Tips for a More Sustainable Christmas
We generate 30% more rubbish than we normally do over the festive season, but it doesn’t have to be this way and you don’t have to forfeit Christmas fun in order to make your festivities more eco-friendly. Here are our top tips for a more sustainable Christmas:
It is second nature for most of use to take our reusable bags to the supermarket with us on the majority of our visits, but why not take them with you to the high street too? They are often easier to carry than the throwaway bags given out in shops and using them will cut a bit of the waste out of your Christmas.
We all hope that the gifts we buy at Christmas will be loved and (where appropriate) treasured for years to come. However, with an estimated £42 million worth of unwanted Christmas presents ending up in landfill in the UK each year, it seems that we often get it wrong. If you fail to find an inspired gift for some of the people you feel obliged to buy something for at Christmas, make sure that your ‘this will do’ alternative is a sustainable one. Avoid anything that comes in a lot of single use packaging and consider environmentally friendly options such as a plant in an earthenware pot or some homemade biscuits wrapped in greaseproof paper and tied with raffia.
It is undeniable that families with young children are top of the list when it comes to throw-away gifts with short life spans. Advertising on children’s TV channels is dominated by plastic toys and gamesand this has a significant impact on children’s Christmas wishlists. We do not suggest that you just ignore their calls for a giant plastic dinosaur, but maybe you can find a cardboard alternative and explain to them that this option is better because they can decorate it themselves and it can be recycled when they have finished with it. This will not always work, but children learn by watching adults, so if you can show them that you are making sustainable swaps too, they are more likely to accept your gift alternatives for them. If this works for even 50% of parents then there will be 50% fewer giant plastic dinosaurs, which would still be around long after their recipients have grown up and left home!
If there are people on your Christmas gift list who really don’t seem to be wanting for material items – either because they seem to have everything or because they aren’t very materialistic - why not buy them an experience day instead? Red Letter Days and Virgin Experience Days offer a wide range of options for those tricky friends and relatives who don’t want for much materially.
With an average of 227,000 miles of wrapping paper being used in Britain alone each year, how we wrap our gifts is of prime importance to those of us who want to make our Christmas more sustainable. Any wrapping paper that is coated in a plastic film to make it more durable is not recyclable and neither is any card or paper with glitter on it. If you want to ensure that all your wrapping paper is recyclable, opt for plain brown paper and decorate it with stamps, sprigs of greenery and twine (and invest in some eco tape to avoid contaminating your nice recyclable paper with plastic tape).
Don’t feel guilty if many of the Christmas decorations you bring down from the loft each year are plastic. Plastics that we reuse over and over again are not really to blame for the world’s plastic pollution crisis. However, if you look at the decorations you have had for years and think they could do with some newer company, consider making your own or looking in second hand shops and on buy and sell Facebook groups before you head to the shops for new ones.
Christmas crackers are another prime suspect when it comes to festive season waste. The majority cannot be recycled and the toys and trinkets they contain are often thrown away at the end of the meal. There are plastic-free, eco-friendly Christmas crackers available, but if you are seriously looking to up your game, why not provide table presents instead? A soy candle glass, a miniature of the recipients favourite dram or a small bar of their favourite (paper-wrapped) chocolate is more thoughtful and a whole lot more useful than a plastic shoe-horn or a fortune telling fish!
Each year in the UK we throwaway an average of 8 million Christmas trees. If you’d like to help reduce this number, consider buying a potted Christmas tree that you can bring indoors and decorate each December. Alternatively, why not decorate a naked branch with your favourite decorations? This not only looks great, it also solves the problem of fallen needles making a mess on the floor.
For so many people in the UK, Christmas is about those foods that we traditionally eat at this time of year and, central to that, is the joint of meat we eat for Christmas lunch. Whilst there are some people who would be happy to swap their turkey for a nut roast, many cannot imagine a Christmas day without a meat-centric roast dinner. However, given that we throwaway approximately 54 million platefuls of food in the UK over the festive period, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that we could overhaul our approach to Christmas food. Swapping a few meat-based side dishes for vegetarian ones and making sure that we eat up our leftovers or freeze them for use later is a far cry from eating tofu instead of roast turkey, but it makes your Christmas a bit more sustainable.
Not only a great way to find unique gifts to delight their recipients, shopping with small local businesses invests money back into where you live and fosters a thriving local economy.