Making your Christmas celebrations kinder to the planet doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the things you enjoy, neither does it have to be expensive – making considered choices means you can happily revel in the festivities, in the knowledge that you have done your best to reduce your carbon footprint. Even if you only do one thing differently to last year, it’s better than doing nothing!
- CRACKERS – Choose recyclable ones, like these from Sainsbury’s or fill your own recyclable ones with gifts that your guests will actually use (or eat!) rather than throw straight in the bin. Leave the boxes of shiny, non-recyclable crackers, full of plastic knick-knacks, on the shelf.
- GIFT WRAP – Use recyclable paper. Avoid glossy or glitter-encrusted paper and gift bags which go straight to landfill. If you put this type of paper in the recycling bin it can cause the whole batch to be rejected. Try these alternatives instead:
Brown paper or other matt paper marked as recyclable: Many refill shops will have a good supply – my local delivery service ‘Hampshire Refillery’ stock recyclable paper in a variety of lovely colours from Silver to Dark Green and at just £1.27 per 5m roll, it’s great value too.
Newspaper: My friend, Hannah, has long been wrapping gifts in newspaper, tying with string and decorating with a sprig of something from the garden. It’s a novel way to conceal a present and if you choose your newspaper content carefully you could personalise it for the receiver or even use it to give a clue to what’s inside!
Cloth: In Japanese culture, gifts have been wrapped in a square cloth called a Furoshiki for centuries. The cloth is kept and reused and nothing is thrown away. You could try this or you could make simple bags and tags, like those made by Debbie, pictured, which can either be reused every year or form part of the gift. It’s best to use second-hand fabric or some you already have for both these options, rather than buying new.
- STICKY TAPE – I’m never going to buy plastic tape again! Sellotape now make a biodegradable, plant-based tape. It is a bit more expensive than the plastic type but a roll lasts so long, it’s really not that costly. Paper tape with non-solvent-based adhesive is also widely available now (check for stickiness though – some are only good for decoration or very light papers).
- STRING – natural string, ribbon or twine is great for securing your recyclable gift wrap and gives your parcels an old-fashioned appeal. Avoid buying a new roll of polyester ribbon specifically for wrapping presents though, which could be worse for the environment than using sticky tape, if it’s not reused. Save odd bits of string, ribbon and cord during the year or buy some sustainable twine.
- PRESENTS – This is an ongoing dilemma for our family. We all have too much ‘stuff’ but we want to show each other we care by giving gifts. We still haven’t quite got the solution but to avoid waste at Christmas you might want to consider the following:
Discuss what everyone would prefer to do regarding buying and receiving presents at Christmas. It may be that you decide to set a budget or stop giving presents completely between some members of the family which instantly reduces the stress, cost and environmental impact of Christmas!
Ask people what they want and have a list yourself of things you would like. Far better for the planet and the person to give or receive a gift that is going to be appreciated and used.
Give vouchers for the cinema, a restaurant or an ‘experience’ instead of a physical thing.
Give homemade vouchers for something personal – I would be delighted to receive one that reads ‘I will clean the bathroom for a month’ for example, if any of my family are listening! I’d take that any day over a box of chocolates! Or you could make a ‘I’ll take you out for lunch in January’ voucher for someone special.
Give an eco-conscious gift – Check out www.protecttheplanet.co.uk for a huge range of original products, from eco-friendly scented candles to belts made from recycled fire hoses! A nest box, bird feeders, bug house or hedgehog house are good presents for anyone interested in wildlife. For that old classic, socks, as well as t-shirts, sportswear and more, BAM Bamboo Clothing and Rapanui are both excellent companies for sustainability and have a good choice of items ranging from a few pounds to over £100. Or what about a little ‘hamper’ of soap, a wooden toothbrush and bamboo make-up remover pads to start someone off on their eco-journey.
Gift a tree or shrub. Pot grown ones are not expensive and they’re great for couples or the person who has everything. Winter is also the perfect time to plant them. Choose one that’s good for wildlife and you’re really doing something fantastic for the planet.
- DECORATIONS – Get your decorations down a couple of days early and have a sort out. Take unwanted decorations to a charity shop so someone else can use them. Use greenery from the garden to add volume to what you already have, rather than buying more plastic just for the sake of it.
- LIGHTS – Choose LED Lights when buying new. LEDs convert over 80% of the energy used into visible light compared to just 5% by traditional (incandescent) bulbs, plus the bulbs last about 10 times longer. Remember to turn Christmas lights off when no one’s around to appreciate them.
- TREES – A two metre natural tree that is disposed of responsibly has a carbon footprint of around 3.5 kg and that of an artificial one (which should last several years, of course) is around 40kg, according to the carbon trust. If you like a real tree, it’s best to source one locally, direct from the grower, to avoid excessive transportation emissions. Pot grown ones are good too because you can reuse it the following year or plant it out in the garden. Dispose of real trees through your council’s green waste facilities, by composting them or through one of the special Christmas tree recycling schemes that pop up in January. Don’t send to landfill. If you prefer an artificial tree, try buying second-hand, there’s lots of nearly new trees on Gumtree for a fraction of the cost. Look after it and make it last as long as possible. When you no longer want it, sell it or give it away to be reused.
- FOOD – Food waste is one of the biggest problems of the modern world. Plan your meals well and freeze any leftovers. If you usually end up throwing food away, taking it into work or eating it just to get rid of it, try cutting down on the quantity you buy initially. You can always have a few frozen items on stand-by for get-togethers, in case you’ve under-estimated. If you eat meat and fish, consider reducing the quantity (it makes room for more roast potatoes!)
- CONVERSATION – If the subject of climate change comes up and people start moaning and groaning about how depressing it all is, how the governments should do more or how they’re sick of hearing about it, tell them about One Positive Change and why you’ve chosen recyclable crackers or why you’ve given them a bird box. You’re making a difference and they could be too.