With Christmas just around the corner, you may already be thinking about those presents, the decorations, how much food you will need to buy and which family will be hosting. It’s a big day and it can take a lot of planning BUT is it too big? Has Christmas got out of hand? Do we need to start reining it all in? Do we need to consider our waste and consumption now that we are very aware of the overuse of plastic and climate change? Looking at current figures I’d say so! It has been reported that in the UK alone we create 30% more waste than usual during the festive period, which includes two million turkeys and six million Christmas trees plus 1 billion Christmas cards!!
So, what can be done? Well, there are actually lots of areas that we can look at in order to improve on the amount of waste we produce and to have a more eco-friendly Christmas.
Achieving an Eco-Friendly Christmas…
Here in the UK, we bin approximately 227,000 miles of Christmas wrapping paper each year. How insane is that? Something that wraps a present for maybe a few days? (a night in most households I should imagine!) Then gets ripped off and chucked straight in the bin. And guess where it goes? Mostly to landfill because our seasonal wrapping paper is often coated, shiny or has glitter on it meaning it is not recyclable. Add in the sellotape that holds it all together and there you are wasting around 40 million (yes, million!) rolls. I mean, we all talk about how we never have enough money and here we are practically just throwing it all in the bin.
There are obviously better ways in which we could do this but it’s not something that has been talked about much because those retailers want you to buy this paper, the companies want your money and more importantly, they want it year after year after year.
So, what are the options to be more eco-friendly this Christmas?
– Brown Paper
This will still be wasteful, yes, but it can at least be recycled. Brown paper is plain and even if you add your own drawings, images etc. you will still be able to pop it in the recycling bin. It may sound a bit drab but it can easily be dressed up with a beautiful ribbon, holly, lavender, leaves, fir cones, dried orange slices all tied with string and finished off with a homemade label. The personal touch will really be appreciated.
A great reusable wrapping idea is to use decorative scarves. What would be even better is if you purchase a load from a charity shop which will also save money as well as being good on the environment (fast fashion is a huge contributor to the world’s carbon emissions). Not only will it look pretty, but it will also become an additional gift or it could be used again.
As with the scarf, cuts of cloth either from a roll from a shop, from an old curtain, an old table cloth and so on, will be a pretty way to dress up a gift and can be reused.
I can honestly say that I gave up giving out Christmas cards years ago. I just could not stand the hassle of buying them, writing them, having my house full of them and then throwing them away. I sat down and realised how insane it all was and instead chose to donate the money I would have spent on cards to either a charity, to a food bank or to make special care packages for the NICU that William was in. The feeling that my money was going to a far better cause and the knowledge that I wasn’t adding to the 1 billion Christmas cards that are sent to landfill every single year was so rewarding.
If you also want to stop giving Christmas cards, I urge you to do it. If you are worried about offending anybody, just explain to them that you want to help other causes instead of spending that money on cards. The majority, if not all, of the people you know should completely understand that. However, if you do still want to mark the occasion you could make your own as people will hopefully hold onto those as keepsakes or why not think about an e-card? Paperless Post is a great way to still send your cards over the whole year, not just at Christmas, as well as invites, thank you’s, Condolences, Thinking of You’s and so on. They have a wide range of designs and templates to choose from and you can even make your own card to add that personal touch. It is so simple to do and eradicates the need for postage, delivery, car trips to the shops as well as needless waste. It is the perfect way to still connect with people but in a more eco-friendly way.
It’s no secret that Christmas gifts cost us an awful lot of money each year.
“Various polls show families with children under the age of 18 will spend anything from £1,000 to more than £2,700 in total at Christmas, with gifts making up the vast majority of the spend.”
So, why not think more carefully about where those gifts come from this year? Buying secondhand is a great way of saving money, finding gifts that aren’t mainstream and at the same time, you’ll be helping to save the planet. The amount we spend reflects how much ‘stuff’ we all acquire over this period and a lot of that has been manufactured in large, polluting factories, it will most probably all be shipped over from countries like China and packaged in excess cardboard and plastic. There are just so many factors contributing to damaging our environment when it comes to buying new and I find it really sad that buying secondhand has become a big no-no in a lot of people’s eyes. However, if you do shop secondhand you will know firsthand how many fantastic gems you can find– Books, wooden toys, branded clothing, ride ons, homeware and so much more. Yes, it may take a few visits and it may take a bit of time but you can find some amazing Christmas gifts that will be loved and won’t break the bank.
