning the tree into mulch. Burning the tree instead of mulching will only release the carbon trapped in the wood and emit it back into the atmosphere. This defeats the whole purpose of buying a natural tree that could have been recycled and utilized in an environmentally friendly manner. If you have a faux tree, the best thing to do is treat it well and maximize its usage.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Zero-Waste Brownie Points!

Now, more than ever, you need to adapt to natural products that lessen the impact on mother nature. In this twinkling festive season, you should consider giving your loved ones a zero-waste Christmas gift as a sign of appreciation for their support to you and also as a means to protect our environment.

4. Gift Vouchers for a Zero-Waste Store

If you're like me who leaves shopping for presents to the last minute, gift vouchers are perfect, especially for a zero-waste store. Not only does it allow your loved ones to buy whatever they need and like, but at the same time persuade your friends or relatives to shop more sustainably. Some of the stores that are offering deals on gift vouchers are EarthHero, EcoRoots, and Package Free Shop.

5. Handcrafted Gifts with a Sprinkle of Your TLC

Before online shopping and fast fashion become a craze, people gifted handmade presents. Ok, before you scream out "I don't have the time to sit and knit a jumper", although it's quite therapeutic, you should try it. You don't need to be creative or super talented with your hands to make something, it can be something simple as a photo book with all the fun and embarrassing moments, or create a hamper basket filled with treats, household or personal care products (of course plastic-free), the possibilities are endless. And the most incredible thing is it will have your personal touch on it.

6. Recycle Unwanted Presents

We have all been in a situation where we've received presents either it was awful or simply received a present from someone we lost in touch with, whatever the reason we have things lying around at home, we simply don't use. Rather than sending those undesirable gifts to the landfill. If you haven't used them, wrap them up and place them under someone's Christmas tree.

More Tips to Help You Celebrate the Holidays Sustainably.

7. Food Waste during the Festive Season

Yes, we all know about food waste in general and how much it contributes to the environment. But, I'd love to share tips just to make your journey along the zero-waste path a little easier. Christmas is a time for giving. Sadly, this is downplayed. As the saying goes ‘it is not to be done but do it anyway’. During the festive season, an estimated 4.2 million Christmas dinners are scraped into the trash. Instead of scraping leftovers down the drain, try packaging them and dropping them off at a homeless shelter.

8. Food Packaging

During the festive season, more food is bought. As a consumer, you can ensure that the food you purchase during this time is packaged sustainably, you can do this by using your produce bags when purchasing naked fruit and vegetables.

9. Cards

Christmas cards are bought and given to loved ones and people who truly mean something to you. This is an amazing thing to do for the people you care about. However, it can be done more sustainably. Consider using digital cards instead.

10. Choose Reusables

Choose food packaging and serving ware that can be reused by cleaning them, even better you can repurpose them as home decor.

11. ‘Re’ everything

Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle…

12. Resist Disposables

If you have guests for Christmas, you may be tempted to go with disposables to make cleaning up easier. This would be the perfect time to show off beautiful China that you have kept hidden away.

13. Scratch-made is Best

Make snacks and treats from scratch as well as dessert and pastry. There are tons of recipes on Pinterest that you can follow if you don't have experience in the kitchen. Cooking and baking from scratch create a lot less waste.

14. Make it Digital

Inviting guests for Christmas dinner? Send invitations by email.

15. Compost

If you find yourself having leftover food that is not fit for giving away, you can compost it. Compost is valuable plant food.

" Be kind and take care of each other"

While you enjoy the festivities of the holidays, please remember those who need a meal and remember the environment that we all depend on to stay alive.

This holiday is going to be anything but normal, especially with lot's of empty sits at the dining tables, but as 2021 closes upon us, let's hope next Christmas will be healthier and a little more ordinary.

I would like to thank you for your support and I wish you a Happy Christmas!

If you enjoyed reading this, share and support me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Check out the other posts here, for more tips and interesting reads.

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In collaboration with Ecogarantie

A Quick Update

It’s been a while since I last posted and I have a good reason for it. In the past weeks, I exchanged interviews with Mathilde from Ecogarantie and I learnt a lot about labels.

Most often, I read the labels on food products because I want to know how it’s made and where it’s made. Further, I want to make sure that the food I consume is sustainably sourced and of course trying not to eat something that could be detrimental to my health.

