I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas
When you think of Christmas you probably think of bright lights, glittering snow, the scent of pine, good food, presents and family. But under all these joyous festivities lies something much darker- three billion tonnes of extra waste being produced and discarded. When surrounded by family, with presents under the tree, and the scent of mum’s famous roasties wafting in from the kitchen, it’s easy to turn a blind eye and not think about the environmental impact the festive season has on the planet. But opening your eyes and acknowledging the problem is the first step in moving forwards towards a sustainable Christmas. During the three days of Christmas, the average Brit will produce the same carbon emissions as they would on a long-haul flight from London to LA. In the following article, we are going to show you just how easy it is to be more sustainable this Christmas!
Eco-Friendly Christmas Dinner
Roughly 125,000 tonnes of plastic food packing are thrown away during the Christmas season, in addition to the 175 million tonnes of aluminium material from mince pie cases. In the UK, 25 million Christmas puddings, frequently packaged in plastic and card, and 10 million turkeys, often wrapped in plastic, are consumed during the festive season. On average, Brits will dispose of 54 million tonnes of food during the month of December. While overindulging on pigs-in-blankets and mulled wine is pretty great, Christmas dinner tastes even better when its eco-friendly. Here are some tips to help you cook up tantalising eco-friendly Christmas dinner:
- Create a shopping list and only buy what you need. Base your shopping list off how many people you are serving and their dietary requirements. Additionally, try to avoid buying items in bulk simply because its on offer.
- Don’t throw away left-overs. These leftovers can easily be transformed into a new delicious meal, helping you save money and reduce waste. Why not draw inspiration from Friends’ Ross Geller and create your own Christmas “moist maker sandwich” from your left-overs Christmas dinner.
- Shopping at your local farmers’ market and butchers is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and support your local economy. More often than not, produce from farmers’ markets and butchers will also come wrapped in less plastic packaging, helping you reduce waste.
- When doing your Christmas groceries, bring your own bags with you to avoid using excessive single use plastic bags. Additionally, when shopping in a supermarket, try and avoid products packaged in excess single-use plastic.
- Crackers are tabletop explosions of waste, filled with small plastic toys that disposed of by the end of the celebrations. Consider switching to recyclable crackers with plastic prizes or re-useable crackers. You can even DIY your own as a fun family Christmas activity.
Gifts for loved ones under the tree, perfectly packaged in colourful and vibrant paper, adorned with shiny ribbons and glitter- it’s one of the biggest parts of Christmas. But with all the wrapping paper, glitter and ribbons, comes excess waste. In the UK, 227,000 miles of wrapping paper and 40 million rolls of sticky tape are used each Christmas. Wrapping papers covered in glitter and foils, sticky tape and ribbons cannot be recycled. And what’s under the wrapping is also a problem, with many gifts packaged in excess paper and plastic. Couple this with mass consumerism and mindless purchasing, and a big problem of excess waste is born. Giving gifts is a beautiful thing and quintessential part of Christmas, so here are tips on mindful gift purchasing and how to wrap these gifts in an eco-friendly way!
- Shop local! Buy your gifts from local small businesses. By doing this you are helping to build a strong and sustainable local economy, and it reduces your carbon footprint as your gift won’t have travelled miles to get to you.
- Avoid ordering things online, as this has a large carbon footprint and orders are often packaged in single-use plastic. Admittedly, this is less easy given the current global pandemic. So, if you are shopping online this Christmas, try ordering online from shops within your country, order from shops that do not package orders in single use plastic, and do not support fast-fashion corporations.
- Be mindful when buying gifts. Think carefully about what the person you’re buying for actually wants and needs, buy fewer gifts, and resist the temptation to buy novelty joke gifts. £42 million of unwanted gifts are disposed off each year. If you receive a gift you don’t want, consider donating it to charity rather than throwing it away.
- Buy second hand gifts or make your own! Buying second hand helps reduce waste in landfills, pollution, and demand on resources.
- Wrap your gifts in brown packaging paper or newspaper. These are recyclable alternatives to wrapping paper. Bind your gifts in twine, with a sprig of holy, to add to the rustic farmhouse aesthetic. Alternatively, wrap your gifts in any old fabric you have. This technique originates from Japan and is called “furoshiki”. Washi tape or gummed paper tape are great sustainable replacements for sticky tape, that cannot be recycled.
- Some wrapping paper can be recycled. If the paper easily scrunches into a ball and does not spring back, it can be recycled. Shiny foiled and glittery papers cannot be recycled. When sorting your Christmas recycling at the end of the day, ensure to separate and bin any sticky tape from paper that can be recycled.
Eco-Friendly Christmas Trees
You may be thinking, “how can a tree not be eco-friendly?”. Well, 8 million Christmas trees (12,000 tonnes) are disposed of improperly each Christmas, and 14% of people will dispose of their artificial tree. Real Christmas trees have a lower carbon footprint than artificial trees (3.5kg of CO2) when disposed responsibly, whilst artificial trees have a carbon footprint of 40kg of CO2 and contribute to landfill waste. In order for an artificial tree to have a lower environmental impact than real Christmas trees, it must be used for at least 10 years. The following tips will help you have a beautiful eco-friendly tree, decorated sustainably!
- Rent a Christmas tree! At the end of the holiday, the tree will be returned to the provider and it will be re-planted for another year. If renting a tree is not available in your area, consider buying a FSC tree, that has been farmed sustainably. Buying from your local Christmas tree farm is another great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your tree.
- Make sure you dispose of your real tree correctly. Take it to a recycling centre where it can be shredded, and turned into wood chippings and animal bedding.
- If you want an artificial tree, consider buying one second hand to reduce the amount waste in landfill.
- Reuse your Christmas decorations each year and only buy new ones if yours are damaged. If you need to buy new decorations, consider buying decorations second hand or making your own!
- Switch to decorating your house and tree with LED lights. LED lights use up to 80% less energy. If every household in the UK used LED Christmas lights during the holidays, it would save £11 million and 29,000 tonnes of CO2. Alternatively, consider switching to solar powered lights and a timer to reduce your energy usage and carbon footprint!
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