Christmas is now less than 4 weeks away; the shops are piled high with tempting treats and luscious gifts and the long-awaited Christmas adverts have made their debuts on our screens.
With all these extra incentives to buy, it’s not surprising that the quantity of household waste in the UK increases by 30% over the festive period. In fact, it is estimated that we throw away 300,000 tonnes of card packaging each year, one billion cards and six million Christmas trees.
But it’s not just us Brits that waste a staggering amount at Christmas – in the USA, the quantity of rubbish thrown away between Thanksgiving and New Years increases by 25% which is equivalent to an additional 1 million tons or so every single week.
Stanford University states:
“If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the US could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.”
Well we’re not suggesting that you boycott Christmas, but making a few simple changes could hugely reduce the amount of waste you produce. To get you started, we have put together a list of key ideas that will have the biggest impact.
Giving gifts has become the norm over the festive period. After all, it’s hard to beat the feeling of seeing your loved one’s face when they receive that item they have hoped for all year. There is certainly nothing wrong with buying items for friends or family that they really need, but the problem comes with all the excess waste.
Gifts are often used as a way of showing someone that you love them, or a chance to say, ‘I know you’. But this year, why not look for an alternative way to make your loved ones feel special that doesn’t involve using an insane amount of plastic, wrapping paper and bows.
Make Homemade Gifts:
Time to get creative and give someone a one-of-a-kind gift. If you’re a whizz in the kitchen, then try your hand at making homemade jams or chocolates. If you have an artistic flair, then dust off your paints and pencils and create something really personal like a pet portrait or house illustration. What ever you decide, a gift that shows thought, time and effort is sure to be well received.
Give Experience Gifts instead of Things:
Gifting an experience rather than a physical present is a great way to have a lower impact this Christmas. There are numerous companies that offer all kinds of experiences that suit any friend or family member you may have. Our personal favourites have included vouchers for kayak hire, paddle boarding and a gin distillery tour.
Buy Reusable/Eco-friendly Gifts:
If you prefer the idea of giving a physical gift, then ditch single-use plastic options and buy something reused or eco-friendly. Give a gift that will last for years to come and can be reused time and time again. There are now plenty of plastic-free alternatives available to lots of popular consumables.
If this is the option for you, check out our range of zero waste and eco-friendly products here.
If you have a large group of friends or a large family and you’re anxious about how much all these gifts are going to cost, why not suggest a Secret Santa. It’s not only good fun, but it’s a brilliant way of reducing the overall Christmas gift haul and costs associated with this time of year. You can even set a budget, pop everyone’s name in a hat and each choose one to simply divide up the gift buying.
If you’re feeling really eco-conscious, take it one step further and set a single-use plastic free theme!
In the UK we chuck away enough paper to circle the globe a staggering nine times every Christmas.
The best alternative is to reuse magazines, paper, bags or cloth that you already own. You can add a personal touch by tailoring your wrapping to match that person’s personality. For example, use old fashion magazines if your gift is for someone who loves style or reuse comic books for super hero fans.
Crafting Bento bags or Furoshiki wraps from recycled cloth, curtains or scarves is a slightly more adventurous alternative but shows the extra effort you have made.
However, if you’re adamant on buying wrapping paper the best thing you can do is to avoid shiny metallic wrapping paper and wrapping with glitter, as these types of paper can’t be recycled. A good method to use when selecting wrapping paper is the ‘scrunch test’. Simply scrunch the paper to determine whether it can be recycled, if it holds its shape when scrunched then it is normally recyclable. If the paper springs back, it’s unlikely you can recycle it.
If like a lot of people you enjoy giving cards as much as presents at Christmas, then cut down on paper waste this year and send an e-card. There are lots of online photo editing sites where you can create your own Christmas cards and add that personalised touch. Another alternative is to buy cards made from recycled paper.
But what should you do with all of the cards that you receive?
Keep them and make gift tags for next year – it’s a great way to get an extra use of out something that would otherwise be thrown away. It may mean you will end up having to store more, but if you think about it early enough you can just pop them away with the rest of your Christmas decorations.
A six-foot tree typically takes about nine years to grow, during which time it provides a habitat for wildlife, consumes carbon dioxide and creates oxygen, meaning this part of the process is generally carbon positive. This changes when we factor in the necessary transport and disposal processes required for it to live the rest of its life as a Christmas Tree.
Around six million trees are sold each year and if sent to landfill, they can take years to decompose. The decomposing process releases methane which is said to have 25 times the potency of carbon dioxide. However, there are better ways to dispose of your tree. For example, they can be recycled into wood chippings but it’s best to check on your local councils website to find out how their free recycling service operates.
The ‘eco-friendliest’ way to get a Christmas tree is to rent or buy a potted one that can be replanted year after year. You can also buy organic trees that use no pesticides in the cultivation process. A further way to reduce your carbon footprint is to choose to decorate existing plants in your home, there are some great examples of this on Pinterest and Instagram.
If you’re buying an artificial tree, try and use it for at least 11 years as according to the Carbon Trust, this will offset the oil and plastic it is made from.
Christmas decorations are a firm favourite for many families. For an eco-friendly Christmas, look for package free, high quality ornaments that will last for decades to come.
Ideally, we should all try to reuse the same decorations every year, but sometimes things need replacing. Why not go for a walk and gather up some pine cones and holly and give hand-made decorations ago. Alternatively, if you’re not the arty type, then try the charity shops for second-hand decorations. Regarding lights – opt for solar power outdoor lights where possible and remember to turn your Christmas lights off when you’re out or in bed.
Food seems to be the focus point of many conversations over festive period, but have you ever considered how much food waste is created at this time of year?
Reducing the amount of meat you consume is a good way to start to not only improve your environmental impact but your health as well. For more information about a plant based (Vegan) lifestyle, check out our blog post here.
Not keen on a plant-based diet? Another way to improve the amount of waste you create is to make sure that you use your leftovers. If you know what you are planning to eat over Christmas, then do a bit of research beforehand to see what second and third meals you can make. And remember – try to only buy what you need.
For some food inspiration this Christmas look at our recipes page here.