Author: Charlotte Radcliffe
Each Christmas, around 30% more waste is generated in the UK, including the 1 billion cards thrown away each year.
As the festive season approaches, we have pulled together some top tips to enjoy our favourite Christmas traditions and reduce our impact on the planet. With just a few creative and simple swaps you can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of the season, without spoiling any of the fun:
- DIY wrapping and decorations
According to Ecoveritas, British consumers buy a total of 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year, enough to wrap the island of Guernsey. Often coated with plastic or containing glitter, most of this wrapping cannot be economically recycled through our local waste collection services.
Wrapping paper and decorations – such as garlands and cards – can easily be handmade using easy to recycle materials, such as brown paper or fabric. Why not reuse or upcycle old containers, boxes or gift bags to protect your presents this year while minimising waste.
Bring together friends and family and host a ‘DIY Day’ to create decorations and wrapping together to get in the festive spirit.
- Fake vs artificial trees
When choosing a tree, the sustainable choice depends on the size, where you source the item and how long you plan to keep it.
The carbon footprint of a real tree is responsible for just a tenth of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing and transporting an artificial tree. However, a fake Christmas tree is still better for the environment, as long as it is used for at least 7 years according to the Carbon Trust.
If you plan to purchase a real tree this year, look for one that is Forest Stewardship Council Certified and sourced from a local farm, to ensure it has been grown in a responsible way and with minimal pesticide use.
Once you’re ready to dispose of your tree, explore guidance from your local council to ensure it is effectively collected to be recycled or composted.
It wouldn’t be a tree without the lights but when it comes to buying these, look for LED lights as they are 90% less energy intensive than incandescent bulbs and last up to twice as long. Outdoor lights can also run on solar power as a renewable source of energy, as a more efficient way to decorate your garden or home.
To prevent unnecessarily wasting energy, always switch off your Christmas tree lights and decorations when you are not home.
- Shop and source local
The increased volume of online orders around the festive period generates a staggering amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the entire supply chain, from packaging to delivery. Products bought online are also 5 times more likely to be returned, generating even more emissions as products are transported back to warehouses.
Instead of shopping with major online retailers, look for present ideas from local businesses or charity shops for affordable and unique items that need a second lease of life. This not only supports our high streets, but reduces our carbon footprint too.
And finally, why not gift an experience over material items? From local classes, outdoor activities, art exhibitions to concerts and theatre shows – there’s plenty to choose from.
- Make the most of your leftovers
According to Eco & Beyond, we waste 5 million Christmas puddings, 74 million mince pies and turkey meat equivalent to 2 million whole birds at Christmas. Avoid falling victim to impulse purchasing and stick to the items you will use up.
Look for recipe inspiration to use up the last of your leftovers, from the old school bubble and squeak to stir-fries, curries and pies. Get creative!
If you can’t use up everything, donate any longer life, sealed items to local food banks in need.
- Quality over quantity
When choosing gifts for loved ones, think about buying fewer high-quality items that will stand the test of time, rather than overconsuming poorer quality items. Consumer research by Oxfam shows that we receive between one and five unwanted Christmas presents each year.
To avoid unwanted items going to landfill or gathering dust, choose experience vouchers for friends and family to use. You can even host a gift swap or charity shop collection to make sure discarded gifts go to a good home.
- Prevent a throwaway culture
New gadgets are at the top of many Christmas wishlists but that doesn’t mean your old technology should go to waste. Up to 90% of a phone is recyclable so look for a reputable recycling company if it is no longer fit for use.
Meanwhile, charities such as Get Well Gamers and Gamers Beat Cancer take donated videogames and consoles to hospitals and hospices for children and young people across the UK, so do your research before you think about throwing away.
Let’s all make our Christmas season greener this year and encourage others to put these conscious Christmas ideas to practice.