Innovations That Matter

12 Innovations for a More Sustainable Holiday Season

Innovation Snapshot

From sprouting wrapping paper to up-cycled trees, here are 12 sustainable innovations to match the 12 days of Christmas.

“Maybe the holiday season,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe the holiday season … perhaps … means a little bit more!

Since well before The Grinch came onto the scene in 1957, the holiday season has been taking a huge environmental toll.

While previous generations can be excused for not having recycling on the mind this time of year, in 2019, one thing is abuntantly clear: climate change is not a next-generation problem, it’s happening now. In fact, the amount of waste produced during December in the UK increases by 30 per cent every year.

However, becoming a little Grinch-like greener need not be all despair. From sprouting wrapping paper to up-cycled trees, here are 12 sustainable innovations to match the 12 days of the holiday season. Even the Grinch would not disapprove.

1. PLANTABLE CHRISTMAS WRAPPING PAPER IS EMBEDDED WITH SEEDS

Photo source Eden’s Paper

Eden’s Paper enables consumers to plant it and grow vegetables after they’ve finished swapping gifts. Developed by UK-based creative agency BEAF, the paper comes in five different designs, each reflecting the kind of seeds embedded within them.

Available in tomato, onion, carrot, broccoli and chilli variants, the paper is made from 100 per cent recycled materials and biodegradable tissue, which contains the seeds. The design is printed with organic vegetable ink and no glue is used. 

Rather than sending it to landfill after the Christmas festivities are over, users can bury the discarded wrapping in their gardens or plant pots in order to grow the vegetables.

Fake trees are energy-intensive to make and about 80 per cent of them are manufactured in China, so they have a long journey until they reach most shops. Moreover, the average family only keeps a fake tree for about five to six years, then it goes to the landfill. If you buy a cut tree, you can recycle or upcycle it. If you buy a real tree in a pot, you can replant it. 

2. LIVING CHRISTMAS TREES, DELIVERED AND REPLANTED FOR FREE

Photo source Nicolai Dürbaum on Unsplash

Eco landscaping company Green Rabbit encourages customers in Austria to purchase a Living Christmas Tree that can be picked up and replanted after the season is over.

The service promises to deliver their Christmas trees for free to those living in Vienna and beyond. The trees are Nordmann firs, cultivated in sustainable nurseries, and are delivered in a pot. When Christmas has ended, the customer can either choose to plant the tree again if they can, or Green Rabbit will collect it to be replanted elsewhere.

3. CHRISTMAS TREES TO ADOPT OR RENT

Photo source Photo Irina Murza on Unsplash

Los Angeles landscape architect Scott Martin founded The Living Christmas Company, which gives Los Angeles residents the chance to temporarily rent a living Christmas tree and have it delivered right to their door. While the company wasn’t the first to offer tree rentals for Christmas, it was the first we saw that lets customers adopt a pine, allowing renters to share Christmas with the same tree year after year.

4. IN PARIS, RECYCLED CHRISTMAS TREES HELP NEIGHBOURHOOD PARKS

Photo source Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

In Paris, we’ve seen recycled Christmas trees go toward fertilizing the city’s own green spaces. From late December through much of January, collection points are typically open for old Christmas trees in nearly 100 parks and gardens throughout Paris. Consumers need only bring their trees to the collection spot nearest them. From there, the tree will be crushed and used to enrich the soil in local parks, serving to restrict weeds and reduce evaporation. 

5. CHRISTMAS TREE NEEDLES REUSED FOR PAINT AND FOOD SWEETENERS

Photo source Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Cynthia Kartey found that useful products, such as paint or food sweeteners, can be made from chemicals extracted from pine needles.

The complex polymer, known as lignocellulose, makes up 85 per cent of the trees’ pine needles. This can break down into a liquid, bio-oil, and a solid by-product, bio-char, after applying heat and solvents. The process itself is cheap and environmentally friendly.

The bio-oil typically contains glucose, acetic acid and phenol. These are the same ingredients typically found in many industries. For example, they appear in the production of sweeteners for food, paint, adhesives and even vinegar.

6. FASHION FIRM TURNS OLD CHRISTMAS TREES INTO LINGERIE

Photo source Do You Green

Created by Paris-based Do You Green, Organic Lingerie sells a variety of underwear, nightclothes, lingerie and even men’s pyjamas, that are all made using a special material derived from pine trees. Called Pine Viscose, the fabric is made by treating the pine needles and bark from the trees and spinning it into an eco-friendly thread.

