When you look up Christmas waste statistics there are some really shocking numbers. 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper will be thrown out or burnt. 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown out. Six million trees are thrown out after Christmas. Around 4,200 tonnes of aluminium foil gets thrown away every Christmas and 1 billion Christmas cards are likely to end up in the bin after December 25th.
Now, we’re not at all against enjoying the holidays. In fact, we love Christmas! However, surely there must be ways to bring down these shockingly high numbers. Well, we’re here to tell you that yes, there are ways that you can reduce your impact on the Earth this December. Here are 10 things you can do to have a greener Christmas.
1. Wrapping paper
You might think that wrapping paper can easily be popped into the recycling with your other household cardboard or paper however, you might be surprised that the majority of your wrapping paper actually can’t be recycled. This is because many designs include glitter, foil and plastic which may look nice but sadly make it unrecyclable. Instead of dumping it all in the bin why not reuse your discarded gift wrapping? Shred the paper to use as protective packaging around future gifts, or use it as a cleaning cloth for windows and mirrors, to get them streak-free! In fact, there are lots of ways to reuse wrapping paper. There are many tape and paper-free wrapping techniques online to try, or you can try furoshiki, a traditional Japanese method of using cloth to wrap and transport gifts, making for beautiful, unique, and reusable packaging.
2. Christmas Cards & Tags
Just like wrapping paper, sadly the embellishments often used in your Christmas card or tag designs means they are unlikely to be recycled. There are some companies out there like AuraPrint that offer lovely printed Christmas cards using recycled paper which is great as a greener option. Cut out the pattern on your Christmas cards to use as gift tags or decorations for next year. Turn your cards into little gift boxes. Check out seeded cards which have flower, herb or vegetable seeds incorporated into the paper so once the card has been enjoyed you can plant it! Or simply choose not to send physical cards at all but instead opt for an e-card.
3. Buy Local
It may be tempting to head to your favourite online store in order to tick off your Christmas gift list, but instead of ordering items from a distance that is bound to have a high carbon footprint why not hit your local high street instead? Supporting small businesses helps boost a strong, sustainable local economy. They have often put more care and love into their products, too. Not only will you be cutting down your impact on the planet, but you’ll also be supporting independent businesses that need your help more than ever this year.
4. Buy Second Hand
You don’t have to buy brand-new gifts for your loved ones this Christmas. Shopping second-hand is a more sustainable way of gift-giving and (bonus points) will almost always save you money. Think vintage clothes, furniture and even video games! You can find many a great deal on refurbished technology too.
5. Christmas Tree
Six million trees are thrown out after Christmas. That’s a shocking number and the carbon footprint of a tree becomes much bigger if it ends up in landfills, which many of them do. Many council-run tips shred used Christmas trees to make a ground cover that is used in public parks. If you can’t get to the tip with your tree, see if your local council do a collection service. Instead of buying a tree that gets thrown out why not consider renting one instead? Tree rentals have soared in popularity in recent years, and there are many rental companies operating around the country. Some of the companies even let you name the tree and will re-deliver the same one to you every Christmas! Alternatively buy potted Christmas trees, and keep them in your house or garden rather than throwing them out.
6. Choose Gifts that Last
Avoid buying too much stuff that will end up being thrown out or unused. I have three children and you can imagine the vast amount of goods coming and going in our household for birthdays and Christmas. No matter how many ‘gift-buying policies’ we make with family, it’s rare they are followed, so we usually end up having to consider hiring a skip periodically. We have a small drive, plus a campervan and a car on our drive so we can only hire small skips but they are so helpful when you need to shift some of the larger items taking up space. Make sure you choose a reputable skip hire company that will recycle items for you!
Another way I tackle Christmas with three children and lots of family members is to make every gift count by purchasing things with value, purpose and meaning. You need not buy your loved ones ‘stuff’ at all – but opt for an experience such as a spa day, meal out or a trip to the theatre to make memories rather than more ‘stuff’. If you do want to give physical items then buying more durable and long-lasting gifts is more sustainable than buying items that have a short lifespan.
7. Give Handmade Gifts
If you are particularly crafty or talented in the kitchen why not give handmade gifts? Whether you love baking, sewing or painting, why not get creative this season? Best of all, it will enable you to put your own stamp on a gift. Edible gifts are perfect as you’re bound to avoid any waste!
8. Reuse Christmas Decorations
We know that it might be tempting to rush out at the start of December every year to buy some shiny new decorations for your home, but unless your decorations are damaged or broken, do your best to reuse them each year. If you want a new look without the new decorations think outside the box! You could use baubles as table decorations or place names, or you could use string to hang them on door handles. Glass vases filled with old baubles can look really festive without costing the earth.
9. Consider The Menu
The meat and dairy industry is responsible for more emissions than all the world’s planes, trains, cars and boats put together! Why not try something new and have a meat-free Christmas by swapping turkey for a plant-based menu instead? You might be surprised at the extensive plant-based options for Christmas this year. You will find all manner of roasts, wellingtons and bakes available – you’ll even find vegan pigs in blankets! If you’re up to the task browse online recipes and make something delicious yourself. When you’re food shopping, try and choose things that are light on the packaging, or buy loose items. Transforming leftovers can be a great way to create new meals, save money and cut waste.
10. Your Table Setting
Be mindful that many Christmas crackers are not recyclable, and the (let’s face it usually terrible) toys inside are often made of plastic. Look out for Forest Stewardship Council-certified crackers so you can be confident that buying them won’t mean harming the world’s forests. Why not try reusable DIY crackers? You can fill yourself with eco-friendly and personalised festive favours without waste. Avoid single-use tablecloths and napkins. Opt instead for fabric versions that have a longer lifecycle.