Living Sustainably: Christmas edition
We’re coming up to that most wonderful time of the year! After the year we’ve all had, I have no doubt there’s a huge appetite to spread a little joy this holiday season as best way all can given the pandemic situation. While we may not be able to come together to celebrate Christmas as we normally do - exchanging gifts, sharing a meal and spending time with loved ones - there’s still many things we are able to do, from sending a Christmas card to putting that Christmas tree up in lights.
We’re here to help you enjoy the holiday season while minimising your impact on the environment. And with 58% of Brits in one survey intending to have a more sustainable Christmas this year you won't be alone!
There are some staggering statistics about the waste Christmas generates. For example, did you know that every year in the UK the equivalent of four million Christmas dinners’ worth of food is wasted? Or that Britons will spend almost £1 billion on unwanted gifts? In fact the UK creates 30% more waste than usual over Christmas, including an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper and 1 billion cards that end up in the bin.
Here are some of the top tips I’ve come across to help you make your Christmas greener. You can browse our range of sustainable Christmas essentials by following the links here - greeting cards, gift wrapping, and Christmas crackers.
Although any physical card will have a higher environmental impact than an e-card, there are definitely some that are better than others. Check for a FSC label - this means the cards are made with materials from well-managed forests and/or recycled sources and avoid cards wrapped in plastic as this can’t be recycled. Or if you want to take your Christmas cards to the next level you can buy cards that are 100% biodegradable and designed to be planted by their recipient as they are embedded with seeds!
According to the Carbon Trust, a fresh tree is a better option than an artificial one (although if an artificial tree will be used for at least 10 years then it’s environmental impact becomes comparable to that of a fresh tree), particularly if it is locally sourced and grown. You can ensure this by checking whether the grower is registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association. You might even think about buying a potted tree, which if cared for properly can be used for multiple years or planted outside after Christmas or if you want to go one better you could hire a tree - some even come complete with decorations!
When it comes to taking your tree down don’t just put it in the rubbish, check with your local authority or garden centre whether they are recycling Christmas trees.
When it comes to decorating your tree, bear in mind that items like tinsel can’t be recycled so try to reuse them for as long as possible and use LED lights on a timer to save energy.
Gifts and gift wrapping
The advice for gift giving is pretty simple - give something that is wanted and will be used! You can minimise the carbon footprint of your gifts by purchasing sustainable products from local businesses (check out Small Business Saturday for some ideas) and, if you live within 2 miles of a store, choosing to click and collect rather than have items delivered where possible.
Alternatively, think about whether buying an experience, for example a museum membership, restaurant voucher or a token for a day out, might be better received than a physical product. And for the person who has everything, there are a number of charities where you can buy a gift for someone in need on their behalf, for example the British Red Cross.
For wrapping paper “steer clear of anything shiny, plastic-lined or decorated with glitter, which are not recyclable. Try the “scrunch” test – anything that doesn’t hold its shape when scrunched into a ball is not recyclable.” Check that wrapping paper can be recycled before you buy it, or even better wrap your presents in newspaper or fabric that can be reused!
Finally, plastic tape on wrapping paper makes it very difficult to recycle - use paper tape!
While they can be great fun, Christmas crackers are the very definition of a single use item. They are pulled apart and the contents (think often pointless plastic toys) discarded often before Christmas dinner is finished! A number of charities have crackers for sale that are more eco-friendly than what you’ll find in most retailers, and we have a few suggestions here.
We all love a good Christmas jumper but buying a new one every year is incredibly damaging to the environment. Research by environmental charity Hubbub found that 95% of garments are wholly or partly made of plastic materials, meaning every time they are washed they release microfibres into the environment. Ideally have a jumper that you wear every year, or if you are looking for something different to wear this Christmas try your local charity shop or arrange to swap items with friends.
Similar to gift giving, buying only what you need is a pretty good rule of thumb here. Plan out what you need by writing a shopping list and try to stick to it when you are in the store. Buy what you can without plastic packaging and try to include more plant-based dishes on you Christmas table. And finally try to make use of the leftovers! There are some great ideas for plant-based dishes here and some great ways to use leftovers here.
There’s no need to turn into the Grinch this Christmas, but if we all do our best to minimise waste at this time of year the result can be incredibly positive for us, the environment, and those less fortunate.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful Christmas!
Cover photo by Matthew Henry from Burst
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