The most sustainable Christmas: Circular economy

More sustainable practices for a better Christmas.

Christmas holidays are getting close, accompanied by streets flooded with lights, dinners and lunches with relatives and friends, and gifts and enthusiasm. This year, from the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF, we are launching a hopeful desire: a Christmas as sustainable as possible and moving around the criteria of the circular economy. "In the face of the obsolete model of the current linear system, the circular economy proposes a society that uses and optimizes stocks and flows of materials, energy and waste, and its objective is the efficient use of resources, as well as minimizing the amount of waste generated ," highlights the director of the Chair, Pere Fullana.

As the end of the year approaches, it is inevitable to be self-critical and ask ourselves: "What can I do to contribute to this new social model proposed by the circular economy?". The director and several researchers at the Chair offer us some ideas to implement that will guide us in this direction.

Children’s education includes a very prominent and often forgotten point: the so-called consumer habits. In this sense, parents must lead by example and remember that in a context of Christmas, it is important to avoid over-purchase. Also, keeping and repairing toys also helps to give more value to things. Fullana gives us some suggestions about what we should keep in mind when buying gifts. First of all, we might avoid acquiring toys with energy needs or, at least, ensure that they work with rechargeable batteries. It also should be considered the fact that electronic waste is highly polluting and must be collected separately. Secondly, we should look for environmental labelling, which includes toys made from recycled materials, a fair trade market and local commerce. For more information regarding to the design of more ecological toys, you can consult the Project of the Chair ECOJOGUINA. In thesame line, second hand markets are presented as a good option for purchase spaces in order to favour circularity and accommodate those resources that can be reused.


For Christmas, sustainable practices

Gift’s overpackaging, although avoidable, often goes unnoticed due to the lack of awareness. In order to reduce this type of waste, we can try to buy gifts with less packaging or, if we wrap them ourselves, do it with papers that we already have at home (we can keep the paper of previous gifts) or with recycled paper (newspapers, magazines, kraft paper...). It is important that all this material we use to wrap our gifts, as well as being reused, being , ultimately, recycled.

So far we have been talking about gifts, another issue to highlight is Christmas decoration: Is it better to opt for a natural fir tree or an artificial one? Our researcher on waste Alba Bala warns us that natural fir trees have become objects of disposable consumption, which come from the mountain or the nursery and end up in the dump, in a very short time. We are in an eroded country with serious risks of desertification, so we can not allow such damaging practices. Once the holidays end, a good option is to bring Christmas trees to places where they are collected to be converted  in compost and also are used as a fertilizer in forests and green areas. Likewise, many city councils undertake the initiative to replant trees wherever necessary. "If your City Council does not have this option, you can always be the first to suggest it! And do not forget that you can use a plant that you already have at home as a Christmas tree", says Bala.

On the other hand, many artificial fir trees are constructed by plastic resins that come from petroleum, and their waste management is more complicated. Other alternatives are to rent a natural fir tree or to make your own Christmas tree using disused materials letting your imagination run free.

Jaume Albertí, energy researcher at the Chair, remembers that lights have also become something almost indispensable in Christmas time. If we do not want to go without this type of decoration, we can choose LED lights, which are efficient and consume up to 90% less electricity, while reducing CO2 emissions by 80%. Also, another alternative is to opt for other types of daytime and natural ornaments. Whenever we can, we should reuse the adornments from the past years and do not fall into obsessive and unsustainable consumerism. Albertí also advises that home heating should be at maximum 21ºC during the day and at 18ºC or off during the night.

Finally, Laura Batlle, PhD student from the line agroalimentary research line, points out that during Christmas holidays meals are usually generous and even exaggerated. It is important to change these habits and try to avoid food waste and choose, instead, more rational menus. In addition, it is also relevant not to use the disposable tableware, which will entail unnecessary waste.


"Recycle, reuse, repair, reduce, rethink, reeducate! Because doing your bit is just a matter of will and conscience. And do not forget to share a sustainable Christmas with the little ones!", concludes Fullana.

Happy holidays and happy new year.



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