5 tips for a more sustainable Christmas

PhD students at the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF explain how to have an eco-friendly Christmas.

Is needed to reduce lighting during Christmas time.

There comes the time of the grand feasts, tons of gifts, with their respective packages, and lights on for hours; activities that can produce an important impact on the environment. Just during these dates, the generation of waste increases by 17% in cities such as Barcelona, according to data from the city council of this city. But, how to have an eco-friendly Christmas Holiday? PhD students at the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF give us 5 tips to enjoy festivities respecting our environment.

1. Control the portions to reduce food waste. The abundant celebratory meals often leave large amounts of leftovers that can end up in the trash. To avoid this, “we can better plan the menus and if there is food leftover we can freeze it or prepare meals to reuse food scraps, such as cannelloni,” says Nur Khalil, PhD student at the Chair specialized in the impact of packaging. On the other hand, the PhD student of the Waste Management Research Line, Gonzalo Blanca-Alcubilla, proposes “taking leftover food home from restaurants with a Tupperware”. “In spite of existing recycling methods, which subject food waste to a process of valorization such as biodigestion to obtain energy, or are managed by composting, preventing to reduce food waste comes first,” he adds.

2. Awareness and efficiency when buying gifts. “Quality over quantity! We can choose to give experiences, such as theatre tickets or horse riding experiences, instead of material gifts that will probably end up being waste,” says Khalil. Another option is “the 'Do It Yourself' (DIY) method, a more economical and sustainable option to create gifts and even decoration from recycled materials,” she adds. Also, the PhD student of the New Materials Research Line, Didem Civancik, proposes “to give second-hand toys, giving them a longer life to help reduce the consumption of raw materials and thus contribute to caring for the Environment”.

3. Invest in local businesses contributing to economic development and respecting the environment. Proximity shopping turns out to be much more efficient in every way. First, because investing in municipal commerce drives local economic development. Secondly, because proximity represents a determining factor in the reduction of emissions, requiring less transport. In addition, Blanca-Alcubilla emphasizes that “buying a gift in a nearby store is always better for the environment than purchasing it online because in this case, the product is more over-packaged, in general.”

4. Diminish lighting during holidays. Christmas Season happens during the middle of winter, the season with the shortest days of the year. This circumstance is added to the tradition of decorating streets and homes with lights of a variety of sizes and colours. Blanca-Alcubilla suggests “not filling the whole house with lights or replacing normal lights with LED-type ones”. For her part, Civancik recommends not leaving the lighting on all day and “instead of buying new lights every year reuse lights of the previous years, because increasing energy consumption increases CO2 emissions.” In addition, she proposes “considering collecting waste oil from houses and restaurants locally and use it to light up Christmas lights. Biodiesel can be produced from waste oil and can be used to generate power, as it is done in Tokyo, Japan, this year.”

5. Reduce or reuse packaging and recycle it once used. Christmas gifts generate a lot of packaging. Khalil suggests “reusing paper that we have at home like the one that comes from newspapers or magazines.” In this way, it will also prevent paper and packaging containers from becoming saturated and the increasing collection frequency of waste streams, generating, in turn, emissions of combustion gases contributing to pollution and to the increase of the greenhouse effect.


Christmas is on its way and the PhD students of the Chair coincide in the importance of the dissemination of sustainable practices, so that people are aware of the consequences of excessive consumption and the benefits of environmentally-friendly practices. Likewise, they expect for the new year “responsible consumption and greater awareness of the impact of our activities on the environment in order to reduce it”, as Civancik points out.



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