During the year, we are fortunate to have many wonderful holidays and celebrations that enrich and bring joy to life. But for celebrations, there are often large purchases of food, gifts and decor. With all the stress in our lives, we sometimes make purchases just for the sake of buying and not so much because we need it. It is therefore important to try to be aware of what choices we make to have really festive but at the same time sustainable celebrations. The following text is about celebration in relation to food, sweets, gifts, decor and travel.
The food we eat accounts for almost a third of the total climate impact of households. Making conscious choices in the grocery store is therefore perhaps the most important thing we can do in everyday life to reduce our climate impact. The following are good things to keep in mind for conscious consumption when buying food:
- Cook just enough food and if there are leftovers, do not throw them away. Freeze instead. Give lunch boxes to guests. Donate to churches that give it to the homeless. Much better than wasting food and guaranteed to make someone happy! Read more about food waste here.
- Buy locally produced goods that are in season. During midsummer, for example, potatoes, carrots and radishes are in season. Woops, and you will have a good potato salad. During Christmas, kale and onions are in season, maybe a kale salad with pickled red onions?
- Place a lot of green alternatives on the table. For example, grocery stores have more and more vegan options to the traditional heavy Christmas food – try it! Eating vegetarian is both climate-smart and healthy. Win-win!
- Choose organic and locally produced chicken, beef and pork and preferably from animals that have grazed outdoors, so-called natural grazing meat.
- Select seafood that comes from stable stocks, is fished with methods that take into account the marine environment and is certified by MSC or KRAV, see WWF’s fish guide (in Swedish).
Sweets & Snacks
We spend an average of SEK 45 a week on sweets in Sweden. During the holidays, of course, it will often be more. But some sweets and snacks are better for the climate than others. Therefore, think once more when shopping for the celebration.
- One of the biggest scapegoats is chocolate, the production of which has led to widespread devastation of rainforest, eutrophication, poisoned soils and watercourses due to pesticides. It is best to buy organic and fair trade chocolate. Read more about chocolate here.
- Candy packaging often consists of a mixture of plastic and aluminum, which makes them difficult to recycle. Therefore, look for sweets that have easily-recyclable packaging or why not make your own sweets at home?
- Avoid palm oil! Palm oil is known not to be good for the climate and is often used in sweets, cakes, chocolate and popcorn. Read more about palm oil here and find a list of candies without palm oil here (both in Swedish).
- Key words when buying both raw materials and snacks are: organic, fair trade and locally produced.
- The very best and also a really fun option is to bake sweets and snacks yourself for the celebration – with the right ingredients, it will definitely be the most sustainable choice.
According to the Center for Consumer Science, Swedes buy less and less gifts. In 2016, we averaged 7.1 occasions per year when we shopped and in 2018 the opportunities fell to 5.8. It is good that consumption is declining, but buying a gift does not necessarily have to be bad either – by making conscious choices, we can continue to give gifts to loved ones.
- For gifts do not have to be new to be appreciated. Second-hand products often have higher quality at a lower price. Instead of having the exact same thing as everyone else, your gift will be unique and for that reason maybe even a little more special.
- There are services today where you can buy second-hand but still have the right of withdrawal – for example Sellpy.
- An abundance of other services such as Blocket, Marketplace and Tradera makes it easy to pass on the things you no longer want, your pre-loved stuff can become gifts for new happy owners.
- We often have things we love at home but are so worn out that we no longer have the confidence to wear them anymore. A perfect gift could be to hand in / help a person to mend or repair what they already love. Durable and safe!
- Children today are inundated with toys and gadgets, but what they lack is really quality time with parents and other adults. Therefore, exchange some physical gifts for things you can do together instead.
- It is important to pay particular attention to electronics, e.g. mobiles and computers that are major environmental destroyers and that we should try to use for as long as possible. Read more here.
Decorating is wonderful and can make that little extra for the celebration. Materials are often used which are then discarded after only a few hours. It is an unnecessary waste, especially when there are many alternative, conscious and sustainable ways to decorate.
- Decorate with things from nature according to the season. In summer there are flowers, cones, twigs and leaves. Winter offers spruce twigs, lingonberry rice, rowanberries and rosehips! Super nice and decorative.
- Balloons (in Swedish) consist of latex, i.e. natural rubber. But if they do not end up in a place where the conditions for decomposition are optimal, it can take much longer to decompose than the manufacturers claim. They often end up in the oceans, which threatens marine wildlife. A carcinogenic chemical is also used during production, therefore the Swedish Chemicals Agency advises against putting the balloons in the mouth. Consider whether balloons are really needed or whether they can be replaced with a more environmentally friendly alternative such as flags, soap bubbles, wind turbines and kites.
- Serve with crockery instead of disposable plates and if disposable items can not be avoided, choose wooden cutlery instead of plastic.
- Buy environmentally friendly candles and tealights.
- Fireworks enliven the whole sky, but in order to achieve all the colors, it is necessary to burn various elements, metal salts and chemical compounds which are then spread straight into our soil and water. Read about fireworks here (in Swedish). Instead of detonating your own fireworks, you can find out where there is an organized firework and go there – or avoid the cold and watch them on TV.
The Christmas Tree
- Think about whether you have to have a Christmas tree, maybe the Christmas feeling can show up anyway?
- If not, avoid buying a plastic tree, as plastic production contributes to more carbon dioxide and environmental toxins in nature, they can also contain PVC and phthalates which are directly harmful to health and most plastic trees are made in China and therefore have long transport routes.
- Many real Christmas trees are also transported, although not as long, from Denmark to Sweden. Fertilizers and pesticides are used when they are grown, which makes them worse from a climate perspective.
- The best choice of Christmas tree is the KRAV-labeled Swedish spruce and the closer it is produced, the better.
In 2020, Swedes’ holiday trips abroad decreased by 84%. A breathtaking reduction of 12 million trips in 2019 to 1.9 million in 2020. Globally, air emissions (pre-pandemic) account for 4-5% of global emissions, according to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. A research report from Chalmers made in 2018 shows, however, that Swedes fly five times more than the average, and if the aviation-related emissions are distributed to the entire population, each Swede causes 1.1 tonnes of emissions each year. It is more than the total carbon budget that the UN has determined that each person should have at their disposal for their entire lifestyle (food, housing, consumption, transport) by 2050.
- Fly less. If you have to fly then fly in economy, take direct flights to reduce emissions at takeoff and landing and flights during the day to avoid cirrus clouds (in Swedish) being created during night.
- Avoid the car. Of the total distance that the Swedish people travel, we travel 75% by car (in Swedish). A collective reduction in car use therefore makes a big difference to the total climate impact.
- Take the train (in Swedish) and take public transport, at 250 km the train generates only one gram of carbon dioxide emissions. For the same amount, the car does not even have time to leave the garage driveway and the aircraft can not even start the engines.
- Choose a holiday or an experience in the local area instead of a trip abroad. By doing your vacation close to home, you both gain greater knowledge of your local area and contribute to the local economy. Win win!
Page updated 2021.