How to go green this Christmas
Christmas is a joyful time of gathering with loved ones and giving gifts. But it’s also a time of excess: mountains of food, gallons of eggnog and piles of presents swathed in inordinate amounts of wrapping paper. With a growing awareness around the dangers of single-use plastic and climate change, are there ways to make your Christmas more sustainable? How can you put the green into gifting?
Here are some top suggestions for small changes that could make a big difference to the planet this yuletide. We’re dreaming of a green Christmas – are you?
1. Use recyclable wrapping paper
Each Christmas we’re getting through around 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper. That equates to approximately 50,000 trees. But that’s ok, paper is recyclable, right? Wrong. A lot of festive wrapping paper is laminated or covered in metallic coloured shapes, glitter and plastics which can’t be recycled. Luckily, there’s a simple test to determine whether your paper is a goer. Simply scrunch a small square of it in the palm of your hand. If it scrunches up it can be recycled; if it doesn't and springs straight back then its destined for the rubbish tip. To play it safe, opt for brown paper or old newspaper, glammed up with a bit of reusable ribbon.
There’s a simple test to determine whether your wrapping paper can be recycled. Simply scrunch a small square of it in the palm of your hand. If it scrunches up it can be recycled; if it doesn't and springs straight back then its destined for the rubbish tip.
2. Ditch the sticky tape
Try using biodegradable string or raffia to secure your wrapping paper, rather than plastic tape. And if you get given gifts wrapped using sticky tape, make sure you remove it from all the wrapping paper as it can make the paper hard to recycle.
3. Cut back on presents
Present giving is an integral part of Christmas, so we’re not suggesting you give it a miss this year. But what about giving less? Talk to your family about taking a Secret Santa approach, so you all give and receive one quality gift that is really wanted. (And try to buy locally when you can to support small businesses and reduce your carbon footprint.)
4. Give charity gifts or experiences
Another great way to reduce waste is to buy experiences rather than physical items. What about a wine tasting? Cinema vouchers or a night in a shepherd’s hut? And charity gifts are lovely too: sponsor a water vole for an animal lover or give a goat to a Rwandan farmer.
5. Trawl the charity shops
As well as sticking to local businesses for your present shopping, you should check out the local charity shops. You can often bag a bargain in the form of designer clothes or the latest bestseller. Not only are you cutting down on waste, your money is going to a good cause too.
6. Send e-cards
We all love receiving cards through the post, but the sad truth is that most Christmas cards end up in the bin in January. Have you thought about sending e-cards instead? Many companies let you design your own and no trees need to be harmed. Alternatively, cut up last year's cards and reuse them this year. Give those robins a second outing! If getting creative’s not your thing, be sure to buy recycled and then recycle any you receive.
7. Recycle your tree
Although they might seem less wasteful, fake trees are not the answer. They last longer, sure, but that’s because they’re mostly made from plastic, which isn’t recyclable. It’s a much greener option to opt for a real tree (as long as it’s from a sustainable source), as it will actually help to remove carbon from the atmosphere while it’s alive, and then recycle it after the big day. If your local authority doesn’t recycle then find a garden centre that does.
8. Put waste food in the compost
Each year we throw away fridgefuls of food that we just can’t squeeze in. Try to cut down on the shopping this year (do you really need brandy butter AND brandy cream?) and put any uneaten food scraps in the compost, not the bin.
9. Go crackers for reusable crackers
It’s hard to imagine Christmas without the annual battle for cracker victory and, of course, the colourful paper hats. But crackers are pretty wasteful: many are coated in plastic which makes them impossible to recycle and the plastic toys inside invariably end up in the bin (who needs another miniature yo-yo?). Thankfully, there are lots of sustainable options on the market now: ones with cardboard casings and plastic-free toys, crackers that bang when you pull them but don’t tear open so you can refill them and use them year after year, and natural linen crackers that will look beautiful on the table and will last a lifetime.
10. Ban batteries
Many gifts and toys exchanged at Christmas require batteries, and that’s bad news for the planet. Batteries contain toxic chemicals (an environmental hazard), they don’t biodegrade and are difficult to recycle. Try to avoid buying battery-powered toys (after all, there’s nothing better than a good book), and where it’s unavoidable source some rechargeable batteries.
11. Choose solar-powered lights
For some streets, Christmas lights have become seriously competitive. It’s all about having the brightest display and the biggest inflatable Santa hanging from a drainpipe. But all these bulbs – as fun as they might seem – are burning through electricity and having an impact on our environment. Instead, think small, subtle and solar-powered.