7 Ideas for a Conscious Christmas

Being a vegan is not just a diet. It’s a lifestyle that cultivates compassion for animals, yourself and the environment too.

And since Christmas time is called the season for giving, there’s all the more reason to be mindful of any negative impacts we may cause, whether or not we see it with our own eyes.

Here are some ideas to enjoy a ‘Green’ Christmas this year.

Choose presents that don’t need batteries

Technological advancements are amazing right now but at a price. Old batteries are thrown out by the billions every year. Batteries in landfills leak toxic metals and chemicals into the ground, becoming a hazard to our health and the environment. Toys that don’t need batteries are not only kinder to ourselves and the planet, but also sparks imagination and creativity in children. Suggestions include puzzles and board games, books, wooden toys, building blocks, molding clay and other art items. For adults, anything but the latest smartphone!

Opt for beauty / grooming gifts that are cruelty-free

Photo from A Humane Nation

If you wish to surprise your loved one with some makeup, toiletries or other personal care products, there are options available that don’t contribute to the outdated industry of animal testing. I rely on Cruelty-Free Kitty for quick checks on brands. Most drugstore brands DO test on animals. If you’re lost on where you can find cruelty-free alternatives, you can check out a small listing I’ve made here. Also, The Hive has a wide variety of handmade products to choose from. It’s all locally made, which supports our own community and reduces our carbon footprint by crossing out the need for worldwide shipping. For men, I’d recommend local label The Elektrik Chair. They offer a range of premium-quality grooming products made from all-natural ingredients.

Wrap your presents in newspaper or scarves

For the past few years, I’ve stopped buying wrapping paper. Combined with other things like ribbons, gift bags and sticky tape, wrapping paper contributes to devastating volumes of trash around the world at Christmas time. Newspaper is abundant and comes in large enough dimensions to wrap most regular-sized presents. If I mess up the wrapping, I don’t need to feel so broken-hearted about ruining nice, expensive wrapping paper! Another beautiful method I’ve started to adopt is wrapping presents in scarves. This is already a Japanese tradition called Furoshiki, and there are plenty of online resources for you to get started on this nifty alternative.

Make a Christmas wishlist of animal welfare / environment causes to pledge towards

The stray animal population is a challenge in Malaysia that seems impossible to overcome. We see strays the street and our heart bleeds for them, wishing we had the means to help. Well… Christmas is the perfect occasion! Instead of asking for presents (which means more stuff and more clutter which your home doesn’t need), request instead for your loved ones to gift you with a donation to a local animal shelter or rescue initiative. Amongst the many Malaysian animal welfare options include:

Furry Tail Island,
TNRM (Trap-Neuter-Release-Malaysia),
Furry Friends Farm,
Noah’s Ark Animal Shelter in Johor and
Save Our Strays Neutering Society in Penang.

If you’re into wildlife/environmental causes, you can also show support for the hardworking people facing the insurmountable task of saving the LAST TWO Sumatran Rhinos in Borneo:

Borneo Rhino Alliance

And as an open water swimmer, I personally feel that the local marine conservation front can do with a boost:

Save Our Seahorses (We’ve got seahorses here, yo!)
Marecet (Dolphins too!)
Reef Check Malaysia
You can also adopt a Sea Turtle or a Turtle Nest!

Make your own tree using upcycled materials

Photo Credit: Zero Waste Week

Nothing brings the family together like art and craft! A Christmas tree-building project can be a rewarding undertaking with loved ones, and will also lasting impressions on guests. Upcycling materials that are already in your home, or would otherwise become trash, kills two birds with one stone: home aesthetics and eco-friendliness! A two-dimensional creation also saves space in small living spaces. Check out some brilliant ideas here.

Bake Meatless!

Christmas is synonymous with roast turkey or chicken, but there are other delicious baking options to wrap the year up with. Call me biased, but I love my extra filling Herby Nut Loaf that is ideal for gluten-intolerant guests too. And for dessert, perhaps some Guava Crumble with homemade Coconut Ice Cream. Here’s a tip… I love adding some spice powders into my ice cream like Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger and Clove to go with the season!

Going on Holiday? Use coach, train or carpool

The budget airlines industry has revolutionized the way we travel not just around the region but within the country of Malaysia itself. Not many travellers, however, spare a thought about how massively aviation contributes to climate change. If your annual leave gives you the opportunity to do so, include longer travel times by land and treat it as part of the holiday experience. This is perfect for staycations, or if you are heading to our neighboring countries, Thailand and Singapore.