I don’t know about you, but when I buy personal care products, I would pay very little attention to what goes into making the products. As long as it’s manufactured in plastic-free packaging, it didn’t concern me what went in it. After learning what Ecogarantie does I realised that I should also consider what goes into making the products I use on my body.

Ecogarantie is a not-for-profit organisation that strives “to offer you the best and safest products there are on the market”.

Read on and find out how Ecogarantie is advocating protecting the environment by extracting 100% organic and biodegradable resources. Further, works closely with producers to ensure transparency is maintained, so consumers know exactly what is in each product.

The Interview: Meet Mathilde

1. Could you tell me about yourself? How did you get involved with Ecogarantie?

My name is Mathilde, I’m 25, I live in France and I’m a Social Media and Public Relations Manager at Ecogarantie since last year. I work with Amelie, Communication and Office Manager.

When I graduated in communications last year, I was looking for a job and I found this one at Ecogarantie. I always wanted to work in a company that shares my values and that acts for a better world. Ecogarantie was a real chance for me!

Also, I love natural and clean beauty, I’ve got a lot of products in my bathroom. When I learned more about Ecogarantie, I saw that they mainly certified cosmetics and hygiene products. So I thought “it’s a job for me!”. I’m very glad to have a job that suits me and that acts for the planet at the same time.

It's great to see that you're doing something that you truly care passionately about.

2. What inspired you to get into environmental and climate activism?

We’re evolving in a world that’s facing more and more disasters. Fauna and flora are threatened, and it saddens me. I love animals, I love my planet and nature. I don’t want it to collapse.

Luckily, there are a lot of movements acting for the planet and the environment so I think it inspires me. I mean, we can all do something to take care of our planet. And I feel it those last years, with the social media expansion. We saw many things about that on the Internet and it’s motivating. If someone can do it, why not me? We have more and more tools to act for the environment but also to learn things about that. And thanks to social media, I’ve started to show more interest in these causes.

I agree with you. People can share things instantly on social media and the internet is full of stories, movements and or people just doing simple acts to protect the environment. You just need to look in the right places.

3. Who is your ‘Eco-warrior’ or someone you think is a strong advocate of spreading the awareness of environmental protectionism?

It’s difficult but I think Inés Moreau from the French Instagram account “lespetitsgestes” is the best example. I love her content since it’s simple and you understand the message directly. Her posts help with the ecological transition. I think she has a strong influence because she also has a blog and she wrote two books about homemade cosmetics and detergents with a lot of recipes. All of her content is very interesting!

I also want to talk about another Instagram account that is different from what we are used to. It’s called “lesbellesnouvelles” and it gives good news about the planet. It’s nice to read something positive about the environment so I love it. It shows that good things can happen too!

Absolutely, it's easy to get sucked into negative news and when you do stumble across people who are sharing good news, it gives you a different perspective and makes you feel hopeful.

4. What is the biggest challenge you faced at Ecogarantie?

The biggest challenge is to get Ecogarantie known. Because yes, we are an eco-label, we work for a better world but we don’t have so much visibility. Either people don’t know us at all or they know us but they are not sure of our credibility. They have wrong information or sometimes they think we are fake. So yes, it’s a big issue and it’s the biggest part of our work here. But it’s very challenging. We are working on a new communication strategy to give a good and professional image of us.

We are contacting a lot of new actors in order to get known, to show that we exist and that we’re working for a better world.

About Ecogarantie

5. How about briefly telling us the meaning behind Ecogarantie?

“Eco” stands for “ecological” and the word “garantie” in French means guarantee, assurance. So if you want to understand, it means that we are an assurance of ecological products. With that name and our logo, we insist on trust and reliability.

Oh, that's inspiring and it's a smart way to show your values as well.

6. When was Ecogarantie created? What does Ecogarantie do and why?

Ecogarantie exists since 2005 and it belongs to Probila-Unitrab. Probila-Unitrab is the Belgian Federation of Processors and Distributors of Organic Products, admitted by the State Council in 1984. It’s a professional union 100% owner of the Ecogarantie label and 50% owner of the Biogarantie label (a label for food products).

So Ecogarantie is a Belgian label with an international purpose that certifies different kinds of products in the non-food sector: cosmetics, hygiene products, detergents, salts, air fresheners, pet products, baby products, feminine hygiene, candles and biocides.

7. What is Ecogarantie philosophy or mission and How are you ensuring that the information on your label is transparent?

Our main mission is to help consumers to find REAL ecological products. The Ecogarantie products are submitted to strict ecological requirements and all vegetable extracts have to be 100% organic. We are the strictest label on the market!