A friend of mine has another interesting idea. She has suggested getting together with friends and doing a toy swap with them. That way your children will get a new toy at Christmas, you won’t be spending any extra money, there won’t be any waste and you will be helping one another out.
Another way to thrift and also be eco-friendly at Christmas is by making your own gifts which is becoming more and more popular. From baked goods to hampers, toys to kids tents and tepees, kids activities and learning resources, place settings to decorative items, you can pretty much come up with anything and your friends and family will appreciate it so much more as that extra care and thought has gone into it.
Give Gifts That Keep Giving
Instead of buying all the ‘stuff’, why not give a gift that will keep giving for the following year? Things like vouchers, annual passes for their favourite attractions, a promise to go somewhere together, a deal to spend more time together, something meaningful between friends and/or family that will bring you together and create memories. Another option is to purchase timeless items that can be used over and over again such as tableware, cutlery sets, good quality furniture (vintage perhaps?) and so on.
It is estimated that in the UK alone, 154 million crackers are bought and pulled at Christmas. Not all the plastic toys found inside will end up in the bin that day but I think we all know that in the next few months it will somehow work its way there and on to landfill adding to our evergrowing plastic problem. There are now many plastic-free options available in stores or perhaps you could sacrifice this tradition this year? It probably won’t make much of a difference to you but it will make your Christmas far more eco-friendly.
One of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions is red meat. The gases released by cows is having a huge effect on climate change and the more meat that is consumed, the more cattle that will be bred and kept. At Christmas, we often offer a variety of meat to our guests with Turkey being the most popular. With this selection comes the increase in demand, the increase in packaging, the increase in transport and the increase in leftovers being thrown away. It just causes a knock-on effect.
“It is estimated that 10 million turkeys were consumed last Christmas. This also means over 3,000 tonnes of turkey packaging
was used. Taking this into account, 125,000 tonnes of plastic wrapping used for food will also be discarded over the festive period.”
So, why not try a meat-free option this year? There are plenty of vegetarian meats available in supermarkets, there are also other main course options including nut roast, vegetable Wellington, Vegan Christmas Loaf, stuffed butternut squash and so much more. There’s a great range on this website here.
We are a nation of over-buyers. We see what we need and so often say ‘oh, let’s get this just in case’. Yet, most of the time we end up with far too much and the food goes to waste. That food waste ends up in landfill, rotting away and as it rots, guess what? Yep, it releases methane gases into the atmosphere. So, to be eco-friendly this Christmas please, please think hard about how much you really do need, plan your meals down to the fine details and don’t panic about running out. Shops only close for the one day, you will be fine.
Ensuring that you look after your decorations and then store them away safely each year is key in reducing more waste at Christmas. It can be so tempting to go into the shops and buy new every season but as I have mentioned above, buying new isn’t the way forward. We need to be reusing what we already have, making our own where possible and buying pre-loved. It is also important to fix or find a new purpose for any broken or damaged decorations. The less we throw away, the better it is for our environment.
Some fab homemade ideas I have come across include:
With Christmas comes parties and with parties comes extra waste. Instead of buying plastic or paper cups, plates, cutlery etc. for your party, why not hire them instead? You simply inform them how much you will need, what you require in your pack and you can even ask for specifics (within reason!) You will have your entire party package delivered to you and then you can send it all back without the worry of needing to find storage for anything new. What a solution!
Last year I took the decision to stop buying advent calendars. Again, the cardboard and plastic waste just didn’t sit right with me which is why I purchased a wooden one to fill up myself. I decided that it is still nice to get a chocolate treat inside but I also wanted to give something memorable so I alternated the days with a note of a promise from me, a note to say go to the lucky dip (this was filled with books, activities, games etc) and then a chocolate. It went down so well with my son and brought far more excitement than a shop-bought one. I will definitely be continuing with this in order to make every Christmas a little more eco-friendly.
Travel is our biggest problem when it comes to carbon emissions, especially if you are a frequent car user or flyer. Racking up those air miles are slowly but surely damaging our planet and the call to reduce your travel in this way is far higher now than it has ever been. This may be the hardest part of trying to be eco-friendly at Christmas as many of us have family in other towns, counties and countries and this is the time of year when everybody wants to come together. I guess the best way to work around this is to try and have one big get together on one day rather than travelling to see lots of different people over consecutive days. Also, try to use public transport as and when it is possible plus if you can walk to your friend’s or relative’s house opt for this instead. It is about being eco-conscious when it comes to this part as I am very aware that it isn’t an area that can be easily done away with.
I really hope that this has given you some food for thought and plenty of new ideas to make this Christmas your most eco-friendly one yet!
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