Tips for a Green Christmas

By Elisabeth Johnston

“Live the way you want to live but just don’t waste.” These words from David Attenborough are relevant throughout the year and never more so than at Christmas time. With a few adjustments, we can preserve the spirit and traditions of the festive season, whilst playing our part in protecting the planet and future generations. Here are some ideas.

Gifts – Approximately £700 million is spent each year on unwanted presents, with one in ten ending up in landfill.

Shop locally supporting small businesses. Consider buying vouchers, tickets, experiences, subscriptions, memberships, classes, consumables and plants or even offer your time in the future. Charitable gifts like animal adoptions, Oxfam Unwrapped and Save the Children’s virtual gifts or tree-planting/dedication/tagging are gifts that could have a big and meaningful impact elsewhere. Some items, like toys, books and games, could be bought second-hand. Find a good home for unwanted gifts by donating, exchanging or regifting.

Wrapping paper In 2018, we threw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, almost enough to paper our way to the moon!

Look out for paper that can be recycled, using up leftovers first, and keeping decent-sized pieces to reuse. Buy paper bags or reuse gift bags, making new tags from old cards. Decorate brown paper with ink stamps or potato prints. Plastic/foil paper cannot be recycled.

Christmas cards – Sending cards has quite a high carbon footprint due to the manufacturing of the card itself and the journey it takes. Consider sending e-cards instead; many charities can be supported in this way. For a more personal touch, why not make a call/Zoom/Skype instead? Recycle any cards that you can, removing glitter and non-paper embellishments first, or make gift tags and decorations for next year.

Crackers Crackers potentially create a huge amount of single-use, non-recyclable waste. It is possible to source fully recyclable crackers now, or you could make your own using recyclable paper or fabric. Avoid plastic gifts and film-wrapped sweets and choose something that will be kept and used.

Trees – An estimated 7 million trees are bought in the UK annually.

A live tree that grows from year to year is best. You could buy and care for your own or rent one. A real tree captures carbon as it grows and provides a home to wildlife. Trees in Stratford District Council can be cut up and placed in the green bins. Alternatively, leave the tree in the garden as a home for animals. Intensively farmed Christmas trees are often sprayed with chemicals. Look for trees approved by the Forest Stewardship Council or Soil Association. Source organic trees from areas as close to home as possible. An artificial tree needs to be used for approximately 10 years before its carbon footprint is lower than using real, cut, burned trees, so keep using an artificial one for as many years as possible.

Decorations – Use what you already have or make new ones using natural fibres. There are so many ideas online including making edible decorations!

Food – We waste around 250,000 tonnes of food over Christmas!

Aim to cut down on meat (especially red) and dairy, as the environmental impact of these is higher than most other foods. Where you can, choose organic and local. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables loose and consider buying products with less wasteful packaging. Create a shopping list, only purchasing what you need. Keep an eye on dates so no food goes to waste and remember that ‘best before’ dates are guides. Steam-cooking vegetables together is healthier and requires less energy. Use up leftovers by searching for recipes or freeze food – labelled and dated – to eat in the future. Donate spares to a food bank, to extend the reach of care at Christmas.

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