We are 100% neutral and transparent because we chose to collaborate with 3 independent control organisations. It means that we don't audit the products by ourselves and only the 3 organisations have the power to say if the product follows our standards or not.

8. How are you different from other companies that are promoting the use of eco-friendly products?

We are different because, in addition to promoting the use of eco-friendly products, we promise to consumers safe products, without any danger. The products are audited, they must respect different criteria so necessarily they are more than reliable!

Because you know, it’s easy to say “my product is green, it’s ecological” and to put green packaging everywhere but in reality, nothing is eco-friendly. We are fighting against this malicious practice called greenwashing. By the way, we wrote an article about that if you are interested.

Thank you for mentioning the impact of 'greenwashing' and that's a topic I would like to cover in the future. But, you're right in saying it's far too easy for companies to say 'my product is green' and of course for brands, this is a huge marketing advantage. We ought to pay more attention to how the products are made.

9. What are some of the challenges or issues with product labelling either in Belgium or across the EU? Do you work with the EU or local governments for policy change, when it comes to eco-friendly labels?

In Europe, there is no regulation concerning the certification of non-food products. Unfortunately, it allows dishonest companies to mislead consumers with greenwashing techniques, as I said just before. So that’s why we exist and we try to fight that. So no, we do not work with the EU or local governments. Our standards are independent.

You would think the EU would regulate labels for non-food products. I'm glad to know that there are people like you who are vocal and transparent about eco-labels for non-food products.

10. How do you make your products ‘eco-friendly’?

We are not making any products, that’s our members who are in charge of that. Our members are the brands that are part of our association and that get the Ecogarantie certificate. You can find them on our website. So yes, they make great products, with a safe and clean composition. Most of the time they are using vegetable extracts and those extracts must be 100% organic. There are no GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the products and no petrochemicals. Besides, we are not only inspecting the composition of the product. The packaging and the manufacturing process are also audited. Recyclable or reusable packaging must be used whenever it’s possible and superfluous packaging is forbidden. That’s what makes them so eco-friendly, sustainable and safe.

About the Environment & Ecology

11. According to you, what’s more, difficult when you try to reduce your waste and adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle?

I think that giving it a try is the most difficult first step. Because you have your habits, your way to consume and we know that changing is not easy for everybody. As a human, by nature, we don’t like changing, we’re afraid of it.

When you try to reduce your waste, it’s your way of life that is modified.

Because yes, waste, wrapping and plastic are everywhere. It’s really difficult to remove them from our life. Even if there are more and more alternatives (such as buying in bulk), it’s still far from our habits. And it’s not so easy to find what you are looking for when you try to reduce your waste and I think a lot of people are discouraged by that.

Yep, I can relate, bad habits die hard. However, I'm with you on, the first steps are always difficult, but it does get easier.

12. Could you briefly tell the readers, as an organisation, what are some of the difficulties when you try to reduce your waste and adopt an eco-friendly business practice?

To be honest, we do not have any office, we are working from home. That’s one of our eco-friendly business practices: we are not taking our car to go to work.

All our work can be done from home so that’s one of our policies. It’s rare to have this kind of policy and to answer your question, I think using the car is a big issue. A lot of people are taking their car to go to work and it causes the biggest part of traffic and pollution.

Another main difficulty in offices is the paper. They are using a lot and a lot of paper every day. They print a lot of documents without any real reason. And even in 2021, it’s still like that in a lot of companies.

I never understood the need for printing excessive amounts of documents, especially in the age of digital communication. But, you're right not having an office does reduce the company's carbon footprint, plus working from home is better, in terms of productivity and for the environment.

13. If you could give some advice to people who want to make sustainable choices when buying hygiene products, detergents, or cosmetics, what would it be?

Pay attention when you are buying products and trust in eco-labels. As I said before, a lot of companies are using greenwashing techniques and you can easily be manipulated.

An ecological product is good for your health and the environment and it is often certified. It’s the best way to make a sustainable choice because the product has been audited. But even if there is a certification, do not hesitate to check its website to know if it’s not a fake and that it exists.

Some brands are good to make you believe they are sustainable so if you don’t buy certified products, pay attention to the packaging. Try to ask yourself how the product is natural. Do not hesitate to check the information on their website, look at their policy and check if they have real figures or data about their ecological commitment.

