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Christmas might be a time for giving and joy, but with household waste increasing by 30% on average over the festive period, it’s not so generous to the environment.
SO many of the traditions we love, from decorations, to wrapping paper, crackers and cards are treated as disposable. Once the big day is done, they head for landfill and that’s before we’ve even begun to consider the impact of unloved gifts and ‘novelty’ presents that get used once and thrown away.
Then there’s the food; a veritable mountain of sprouts (17.2 million per year according to this piece by PHS Waste Kit) goes in the bin every year. Two million turkeys and six million Christmas trees get chucked and that’s just in the UK.
No matter how you look at it, that level of consumption isn’t sustainable and is quite shocking when you consider that it’s every year. The problem is that Christmas is busy, and challenging, and many of us simply don’t have time to make it harder with lots of ‘Eco-friendly hacks’.
We’ve created our easiest ways to enjoy a zero waste Christmas with convenience in mind, we want it to be convenient and obvious to make the switch to less environmental damage for everyone:
Don’t throw your old Christmas cards away, when cutting them up makes them a lovely way to create bespoke gift tags. Make sure you tie them with natural jute, or recycled string instead of Sellotape and you’re onto a winner!
Often giving a new skill or experience is much nicer, lasting much longer than any gift!
OK, it’s not the sexiest suggestion, but how often have you left it late, and then panic bought your food, sweeping it into the basket? You don’t really need five bags of sprouts, twenty-two parsnips and three bottles of sherry.
Ahead of time, write a list of what you really need, then where possible shop local, so you’re not as tempted to buy more than you need. Most towns also have a zero-waste shop now, where you need to take your own canisters and bags, and good old-fashioned markets are a great option for fresh produce.
If you do happen to end up with more than you need, don’t chuck it! There are so many brilliant recipes for soups, pies and veg online that use up the odds and ends in your cupboard. Start with Jamie Oliver’s Parsnip Soup, it’s a real favourite of ours!
In the case of vegetables, it’s actually remarkably easy to grow your own – this fab guide shows how the bits you usually throw away can be turned into edible veg in even tiny spaces.
The Carbon Trust has found that natural trees create less carbon than artificial trees, but is there any sadder sight than the week after Christmas when they’re all slung into the street?
You can either recycle your tree at nationwide recycling centres or buy a potted tree. To keep your carbon footprint, buy locally grown varieties like Blue Spruce or Nordman.
Each year you pop it back out in its pot and bring it in – they’re usually little to start with but over the years get bigger, so again, check the breed. It’s also much cheaper this way as you never have to buy a new one!
I know the shops are filled with glitter and tinsel, but it’s not recyclable and there’s something so lovely about older decorations.
You can source them from family, through sites like Etsy, and charity shops. You can also make your own over the years.
The idea of a Christmas that ‘looks perfect’ was originally created by Marks and Spencer’s in the late 90s. Nobody needs festive cushions, santa bedlinen and cups shaped like snowmen, but if you do buy them, at least reuse them.
Personally, we’ll take a Christmas of old, with familiarity, colour and durability at its heart, over a colour co-ordinated insta-theme any day.
Glitter and coatings on cards often mean they’re not recyclable. That’s a lot of paper going to waste.
We try to save any lovely wrapping to reuse, either for covering gifts, books or as part of craft projects. For cards, our hand painted, plantable cards are so clever – when you’re done, you plant them and get beautiful flowers! No waste!
So, you got a gift and you don’t like it? Give it to somebody who will! That’s not ingratitude, it’s allowing something not to be wasted for the sake of it.
Same for duplicate gifts.
If you don’t wish to give toiletries to friends, local domestic violence shelters and homeless charities will be delighted to use them. Unused toys can be gifted to hospitals and clothes and books can be re-wrapped and given to a better recipient.
Don’t be cheap – re-wrap your gift (ethically) and make it special, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure so don’t leave them to languish before sending them to landfill.
It’s also a great idea to tell people what you want in advance - having a gift list means far fewer opportunities to get it wrong!
Yes, it is nice to wear something glittery, glamorous and entirely you for Christmas parties, but we often buy things at Christmas that we only wear once. Fast fashion accounts for a huge amount of the world’s landfill and it’s critical that we stop.
So instead, why not hold an old-school style clothing swap with mates? Get them together, grab clothes you don’t wear and switch! New to you is still new!