Christmas is upon us. The most wonderful time of the year, or the most excessive? We all love the festive season and spending time with the people we consider to be our nearest and dearest but we all need to show a little bit of love to the planet this Christmas. The Independent found that during this festive time, Brits will throw away the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper and a whopping 54 million platefuls of food. That’s just the start of it. In a poll of 2,000 people, it was found that the nation will bin 100 million black bags worth full of packaging from toys and gifts and will use more than 40 million rolls of sticky tape.
If these numbers are sending a shiver down your spine, do not panic. We’ve put together a bumper guide to help you have a more conscious and guilt-free Christmas.
Brown paper packages tied up with string...
Why not become a little old fashioned this year and ditch the glossy and glitter covered wrapping paper and choose newspaper or brown paper as a sustainable alternative. Unfortunately any wrapping paper that, when scrunched does not stay in the same position in your hand, will have plastic in it and is therefore non-recyclable. What’s more, even if you use recyclable paper but put it into the recycling box with sellotape still on it, it will be sent to landfill as sticky tape cannot be recycled, you’ve been warned!
Instead, use twine or paper tape and maybe add some foraged sprigs and berries for good measure to brighten up your brown paper covered gift. Saving your Christmas cards and cutting them into gift tags for the following year’s Christmas presents is not only an innovative act of recycling but is also fairly wholesome.
The gifts themselves
A 2018 survey on YouGov found that 57% of Brits receive at least one unwanted gift on average during the Christmas period. Try and be mindful this Christmas as more is not always more. Opt for experiences whether that be gig tickets, theatre tickets, a pottery class or a sushi making workshop.
Gifts that are from sustainable brands could also help you achieve a more conscious Christmas. Avoid petroleum-based paraffin candles that may smell like festivity but ruin your indoor air quality, plastic packaged gifts and personal care products in plastic bottles (if you’re choosing beauty products choose aluminium packaging and refill and reuse options where possible). Also, seek out local artisan shops or craft fairs; your gift will seem more unique, have lower carbon emissions and will support local businesses. Evaluate whether this person would really want this gift and if it impacts the planet negatively.
Waste not, want not
One way to avoid food waste at Christmas is to plan your shopping list well. If you have leftovers be creative and make them stretch to another meal. Those trimmings could be your next best Boxing Day soup or be part of a delicious vegetarian/vegan tray bake. If you’re a bit stuck for ideas, Love Food Hate Waste will help you find a leftover food waste recipe so you can prevent your veg heading to landfill.
An eco-friendly Christmas dinner
Research published in the journal Nature found that adopting a ‘flexitarian’ diet is needed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. You could consider a vegetarian nut roast or a vegan roasted cauliflower dish and enhance these dishes with winter spices. If you are going to buy meat, ensure it is organic and from a local farm so its carbon emissions are reduced. Choose seasonal and organic produce; vegetables that thrive in December include, brussels sprouts (that’s a given), kale, leeks, cauliflower and beetroot. Where possible, opt for plastic free produce and if you can’t find your desired loose vegetables in the supermarket, you could seek out a farmer’s market.
Fake or real, which one is better for the planet?
Choose real over fake. Although fake Christmas trees technically last longer, they require a lot more energy to produce as they are made from non-renewable petroleum-based products and plastics. These take years to break down in landfills. Choose to buy your real tree from a local supplier to reduce its carbon footprint and look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification that shows measures have been taken to protect forests. Also, let’s face it, nothing replaces the smell of Christmas tree sap. If you think a tree is for life and not just for Christmas, renting a Christmas tree will give it another lease of life once you’ve loved it over the holiday period.
How do I give my tree the best send off come January?
Choosing a live potted tree could be a more eco-friendly option and can be used for years; as long as it’s a small tree in a large pot, your tree could last outdoors for 2-3 years, without having to be transplanted. If you’re lucky enough to have a good garden space and your Christmas tree has roots, why not plant your tree grow a mini forest? Many local councils will also take your tree to recycling centres for you.
Bring the outdoors in
Bring the outdoors in and ditch the tinsel and glitter. Tinsel and glitter will not recycle and once broken down can eventually seep into the soil. Head outside and collect pine cones, holly and berries to bring nature into your home.
Opt for indoor LED lights as they are more energy efficient and shine brighter than traditional lights. Fancy solar powered fairy lights can also add an eco sparkle to your home but the hours of daylight around christmas may affect their shine time.
Words by: Lucy Wagstaffe