Finally, to avoid being greenwashed, you can use apps such as Inci Beauty or Mireille to learn more about cosmetics or hygiene products composition.

Find Out More...

14. How can we find out more about your work? Do you have a blog page or Instagram account you can share?

Yes of course! We’ve got a brand new website with all the information: how to become a member, our members, the Ecogarantie certified products and our press kit.

On this website, we’ve got a blog page with articles about many subjects.

Besides, you can find us on social media: Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin. On these accounts, we raise awareness, we give tips and also we promote our members and their amazing products.

We are very active, follow us!

A Final Message

15. What would be your message for people who want to live more sustainably and make environmentally conscious decisions?

My message would be: do not hesitate! There are the people who live sustainably and the reluctant ones. Between the two we have those persons that want to launch into an ecological transition but who hesitate, who are not sure and who are afraid. I’m speaking to them: stop thinking and go! As I said before, the most difficult thing is to start. So, I think people need motivation and need somebody to tell them “it’s not so difficult to live more sustainably”.

I also want to tell them that there are a lot of accounts on social media or websites that help people in the transition. They are not alone and they can do it! And remember, nobody is perfect, you can reduce your waste and still use your car every day, but it’s important to start somewhere and not be too hard on yourself!

To finish, stop thinking that you’re just one person and that your effort will not have any impact. Because yes, it will! If everybody thinks like that, imagine the number of people who finally could make this effort.

Thank you very much for the interview.

If you enjoyed reading this interview, make sure to read the interview I gave at Ecogarantie and also you can find out more about Mathilde on her blog page.

Thank you, Mathilde, for taking the time to collaborate and I’m sure you will continue to be a strong advocate for climate action.

Before you go, please spread the word by sharing and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss the next post.

Also, you can follow me on Facebook and Instagram to find out more.

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Updated: Oct 11, 2021

One of the biggest challenges experienced amongst the environmental and climate movements is making the economy sustainable or at least getting countries to work towards it.

Getting 193 countries to sign-up for the Paris Climate Agreement was tough going and some countries, not naming or shaming (USA) pulled out of the agreement. But, thankfully the USA is fully committed now. So, you’re probably thinking moving from the linear economic system (we have now) towards a circular economy seems like expecting to see a snowstorm in the Sahara Desert. With the unpredictability of our climate, anything is possible.

Working towards a circular economy isn’t wishful thinking I’m going to explain exactly how you can be part of it or at least in small ways. Read on to find out how!

Table of Contents

1. Defining the Economy

2. How Does the (current) Economic System Work?

3. What is a Circular Economy?

4. The Problems with the Linear Economy

5. The Benefits of a Circular Economy

6. How Can You Be Part of the Circular Economy?

Defining the Economy

Before we dive into what and how the circular economy works, it’s important to know about the current economic system, which is an integral part of every country. As I’m not an economist nor an expert in world economies, I went and looked at various reliable sources.

The Economy Explained – Very Briefly

To understand how our current economic system works, first, we need to know what is the economy? This is difficult to do, considering different sources give their definitions and countries have their interpretations.

The Bank of England gives two perspectives. I did say it will be complicated, but luckily, I’ll break it down into understandable size pieces.

The economists define it as the study of scarcity before you shout out "isn’t the whole point of an economy to produce so people have more things to buy", yes, it is but resources such as raw materials, land and workers are limited – “while the demand for them is infinite”. To put it simply, we always want more. I’m not going to diverge into explaining scarcity as this blog will never end. However, here is a video that explains it all.

"Our necessities are few but our wants are endless."

- George Bernard Shaw

Common textbook definition of economy is a “system for distributing scarce resources”. When we talk about ‘the’ economy it usually refers to countries.

Some countries follow a system where for the most part, the government controls resources and levels of production. On the other hand, the majority of the countries in the world have freer economies determined by supply and demand. I’m going to elaborate later and explain why it’s easier to transition into a circular economy from a more open economy.

I did say defining the economy is complicated. If you’re still reading, it means you’re curious to find out how our current economic system works.

How Does the (current) Economic System Work?

Whether it’s a linear or circular economy, the system is in place to meet these fundamentals:

1. How to allocate limited resources— from production to individuals and organizations as well as to best satisfy unlimited needs.

2. What goods and services to produce and in what quantities?

3. Who produces the goods and services?

4. How is it distributed to consumers?

To give your eyes some rest, I have created this simple diagram to explain how the current economic system works.

