It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
And if, like many, you like the idea of a green Christmas but are not quite sure where to start, we’ve got you covered.
We could all work on living a more sustainable lifestyle and at no time is this truer than at Christmas. Yes, it’s a season of celebration and indulgence - but, for many, also of excess and waste: the gifts, the food, the decorations, the wrapping and packaging - the list goes on…
All these things have a carbon footprint - both in their creation, and in their disposal. But with forward planning and some tweaks here and there, you can improve your impact dramatically - while still enjoying the season of comfort and joy.
Here are our 5 top tips for being more sustainable this Christmas:
1. Give the Gift of Sustainability
“Don’t just buy rubbish for the sake of buying something!” says Amy Charuy-Hughes, sustainability consultant and co-author of Your Planet Needs You!: An Everyday Guide to Saving the Earth.
“Ask people what they want or need, or better yet lend time!”
Amy suggests offering to help move house, help decorate, or even babysit.
If you do want to gift a tangible item, for adults think about experiences eg. spa vouchers, fine dining or a coffee subscription.
Even better: channel your inner Tom Daly and put those lockdown skills into use by hand-knitting a scarf!
For the littles in your life, Amy suggests vintage or wooden toys or if you head to your nearest charity shop, you can frequently pick up a handful of books in mint condition.
“If you are buying new then buy from sustainable and ethical brands who are transparent.”
Clothes are always a hit so try shopping the fantastic selection of organic and sustainable baby and kids’ clothing brands we have at My Little Green Wardrobe. You can filter items according to your own values too.
2. Christmas All Wrapped Up
The charity WRAP estimates Britain alone throws out around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper over the Christmas period, which is enough to stretch almost all the way to the moon.
Even though it’s made out of paper there is plenty of gift wrap that can’t be recycled - particularly if it contains plastic, foil, glitter, or still has sticky tape on it. A rule of thumb is that if you can scrunch the paper and it opens out again, then it’s not suitable for recycling.
Amy says finishing off giftwrap left over from last year is crucial, but beyond that to use wrapping materials you already have:
“We’ve all done lots of online shopping lately, so save the tissue and brown paper and reuse it.”
There are plenty of ways to make parcels look appealing using pine cones, twine, ribbon and ink stamps. Or consider repurposing old bits of fabric and scarves for wrapping and decoration.
“If you are going to use tape, you can use paper tapes or washi tapes which can come in lots of colours,” she recommends.
- READ: Why Sustainability is the Watch Word this Christmas...
- READ: Four Easy Steps to a Greener Wardrobe
3. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree
Forestry England recommends buying a potted tree which can be kept in your garden and used over and over again.
No space for that, how about renting a tree? It’s a real thing - you hire a living tree for the season, and then it’s taken away in January when it’s replanted. You can even have the same tree each year!
“If you don’t care if it’s real or artificial, then a second-hand artificial tree is the way to go.”
When disposing of your real tree, check the dates your local authority picks them up, or Amy suggests composting the tree yourself and using it instead of wood chip on your flower beds.
And you can even use the little pine cones by soaking them in vinegar, which makes a perfect household cleaner!
4. Food For Thought
It’s so tempting to buy ALL the cheese, but one of the best ways to help the environment is to cut down on food waste.
If food waste were a country it would be the third worst offender globally when it comes to emissions, behind only the US and China.
According to research food waste is worse for climate change than plastic.
Research by Zero Waste Scotland has found that the carbon footprint of food waste collected from Scottish households in 2016 alone was nearly three times that of plastic waste collected from people’s homes.
So here are our tips to minimise the waste in your household this festive season:
Get organised: arrange your main food shop just in time, so fresh fruit and veg don’t go past their best before you get round to using it.
Really nail down who’s going to be there on key days, plan your menu and don’t over-order.
The freezer is your best friend: keep sausage rolls, canapes and several rounds of mince pies - and even brandy butter - stashed away in there for surprise visitors.
“Use the food sharing app, Olio, if you have spare food that someone else could use,” says Amy.
5. Meat Feast
If your family are keen meat eaters, no-one is saying you need to cut it out entirely! This is supposed to be a time to celebrate and indulge in the things you love, after all.
Instead, why not switch out the starters to be plant-based or opt for vegetarian canapes when hosting.
Equally delicious and no-one is likely to notice! Amy recommends: “Quorn party sausages and vegan chicken nuggets – they taste better than some supermarket’s meat ones.
“It's good to provide people with other options to introduce them to new things,” she remarks. “You never know, they might see that they’re just as good!”
And that’s just it… not only can an ethical Christmas be just as good, it can be even better - because of course you’ll be spreading joy at home but you’ll also be spreading it elsewhere too!
It's easy to forget that this time a year ago, all we wanted was to see our loved ones at Christmas. So enjoy yourselves and spend time, not money on your loved ones this year!