HOW TO GUIDE #2: SUSTAINABLE CHRISTMAS
By Maleehah Hussain
Reading time: 8 mins
Christmas is a magical time of year, with the trees, decorations, lights and of course, gifts and an abundance of festivities… But how can we enjoy the most wonderful time of the year whilst also being mindful of our environment and planet?
The festive period is finally upon us, a time of laughter, spending time with family and friends, all the fun and heart-warming traditions, the presents, nostalgic movies, decorating your home or baking lovely goodies… Everyone seems to be in the best mood.
The grand festivities also come with a tremendous amount of waste and unnecessary pollution, whether it’s excess wrapping paper, plastic trees, Christmas cards, even the presents we give or the delicious treats we indulge in.
So, whether the festive period for you started in November or December, one thing we can all agree on is that the detriment we cause to the environment by the way we celebrate Christmas can no longer continue. Thinking about how we can play our part through shopping locally and sustainably, getting creative with our gifts and wrapping, the small changes we make can have a considerable impact.
At a time of year where stress levels are already on the rise, we’ve pulled together a few tips to help you think about how you can make this Christmas the most sustainable ever!
Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree!
Firstly, let’s consider the elephant in the room…. The Christmas tree. Many people often opt for artificial Christmas trees, which are non – biodegradable. Usually, artificial trees are made in China from PVC, plastic, and metal. The combination of non-recyclable materials and shipping gives them a large carbon footprint. In addition, the Soil Association estimates that most artificial trees are used only four times before being disposed of; given they aren’t recyclable, the impact on the environment continues in landfills.
Did you Know: A 6.5ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions?
That’s more than twice that of a real tree that ends its life in a landfill and more than ten times that of a real tree burnt!
We know Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the Christmas tree. So, this year consider buying a real Christmas tree that is locally produced or grown in the UK with an FSC certification.
Local Authorities often have Christmas tree collection schemes where trees are chipped and used for mulching or composted and used as a soil improver. Visit your local authority website or Recycle Now to find out how to recycle your tree.
When buying a tree, here are a few pointers to think of as you pick your perfect pine:
- Source an FSC Certified tree
- Source it organically
- Source it locally
Trees grown in the UK support local businesses and reduce the risk to plant species in the UK; imported trees can introduce pests and diseases that can have a devastating effect on our farms and woodland.
Alternatively, consider a potted Christmas tree that can be used again and again with a bit of love and care throughout the year.
Deck the halls
Christmas is the time for the impressive decoration displays, both inside and outside of our homes, creating the festive spirit with all the twinkling fairy lights, Santa figures with his reindeers, and bright fun-coloured tassels, baubles, wreaths. There’s just something magical about driving around your area and seeing all the pretty twinkling lights and décor hanging off homes.
Artificial wreaths like artificial trees made from plastic harm our environment. This year, opt for a natural wreath to put up in your home or workplace. Alternatively, why not create your wreath from almost any materials you may have in your Christmas decorations box?
A fun activity with friends and family is to make or repurpose decorations, personalising your seasonal decor without spending a fortune. Use leftover paint to match your baubles to your colour scheme and get crafty with cardboard to create beautiful decorations for your tree.
Once the festive period is over, around 500 tonnes of fairy lights are thrown away. They are bad for the environment when they’re in use and fill our landfill waste, which can be dangerous if light bulbs aren’t disposed of correctly.
This year opt for LED lights instead that use up to 80% less energy than the traditional fairy lights.
When dressing the exterior of your home, opt for solar power lights and set them on a timer… Give yourself the gift of lower energy bills come the new year!
A significant part of Christmas is buying the perfect gifts for loved ones; this year, think local and sustainable gifts.
Funny and festive trinkets are tempting to buy and fill out stockings and gift boxes, but keep in mind where these end up. Every piece of plastic ever made is still in existence. Do your friends and family need a chocolate pooping reindeer to know you love them?
Instead, look out for environmentally friendly stocking fillers made from natural or recycled materials such as soy candles, cotton socks and organic soaps. Better yet have a go at knitting your own stocking fillers for that personal touch.
For more sustainable gift ideas, check out our blog on Sustainable fashion.
Feeling inspired? We’ve listed our top tips for ways to gift sustainably this year:
Before your gifts reach their recipients, they have to travel many miles to get there. Avoid adding to your carbon footprint by shopping locally; this allows you to show your support for businesses in your community and reduces the carbon emissions that deliveries from overseas would have otherwise generated.
Gifts don’t always have to be physical instead, you can give gifts of experiences and day outs. Try Virgin Experience days for some fantastic ideas.
Did you know that around 81 million unwanted presents are received each year, which works out to be an average of 3 per household? So, this year invest in gift cards for your loved ones, especially when you’re not sure what to buy.
Reusable gifts such as water bottles, coffee mugs and stainless steel straws have an impact far beyond Christmas and help friends and family live a more sustainable life too.
The biggest thing we recommend is to ask your loved ones what they truly need this Christmas, you might be surprised to find it’s not what you were planning on buying, but instead, a request for babysitting, a coffee date, help with a shopping trip or support with domestic tasks and cooking.
227,000 miles of wrapping paper is used in the UK alone, which is enough to reach the moon!
Did you know that foil and glitter wrapping paper isn’t recyclable?
Using plain paper wrapping, you can do your bit to reduce landfill waste; why not get children involved to decorate wrapping for the family with their unique artwork?
Check out Re-Wrapped who specialise in producing eco-friendly wrapping paper from 100% recycled materials, or Blank Inside whose collections include corn-starch biodegradable cellophane wrapping, recycled paper printed with vegetable inks.
Alternatively, try fabric wrap, for instance, Wrag Wrap, which has designed fabric wraps made from recycled plastic bottles. Not only does each wrap stop 12 plastic bottles ending up in landfills, but their recycled material also has a 70% lower carbon footprint than polyester and 50% lower than organic cotton.
Pro Tip: Try Furoshiki, a traditional Japanese method of using cloth to wrap gifts
Like wrapping paper, try to avoid any Christmas cards with foil and glitter on them. Instead, try to opt for cards made using recycled paper or seeded paper that you can use to grow plants. Alternatively, avoid the paper footprint altogether and opt for e-cards.
Food, Glorious Food!
Gathering family and friends to indulge in a lovely Christmas dinner is a tradition that is unique to every family. With the irresistible list of family classics, you may have Christmas dinner covered. But there can be a sour side to those sweet treats.
Although we’re all about mouth-watering treats, we have to stop and consider our food choices and their effect on our environment, so we have gathered some quick tips to help you reduce food waste over the holiday season:
- Swap your turkey or any meat you use for locally produced meat, or why not try a plant-based alternative that is readily available from all supermarkets.
- Take all your veggies organic; organic farming releases fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
- Shop local and head down to your local market or farm for locally grown vegetables.
- Plan ahead and avoid leftovers – Talk to your friends and family and ask them what they like and will eat so that you can buy and cook the amount needed. Unfortunately, 7 in 10 people have admitted to buying far more food than they needed.
- Any leftovers you have, try to donate them to any local food banks to avoid them going to waste.
Christmas is a magical time of year for many people, with all the heart-warming memories we make, food and treats we indulge in, giving presents and seeing that million-dollar smile on the faces of our loved ones. But at the same time, it is also when we unwillingly indulge in excess waste and whilst we are seeing many people take on the responsibility of being careful consumers and making more sustainable lifestyle changes, we still have much more to do to make this the norm.
What are your favourite hacks at being sustainable? We’d love to know your favourite festive top tips drop a comment below or head on over to our socials to share there.
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