In England alone, we will create nearly 750,000 tonnes of extra waste this Christmas; that’s five black bin bags per household!
In no particular order, here are a few quick, easy, and mostly money-saving things we can all do to reduce our unnecessary waste and environmental footprint over the festive period:
Tip #1: Low-waste presents and cards
Use non-shiny wrapping paper and use string rather than sellotape so that it’s all recyclable; you’ll save money as well as helping the environment! I have some left over wrapping paper from last year which I’ll use, and when I’m given tote bags I keep them and re-gift them to make sure they’re reused multiple times.
You can also make your own gift tags using cut up cards from last year (see pic below)! It’s also great to make your own Christmas cards using recycled materials. It can even be relatively easy, just grab a festive stamp from your local art shop and you’re all set.
Tip #2: Get your loved ones special (sustainable) gifts!
Christmas is all about consumerism. We’re constantly pushed to buy presents in bulk when actually most recipients would much prefer a single, thoughtful gift. Christmas can quickly become rather showy and that’s not actually particularly enjoyable!
I’ve cut down dramatically on how many gifts I give this year. This is because I’m trying to reduce my environmental impact and I’m sick of consumerism (and also partially as I’m on a lemonade budget since starting a PhD)!
Buying local is really important; over 4000 tonnes of products arrive from China each Christmas, and buying locally made presents means you will be supporting small suppliers and the local community while minimising your carbon footprint.
A good example of a ‘green’ present that’s still desirable is a reusable coffee cup which can be used to reduce disposable cup waste; this is something I’ve ranted about previously. KeepCups are particularly good and make lovely presents!
Another idea is getting people experiences they’ll remember rather than clogging up their homes with more ‘stuff’, or you could get them something charitable such as Oxfam’s ‘adopt a Goat‘ or ‘plant a tree‘ with National Forest.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling creative, make homemade gifts such as chutneys, mince pies, truffles, sloe gin, cushions…
If you’re feeling really eco-friendly, you could even do a White Elephant gift exchange: everyone only gives gifts they find around their home with no money spent. I think I might suggest doing this next year!
Tip #3: Reduce your Christmas dinner waste
16.5 million turkeys are bought every year in the UK; that’s 1 turkey for every 3 people in the UK!
If you can’t eat every morsel of your Christmas dinner, there are some fab recipes you can make using those inevitable leftovers, from a classic Turkey sandwich to bubble and squeak. You can even make a fancy macaroni cheese if you have leftover cheeseboard!
Here a few other recipes you could try if you’re feeling adventurous:
For the meat eaters:
- Moroccan Turkey Salad
- Turkey and Potato curry
- Roast potato, turkey, sausage and stuffing pie
- Turkey Vietnamese sandwich
For the vegetarians:
- Cranberry, sprout and pecan pilaf
- Chestnut and ricotta pancakes with quick clementine jam
- Cranberry and pistachio nut roast
- Gluten free curried veg pie
- Spiced veggie rice with poached eggs
For the sweet toothed:
Tip #4: If you eat meat, get a ‘happy’, locally produced Turkey
I appreciate that it is dramatically more expensive to buy free range/organic/local Turkeys BUT we only eat it once a year so in my opinion it’s completely worth it (although being a veggie I’ll be sticking with a nut roast!). I strongly believe in supporting local farmers and consuming free range meat where possible.
Tip #5: Christmas tipple
Make homemade hot chocolate (or something alcoholic…) in large vats to reduce waste from excessive soda bottles or cans. Using just one large plastic bottle is better for the environment than using lots of small bottles.
Tip #6: Minimise plastic packaging
We all saw Blue Planet so I know this one is already at the forefront of our minds, but we need to keep pushing supermarkets to reduce packaging. Ideally visit local farm shops/green grocers so you can get loose veg, if not, take your own bags to supermarkets. Some people are even refusing to take the excess packaging home and are leaving it at the supermarkets!
Whilst we’re on the subject of plastic pollution, please take a second to sign & share this letter to ask the government for a levy on single-use plastics. If you want to make a difference you can also ask fast food chains, bars and restaurants to stop giving out single-use plastic here.
Tip #7: Recycle, recycle, recycle!
We’ve all heard this one before but it’s really important.
Recycling is improving in the UK but ~4,200 tonnes of aluminium foil and ~1 billion Christmas cards are still being thrown away rather than being recycled over Christmas. When thoroughly cleaned you can recycle aluminium foil at many recycle points, and some councils even accept aluminium foil in your recycling collections.
Tip #8: Be Christmas tree savvy
I’ve gone for an artificial tree which we’ll probably keep for a very long time, but if you would like a real one make sure you source it sustainably. If you’ve got a big enough garden they can be planted out after Christmas, or you can re-pot them, keep them outdoors and reuse them for Christmas next year too! If this isn’t possible make sure you check with your local council how to recycle them correctly.
Tip #9: Christmas lights
Make sure you’re using energy efficient lights; LED lights which use up to 90% less energy than traditional incandescent holiday lights. Christmas tree lights left on for 10 hours a day over the 12 days of Christmas produce enough CO2 to inflate 12 balloons. Turn them off when they are not needed; if you just half the amount of time you have them on for that will reduce emissions. You could also use slightly less lights and still have a nice display (if you really insist on having one at all!)
Tip #10: Overcome your screen addiction
During the Christmas week, the average person in the UK watches 30 hours of television (I only watch about 4 hours as I’m not keen on the cheesy Christmassy shows and would prefer to be reading/socialising anyway!). TV uses a lot of energy that could easily be avoided to help the environment, and you could be spending your time off work socialising with friends and family instead.
If you are keen to cut your energy consumption this Christmas, switch it off unless there is something you really want to watch.
Play games, go for a walk, do some carol singing, read a book, and give your eyes a break from screens; most of us will go back to staring at computers at work shortly after Christmas anyway!
That’s all folks! Hopefully we can all still have a wonderful Christmas spent with the people most important to us whilst considering the environment at the same time.