I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas

It looks like Christmas is going to be a bit different for most of us this year. Why not use this as an opportunity to introduce a few new eco-friendly elements to your festivities? Being able (or not as the case may be) to spend time with family in this “new normal” has made me appreciate a little more what Christmas should be about. It’s not about how many presents you get or who spent the most money; it’s about sharing the occasion with those close to you (and the food, of course!).

So here are a few ideas to help you have a green Christmas:

1. Ditch the Glitter

It was great to hear earlier this year that large retailers such as Morrisons, Waitrose and John Lewis had banned glitter from their own brand Christmas products. Glitter is problematic in more ways than one. Cards and wrapping paper covered in glitter cannot be recycled and can contaminate other “clean” recycling. What’s more, glitter is a micro plastic and can take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Recent studies have found that micro plastic particles are present in around 30% of North Sea fish! And tiny plastic fibres have even been found in snow samples taken a few hundred metres from the top of Everest! So, choose glitter-free cards, wrapping paper and gifts this Christmas.

2. Rethink Wrapping

It’s become something of a family joke that the same piece of wrapping paper has been passed back and forth between us over several years. I’m always urging everyone to open their gifts carefully before I swiftly snatch the wrapping away to fold and reuse! As well as reusing wrapping paper, there are other green alternatives. At my daughter’s recent birthday, our extended family got very creative with wrapping; as well as recycled wrapping paper, presents were wrapped in newspaper, wallpaper, and reused mail order packaging (colourfully decorated with ink stamps). Then there’s the Japanese art of Furoshiki: using fabric to wrap presents. It could be as simple as an old pillowcase or you could add a bonus gift by using a scarf or item of clothing to wrap gifts.

3. Say Goodbye to Sticky Tape

It’s estimated that the UK uses over 6 million rolls of sticky tape each Christmas. Sticky tape is a plastic and not currently recyclable. Add to that the fact that wrapping paper contaminated with sticky tape can’t be recycled, and it’s best to avoid sticky tape altogether. Chances are you already have a roll of sticky tape at home – don’t feel bad about using that up first; it’s better to use it before it ends up in landfill than binning it straight away. But if you do run out, how about trying paper tape, which is recyclable and compostable? Another alternative is tying parcels with twine or ribbon (which can be reused).

4. Cut the Cards?

This is my current Christmas dilemma – to send Christmas cards or not? Don’t get me wrong, I love getting Christmas cards and sending them is a great way of keeping in touch with friends and family I don’t see very often. But… I’m also aware of the waste generated by Christmas cards as well as the emissions produced by their production and delivery. Last year, I sent e-cards through dontsendmeacard.com. Through this website you can make a donation to a charity of your choice and send an e-card, saving paper and fuel. What I didn’t realise last year was that you can edit the message in individual cards. Instead I sent a generic card to all my contacts and I felt it lacked the personal touch (this was entirely user error on my part!).

Of course, as my dear father pointed out, emails have a carbon footprint too, so is the answer to not send Christmas cards at all? (My lazy eco-friendly husband’s choice). I think it’s really down to personal preference. If you want to send hardcopy Christmas cards, why not make your own out of last year’s cards or other things you already have? For the less creative (me!), look for recycled, sustainable cards without plastic packaging. This year I will probably do a combination of: i) sending fewer cards – I will wish family friends and colleagues I regularly speak to Merry Christmas in person (or via Zoom/the phone); ii) emailing cards to tech-savvy friends and family further afield; iii) sending a small number of charity Christmas cards to friends, family and neighbours who aren’t on email.

5. Eat, Drink and Be Merry

I love Christmas food. Mince pies, Christmas pudding, turkey and all the trimmings, I even love Brussels sprouts. So, in our house food waste at Christmas is not a problem. My solution? Simply eat your own body weight in food! However, a staggering amount of food gets wasted at Christmas in the UK, up to 7 million tons! A few simple steps can help to reduce your food waste at Christmas.

Firstly, plan ahead of your Christmas shop and write a meal plan. Check your cupboards and use up what you already have. Then make a list of what you need and stick to it. Do you really need three boxes of Quality Street just because they’re on a 3 for 2 offer? Don’t worry about buying extra “just in case”; most supermarkets will still be open over Christmas if you need any last-minute items.

Secondly, get creative with leftovers. My parents are great at this and will live off the Christmas turkey for a week! Turkey sandwiches, turkey curry, turkey soup, turkey pie! Yes, you’ll be sick of Turkey by the end of Christmas, but you won’t need to eat another one for whole year! If you really can’t eat it, can you freeze it? Caroline’s recent post Your Freezer is Your Friend gives lots of information about freezing different types of food. For more ideas, check out the website lovefoodhatewaste.com which has great advice on meal planning, food storage and using leftovers.

The coronavirus pandemic means Christmas 2020 will be very different to previous years. Why not use this as an opportunity to rethink how you would like your Christmas to be and create some new, more mindful traditions?

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