Similar to Cashmere wool, Pine Viscose is silky and helps regulate body temperature and sweat through wicking. The dyes used by Do You Green are also sourced from non-toxic materials and the company has teamed up with designer Sophie Young to make the garments something consumers will actually want to wear.

7. ECO-FRIENDLY SEASONAL GIFT STORE

Photo source Nadine Guerlain

Opened on 30 October 2019, the Conscious Christmas Store in Dublin makes it easy to shop with a clear conscience. It aims to help shoppers reduce the volume of non-recyclable gift-wrap used, as well as avoid the copious amounts of single-use plastic. The store is a partnership between The Kind, a zero-waste lifestyle store, and Jiminy, an environmentally friendly toys, arts and crafts store.

Jiminy is running the toy section of the store, and The Kind will provide ethical and sustainable goods for the rest of the home. All toys sold by Jiminy are plastic-free and are organised by occasion, age and theme. They also sell craft kits, art supplies, gift-wrap and cards, as well as Netherlands-made, plant-based, bioBuddi building blocks.

8. BUY A JUMPER, ADOPT A SHEEP FROM THIS CARBON-NEGATIVE CLOTHING COMPANY

Photo source Sheep Inc.

When customers buy a jumper from Sheep Inc., not only do they receive a high-quality product made from the merino wool of sheep from rural New Zealand, but they are also sent regular updates about the very sheep from which their jumper was made. 

Labelling itself “the world’s first carbon-negative fashion brand”, when owners of a Sheep Inc. jumper scan a yellow tag at the bottom of the product, they are privy to its manufacturing process and carbon footprint. The company will send updates about the customer’s allocated sheep: “its major life events. Where it is. What it’s up to. When it’s had a haircut. Even whether it’s had lambs.”

The company also reinvests 5 per cent of revenue into biodiversity projects around the world, offsetting the carbon footprint of the product’s journey. 

9. A GIFT-STORE TO SUPPORT REFUGEES

Photo source Choose Love / Help Refugees

Choose Love is the first of its kind, selling products, services or “bundles” for refugees across the globe. The store contains practical items like tents, nappies and sleeping bags, which the customer picks. Following this, a similar item is bought by the shop, for someone across the world who needs it.

Since 2017, the stores in London, New York and Los Angeles have seen 45,000 customers and have been able to distribute more than 1.5 million items to those in need.  Read More.

10. CROWDFUNDED TRAINING FOR THE HOMELESS

Photo source Beam

Homeless charity, Beam, has a new type of gift card for the holidays. Rather than allowing recipients to choose from experiences or consumer goods, the card allows them to choose a homeless person to help back into work. 

Beam is a crowdfunding platform dedicated to helping homeless people train and find employment. Rough sleepers are referred to Beam through established charities or local councils, and Beam then assigns them a support specialist who helps them develop a tailored career plan, building on their personal strengths and interests. The public can then help fund that person’s journey through Beam’s crowdfunding page.

11. CO2 POLLUTION TURNED INTO HIGH-END SIPPING VODKA

Photo source Mae Mu on Unsplash

New York City-based technology and lifestyle company Air Co. recently introduced its first product — carbon-negative vodka. Using solar energy to power its proprietary process, the company captures, heats and transforms carbon dioxide into valuable goods. 

By skipping the entire fermentation process, there are almost no impurities in the drink. And with no farming needed to produce grain, the drink not only removes pollution from the air, but it also saves water, time and myriad other agricultural-related expenditures. 

12. DISCARDED PUMPKINS TO BE UPCYCLED INTO BEER

Photo source Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Toast Ale, the British craft brewer known for its recipes that use bread that would normally go to waste, is now brewing beer from pumpkin flesh that would normally be discarded.

“Dubbel Dubbel Toil and Trouble,” a seasonal Belgian-style Pumpkin Dubbel, was released in November. The brewery partnered with Hubbub on this new brew to help with its annual #PumpkinRescue campaign. Pumpkins used in Toast’s new recipe will be collected by volunteers from local farms.

This builds upon Toast’s main mission, which is to help reduce food waste by making use of bread that would typically be wasted. All profits from Toast’s beer sales are given to charities working to eliminate food waste, and the brewery has open-sourced a recipe for home brewers who also want to use stale bread in their brews.

Edited by: Katrina Lane