Linear Economic Diagram

The current economic system is based on fast production, overconsumption and disposing of the product once we are done with it. Now you can see why it’s linear and has a devasting impact on the environment, in simple terms, raw materials are extracted, usually used once and then goes straight to the landfill.

Now let’s look at how the circular economy compares.

What is a Circular Economy?

Can you see what’s missing in the circular economy? In a truly circular economy waste is eliminated or a least minimised to biodegradable waste. A circular economy can only work when recyclable raw materials are extracted, otherwise, it defeats the purpose of being a circular economy. Once recyclable materials are sourced, the production and distribution have to be sustainably processed. At this stage it is based on three principles:

  1. Effectively manage waste and design out pollution from the start.

  2. Keeping materials in use over and over and manufacturer products that can easily be recycled.

  3. Fundamentally using renewable resources for energy, whilst revitalising ecosystems.

Once the products are distributed out into society, it comes down to us as individuals to make conscious decisions and use our judgement to effectively manage our waste.

The Problems with the Linear Economy

Unlike the circular economy, the linear economy is based on the principles of "take-make-waste". Let’s go back to the beginning, in a linear economy, most raw materials are non-recyclable.

Take these standard t-shirts, for example, simply by looking at them you won’t know that one is made from renewable resources and the other made from mixed materials that are harder to recycle (of course by touching it you’ll figure it out).

Most t-shirts manufactured by big brands contain at least two or three different materials. Most sportswear is made from a lycra-cotton blend. Lyra is a synthetic manmade fibre created from polyurethane.

Although it is durable, the downside is it doesn’t break down easily. If you’re interested in the journey of how clothes are made and want to learn about different materials that go into your clothes, I would recommend checking out this website.

On the flip side, a t-shirt made from bamboo works well in a circular economy. Why? Because bamboo can be recycled over and over without losing its durability and can be turned into other products. Most importantly, once the bamboo made t-shirt reaches its lifespan, it can easily break down in nature.

Some people would argue that the linear economy works because it gives society more choice in the market, which then allows the markets to be open and competitive and it allows small businesses to start and flourish more easily. I’m going to try and debunk some of these arguments under the benefits of a circular economy.

To put it bluntly, the linear economy is designed around meeting demand whilst maximising profits, there is very little or no emphases on working with the environment, but rather generating waste which devastates our eco-systems.

The Benefits of a Circular Economy

1. Innovation is endless – replacing linear products and systems opens up a wide spectrum of ideas and innovations. Some of the benefits include untapped technical development, sourcing of natural materials, energy efficiency and more growth opportunities for companies.

2. Job opportunities – In the circular economy, new industries would be able to establish, such as waste management, higher-skilled jobs in small to medium enterprises and entrepreneurship.

3. Revitalizing the environment – By ensuring to use of recyclable materials during production, means designing out waste and minimising pollution. Further, keeping materials in use means effectively utilizing rather than destroying natural systems, the circular economy contributes to achieving climate targets.

4. Radically reducing carbon emissions – The EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan is an ambitious development path to make the circular economy a reality. Under the new action plan, the EU aims to ‘make sustainable products the norm’, ‘make circularity work for people’ and "encourage green growth" by managing the life cycle of natural resources.

5. Opportunities for individuals - Hopefully you’re now convinced that the linear economy works well for businesses and not so much for the environment or the people. The circular economy will not only work wonders for businesses, the economy and the environment but also for the people. For instance, increased disposable income (as the cost of products would be reduced), improved health conditions (as air pollution and water contamination will be significantly reduced) and innovation in technologies will mean higher quality products (thus overcoming desuetude).

How Can You Be Part of the Circular Economy?

This circular economy seems like wishful thinking, right? Well not necessarily, the notion of living in a circular economy has its historical origins and many people are realising that the current linear economic system is not adequate to resolve global issues. Already there are small enterprises as well as on the grassroots level extraordinary people are making the circular economy a reality.

This transition needs traction for us to be able to truly enjoy living in a circular economic system. For the circular economy to take root and work within our ecosystem, it fundamentally comes down to conscious consumption.

You can be part of the circular economy by supporting small to medium-size enterprises, shopping consciously and eradicating waste.

Did you enjoy reading this post?

If you enjoyed me doing all the thinking for you and giving you reliable information, then please show your support by sharing.

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