While it may be quite rightly the most wonderful time of the year, with greeting cards, plastic decorations and unwanted food and gifts all generating a huge amount of waste, the cost of a Merry Christmas can be devastating for the environment.
In fact the added strain on landfills and extra CO2 emissions that occur during Christmas actually makes the festive season one of the most taxing times of the year for the environment. But it’s not all doom and gloom. With just a few smart choices and easy substitutions, you can be carbon footprint-friendly and still celebrate in style without being a Scrooge this Christmas.
Here to help you take your first steps towards a green Christmas, we’ve rounded up four easy ways to have your most eco-friendly Christmas yet.
1. Sustainable Christmas Wrapping
It’s easy to get wrapped up (sorry) in all the luxuriousness of Christmas during the festive period, but before you dash out and buy too many rolls we have some stats for you to mull over… Last Christmas a study found that in the United Kingdom alone, people binned the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper and got through more than 40 million rolls of sellotape, with the average household using four rolls of paper and a roll and a half of tape each. That’s a lot of waste and even the most well-intentioned may be unaware that the wrapping paper we use isn’t actually recyclable if it contains plastic, dye, foil, glitter or sellotape. So what are your options?
It’s time to channel that famous line from The Sound Of Music and get using that brown paper. From decorating the paper (avoid the glitter, obvs) to tucking a sprig of fresh greenery into your twine bow, it’s probably one of your cheapest options yet has the potential to make it look like Pinterest threw up under your tree. Not into getting creative this Christmas? All is not lost. Simply look for more eco-friendly versions of your usual minimal effort wrapping paper. Lots of high street shops, supermarkets and sites such as Etsy have sustainable alternatives available so just be sure to check the label before buying.
2. The Big Food Shop
We know buying just enough won’t cut it at this time of year for most of you – after all, over-eating is practically a seasonal sport. But with over four million Christmas dinners thrown away every year in the UK – that’s equivalent to 263,000 turkeys, 7.5 million mince pies, 740,000 portions of Christmas pudding and 11.3 million roast potatoes – perhaps it’s time to tackle the Christmas stockpiling problem. Take the classic Christmas sprout. According to ReFood, last year’s wasted brussels sprouts could power a home for three years. In fact, if all the wasted food at Christmas was reduced into energy rather than sent to landfill we could power the average medium sized home for 57 years. So what can you do?
Well, ’tis the season to shop wisely. We know no-one wants to be the Grinch that is under-filling their festive trolley but don’t let tradition dictate your tastebuds. There’s no reason to suffer through a Christmas pudding for 20 if only three people round your Christmas table actually like it. If you end up over-catering, don’t just bin what’s left. Thanks to chefs like Jamie Oliver you can transform your leftovers into food fit for the three kings. Plus, consider donating your extra food to local food banks. As for veg peelings, get yourself a compost or wormery to help break down the vegetable waste into rich soil nutrition.
3. The Christmas Tree Dilemma
Eight million Christmas trees are bought every December in the UK alone and an estimated six million are sent to landfill every year, meaning a lot of intensive production and potentially, a lot of waste. Ultimately, when it comes to faking it or not, your best bet is to obviously go real. Already have a fake tree? Don’t panic. Keep using it and make it last as long as possible and when the time comes to eventually replace it you can look into more environmentally sound options. Real trees can be the more eco-friendly choice, as long as you consider where and how they have been grown, of course. When buying your tree look for the FSC-certification logo to ensure it has been grown sustainably and if you want one that is certified as organic and pesticide-free get one that’s approved by the Soil Association.
Want to take things one step further? You can of course buy a potted tree with roots meaning you can let it grow and use it again next year, reducing the cost to the environment – and you. And, unlike artificial versions, a real tree can also be easily recycled in an eco-friendly way. Either chip it and compost it or take it to your local Christmas tree recycling centre – yes, that’s really a thing.
4. Sustainable Christmas Gifts
While it is the season of giving and receiving it is tempting to go overboard when it comes to Christmas gifts. Each year around 4,000 tonnes of products arrive from China and last year almost 100 million black bags full of packaging from toys and gifts were sent to landfill. So how can you make your shopping a little bit greener this year? New gifts at Christmas often mean that households go through a ton of batteries containing toxic chemicals that are difficult to recycle, so if you’re purchasing a present for someone that relies on batteries, consider rechargeable batteries.
Don’t over buy. Put your money towards one main present rather than lots of little ones, or consider an experience, membership or subscription. Don’t give them another unwanted gift they’ll simply throw away the next month. Or even better, you could give an ethical waste-free gift this year, from a Cork Yogi yoga mat to grooming products by the likes of Antipodes and Korres.