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A Sustainable Hygge-Influenced Christmas

Christmas is a time of year that has slightly lost its way (as with many other traditional family celebrations) due to mass marketing and over commercialisation.  Many of us find it an incredibly stressful time feeling we have to over produce, over consume and over spend. With the festive season, almost here now is a good time to approach things in a different way, with a new way of thinking that can be rolled out into the New Year.

Interior design has slowly been changing, reflecting society’s growing concern for finite resources and sustainability, mindful of embodied energy (the hidden carbon footprint) in the production of cheap “fast” furniture.  Why not have a go at a more sustainable Christmas and maybe make a New Year’s resolution to adopt the same ideology into 2020? Even small changes make a difference.

One trend that continues to be very popular, following on from the obsession with all things Scandi, is the Danish concept of Hygge.  This ancient way of living is a great philosophy that can be adopted at Christmas time in some way, however small.

The inviting interiors of hygge living is something families often want to aspire to and Christmas is a celebration that adheres to it beautifully.  The hygge way of life lends itself to the dark winter months, being cosy and intimate. Togetherness is a big part of hygge, along with a connection to nature and pleasure at the simple things in life.  Enjoyment of being in the moment, a kind of mindfulness with your environment.  This is a lifestyle that we at Element try to keep at the back of our minds when working on design projects big and small.

Our “hygge” approach to a sustainable Christmas:

Start planning early to avoid buying too many things that will end up being thrown away.  Maybe think about the practicalities of a long-term change.  Draw up a plan to instigate a shift over several years, rather than trying to do it all in one go, which can be stressful and costly.  There are some lovely items you can add to over time, that become an exciting part of the Christmas celebrations.  For instance, a handmade nativity scene that you can add a new piece to every year.  Erzgebirge-Palace have beautiful hand crafted wooden figures or if you want to get something more contemporary Alessi have a lovely porcelain set that you can buy pieces for.

Advent calendars

Why not make your own advent calendar? The shop bought ones contain so much throw away, single use plastic and have to be bought again every year.  There are some great sets available, made from long lasting, natural materials (wood and fabric for example) like this one from Lakeland Ltd. with a Nativity scene inside.  Some you can fill up with your own personal gifts. Ferm Living have a nice fabric one that you can hang on the wall. Alternatively a great homemade idea is to string up lots of numbered paper bags with pegs, or make small parcels and fill them up with small personalised gifts.

Shop local

Try to purchase items that are well made, can be stored again and re-used again the next year.  Find out about small businesses, shops and markets nearby to help support a sustainable local economy. Avoid items that need batteries if you can. About 40% of all battery sales occur during the Christmas holidays, so try to give “battery-free” presents.

A sustainable Christmas

Environmental considerations should be taken into account with all seasonal decorations.  If you want to have a real Christmas tree, choose one with a FSC Certification to show it has been sourced sustainably, and make sure you dispose of it responsibly.  Some nurseries have options to buy a tree in a pot and have it replanted at the end of the season, so that you can have the same one next year.  See your tree grow and change over the years! An artificial tree is an option if it is a good quality one that you can use over again, or a second hand one is a good alternative too.

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Be mindful of using low energy LED tree lights, they use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional Christmas tree lamps. Led lights come in warm or white – to help create that Hygge glow choose the warm led-lights that have the same cosy glow of the traditional lamps.  Try to reduce the size of outdoor lighting displays to save electricity and make sure they are all turned off at bedtime.

Made with love

Hygge embraces all things made by hand and the enjoyment experienced during the process. Homemade cards and wrapping paper are a great way to save resources and give something unique.  Shop bought ones consume a huge amount of natural resources for single use items.  Children’s artwork is another great place to start with when making cards as the images are generally large and colourful & relatives will love them!  Try to think ahead and save any wrapping paper for re-use and received cards from the previous years for gift tags.  When possible, avoid foil or plastic gift wrap as it is incredibly environmentally unfriendly.

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Embrace tradition

If you fancy adopting a bit more Nordic culture at Christmas, dig a bit deeper into their traditions.  In Scandinavian folklore, the belief is that gnomes live under the floor boards and help protect the welfare of the locals and animals, but if you annoy them, they can play tricks on you.  There are some lovely Tomte (Swedish) and Nisse (Norwegian) gnomes at Skandium (who stock a large number of different Scandinavian brands) along with many other wonderful Christmas decorations and presents.

Light a candle

Aim to have plastic-free decorations.  The hygge way is to have lots of candlelight (using beeswax candles) which give warmth and atmosphere.  Maybe wrap them with natural herbs and spices to create a Christmas fragrance.  Winter foliage, pine cones and holly branches are easily found and free. The family can enjoy making decorations from paper and felt, with supplementary eco-friendly or second-hand items, on-line from Etsy or even Gumtree & it’s a great activity for the pre-christmas school holiday days.  There are a multitude of charities that sell decorations and gifts made by hand using natural materials, which is another great way to be more sustainable and supportive. Look close to home for smaller charities & Christmas fairs to support your local makers & community.  Many museums and galleries also have seasonal decorations and kits for sale, like this cardboard flat-packed nativity box at Tate Modern.  They make great stocking fillers and help keep people busy and occupied on the day.

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Natural decorations

Table decorations and wreaths can be made from found natural materials such as evergreen branches, berries and garden herbs.  Vases of rosemary and lavender for a centrepiece made from dried oranges and cinnamon, create a seasonal atmosphere and fragrance.  If you can, start early with making things to bring out on the day.  Perishable items look great on the table as well as wrapped up under the tree.  Homemade chutneys and jams are lovely personal gifts that touch people with your care and time, along with sweet treats like gingerbread tree hangings and homemade chocolate truffles.  Hygge is all about simplicity and sharing, being in the moment and creating things from scratch.  There are a multitude of kits out there to help (if you are lacking in a little time or confidence) and you can use them again the following year. You may even find that some new family traditions start with your new approaches to creating a Hygge Christmas.

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Hygge is about simplicity and togetherness, a great philosophy for a successful, sustainable Christmas.

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