Have yourself a sustainable little Christmas
It’s that most wonderful time of the year! In just a few days people around the world will come together to celebrate Christmas - exchanging gifts, sharing a meal and spending time with loved ones. For those of us lucky enough to have the opportunity to do so, Christmas can be a time of overindulgence.
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? How about that £2.4 billion is spent on new clothes for Christmas party season - many of them never to be worn again? 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.
There’s no need to turn into Scrooge, but a little bit of moderation could mean enjoying ourselves and being a bit more sustainable. Here are some of the top tips I’ve come across to help you make your Christmas greener.
According to the Guardian, 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), but only if it is from a sustainable source. You can ensure this by checking whether the grower is registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association. 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. If you want to go one better though you could hire a tree - some even come complete with decorations!
When it comes to decorating your tree bear in mind that items like tinsel can’t be recycled so try to reuse them and use LED lights ideally 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 shopping locally (check out Small Business Saturday for some ideas) and choosing to click and collect rather than have items delivered. 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.” Even better wrap your presents in newspaper or fabric that can be reused.
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. Instead, if you are looking for something different to wear around 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 left overs! There are some great ideas for plant-based dishes here and some great ways to use left overs here.
As I said at the start of this post there’s no need to turn into the Grinch, but if we all do out 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!