Christmas is fast approaching and we can already smell the mince pies and mulled wine. I don’t know about you, but after this year, I could certainly use some Christmas cheer!
In all the festive excitement, let’s make sure we love the planet, as well as our friends and families this Christmas. The best way we can do this is by reducing the phenomenal amount of waste that has become as synonymous with Christmas as Santa.
We can do this simply by following the three R’s; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Let’s start with Christmas presents. The best thing you can do is to buy less! I may be talking myself out of some business here, but before you buy any more presents, stop and think about whether the recipient would really want or use this item. Try to choose quality over quantity to ensure it’s built to last. If you’re not sure what to get your loved one, how about a gift voucher for eco friendly products?
Alternatively, instead of a present, you could donate to their favourite charity, plant a tree in their name, or sponsor an animal for them through a conservation charity.
Give the gift of time. When you look back on your life, what do you remember more, the things someone bought you or the memories you made together? For me, the latter certainly rings true. It doesn’t have to be a lavish holiday (although I’m sure that would be much appreciated!) COVID-19 is obviously making trips difficult, but there are lots of things you could do locally. How about a trip to the zoo or trying out a new, fun activity or class? Searching local events on Facebook is a great way to get inspiration for activities in your area that you might not have thought of.
Reduce food waste. It’s estimated that the UK will waste 54 million platefuls of food in December alone. 7 in 10 people admit to buying far too much food at Christmas and 74 million mince pies are thrown away! Apart from wasting money, food waste is a huge contributor to global warming, In fact, if global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the USA. Always plan your meals and portions and only buy what you need – always go shopping with a list. Check the use by dates regularly and move older food to the front of the fridge. If it looks like you won’t be able to use everything in time, pop some in the freezer. You could also look up recipes for leftovers. The Love Food, Hate Waste website has lots of recipes and ideas for reducing food waste.
Christmas decorations. Reuse what you have already and if you need something new, buy second hand. If you’re feeling crafty you could try making your own as a fun activity with the family. There’s a wealth of information on YouTube and Pinterest to inspire your home made creations.
Always hold onto wrapping paper to reuse and you can also keep packaging from any online orders and use that to wrap presents.
If you normally buy advent calendars, you could swap to a reusable one. You can add your own sweets or anything else you want. They are more unique, fun, better for the environment and will save you money over time. Alternatively, you could try a Reverse Advent Calendar where you donate something every day. You could give items to a food bank, give away things on sharing apps like Olio or local Facebook groups, or donate to charity.
Buy secondhand. Second hand doesn’t mean second best. We are very lucky to be blessed with a wealth of wonderful charity shops where we live. I’m sure most places in the UK have a good selection too. You can find fabulous gifts at a fraction of the price of buying new, all while supporting charities in your local community.
Buy reusables as gifts. Reusable coffee cups and flasks, water bottles and lunch boxes make great, eco-friendly gifts. Now plastic straws are officially banned, how about gifting metal or bamboo straws? Did you know that more than 1.2 billion meters of plastic cling-film is used in the UK every year – that’s enough to wrap around the world 30 times over! Wax wraps are the perfect alternative to cling film and as they come in a vast array of sizes and designs, they make for colourful presents.
227,000 miles of wrapping paper is used each Christmas in the UK alone – that’s enough to go round the Earth 9 times! So, be sure to always choose recyclable wrapping paper – no foil, glitter or metallic parts as these can’t be recycled. You can also swap plastic tape for brown paper tape or rice paper tape.
To be even more eco-friendly, you could try reusable wrapping such as cloth, Bento bags, (these double up as an extra present!), gift bags or reusable gift boxes.
Once you’ve unwrapped your own presents, if you opened it carefully enough you can reuse the wrapping. If it can’t be reused, you can check if the wrapping paper is recyclable by scrunching it in a ball in your hands. If it springs back open, it can’t be recycled and needs to go in your grey bin.
Don’t forget to recycle other packaging like cardboard, envelopes, plastic tubs and trays, aluminium and glass. If your council collects food recycling, make sure you put all food in the recycling bin, including peelings, fruit stones, egg shells, bones…. All food except packaging and liquids.
The three R’s of Christmas Cards
Did you know that this Christmas roughly 1 billion cards will end up in the bin! That’s a scary stat.
You could consider sending e-cards instead and donating the money you would have spent on cards, to your favourite charity.
However, if you don’t want to part with this tradition, you can look for plastic free Christmas cards that are made from recycled card. You can also find cards that donate to charity. Avoid glitter and metallic parts as these can’t be recycled.
After the big day, you can cut the Christmas cards you received in half and use them as gift tags for next year’s presents, or to write notes on. (Make sure you recycle the other half). We have these gorgeous plastic free cards available and we donate to the Marine Conservation Society for every order.
By Zoe Wiggins of Vida Eco Shop