Though it feels like summer only really ended a couple of weeks ago, I’m afraid it’s time we started talking about the ‘C’ word. We know, we know… But while Christmas is obviously a time of joy and merriment, it’s also a time of waste. The UK creates 30% more waste than usual, with over 1 billion cards ending up in the bin and 250 tonnes of Christmas trees thrown away when they could be used for compost. And that’s not even taking into account packaging and food waste.
We don’t want to be the fun police by any means but during the festive period there are plenty of easy things you can do to ensure your Christmas is more eco-friendly. Here’s six simple tips and ideas that will help you to cut back on your waste and do your bit for the environment this Christmas time…
1) Use Different Wrapping Paper
In the UK, over 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each and every year – that’s enough to wrap around the equator 9 times. Yes, nine. And while some local councils will accept wrapping paper as part of your household recycling collection scheme, others do ask you to head to recycling centres, and some councils won’t even take it at all as certain recycled paper mills won’t accept it.
This can be for numerous reason. Some recycle mills can’t process wrapping paper that’s been dyed, laminated and/or contains non-paper like glitter. Some wrapping paper is also too thin and won’t contain enough good quality fibres for it to be worthwhile, while pretty much all wrapping paper recycled comes with sticky tape still attached to it – a whole different issue entirely.
So what can we you do? Firstly, check with your local council. If you can get it recycled and you’re not the most talented crafter, by all means do so – just make sure you remove any tape. A simple way to test if your paper is recyclable is the humble scrunch test: if the paper holds its shape when scrunched then it is recyclable; if it springs back it is not. But we’d suggest wrapping your gifts in either recycled wrapping paper or something different entirely by getting creative with some brown paper or even some old newspaper.
2) Eat Less and Plan Better
OK, we know ‘eat less at Christmas’ is a really hard sell but bear with us. We’re not suggesting that UK households do away with the roast potatoes, chocolates and pudding, but you can plan what you put in your fridge and cupboards much better. The equivalent of 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17 million Brussels sprouts are thrown away every Christmas here in the UK, with much of it being down to poor planning. There are two main reasons food gets wasted: it doesn’t get used before it goes off, or we buy too much.
The latter is easy to solve; just plan better and buy less. The former can be trickier. That said, do you know your family isn’t actually that keen on sprouts? Do you know everyone around the table actually finds turkey a bit dry? Don’t get bogged down in tradition and cook something they actually want to eat instead. And if you really do have no option but to please everyone with options, make sure you have a plan for the leftover meat. Sandwiches and a Boxing Day curry, for example, should save plenty of wastage. Locally-sourced produce is also always going to save on carbon footprints and we all know the benefits of organic ingredients by now too.
3) Get a Real Christmas Tree
We don’t really need to explain why getting a plastic artificial tree that’s been made in China isn’t the exactly best idea when trying to be environmentally-friendly at Christmas. But there are some things you need to consider when getting your real tree this year. Before you buy, just try your best to find a tree that’s been grown as close to your home as possible. Then it’s a case of disposing of it properly.
6 million Christmas trees are discarded every year in the UK but figures show that only 10% of those are recycled for composting and wood chipping. The rest go into landfill. Local authorities and garden centres have been doing their bit to make things easier in recent years, so head to the likes of Recycle Now and out whether you can recycle your tree locally. If your tree still has a root ball, you can also replant it in your garden.
4) Stop Buying Too Many Presents
We’ve all received Christmas presents we know we’re never going to use or wear. Which means chances are you’ve gifted something similar too through pure guilt or a lack of shopping time. Unwanted presents are often forgotten about and sometimes just put straight in the bin. Remember it’s never about the quantity, it’s always about the quality. Plan better and don’t go over-the-top. And if you do get something you don’t want, don’t just bin it – give it to charity instead.
The types of presents you give will also make a huge difference. It goes without saying that eco-friendly presents are the ideal and there are plenty of dedicated websites out there, but why not try and make your own? Upcycling is most definitely ‘in’ and is no longer just a way to save some cash. Also make sure any present you buy has as little packaging as possible.
5) Use LED Lights
A very small change which will make a huge difference. Virtually every single household and workplace in the country will be putting up some festive lights over the course of the next few weeks, and you want to make sure they’re LED.
Both friendly on your pocket and the environment, indoor LED fairy lights don’t need much energy to run and are much more efficient than standard or even energy saving bulbs. They also generally don’t produce heat, making them ideal for decorating your Christmas tree and reducing the risk of fire.
6) Eco-Friendly Decorations
Rather than buying new decorations this year, there are plenty of ways you can revamp old baubles and ornaments by giving them a lick of paint or covering them in recycled papier-mâché. Of course, this does take some skill and if you’re anything like us, Christmas will be ruined if you do so.
Alternatively, for an even more organic approach head outside and grab some holly branches, and twigs to give your home a rustic Christmas feel. That way your decorations will be completely free and as eco as possible. Just ensure they’re either kept for next year or put in the brown recycling bin after.