☰ How to Have an Eco Christmas

How to Have an Eco Christmas

Posted on: November 22nd 2019

How to Have an Eco Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it can bring with it an enormous environmental toll. Mountains of Christmas presents that aren’t needed or wanted, don’t send a good message to our children about valuing our possessions, and an endless merry-go-round of shopping for gifts for extended family and friends - sometimes just because ‘it’s the done thing’. All this adds up to a huge amount of waste – up to 1 billion cards, 2 million turkeys and 6 million Christmas trees are thrown away each year in the UK.

We’d like to offer a few tips on how to re-think Christmas to lighten the environmental (and perhaps even the financial!) load this year.

The presents:  Do we need so many?

This can be a tough conversation to have with children, but it’s a good one.  Some options:

- Do Secret Santa as a family so each person only receives one gift (at least among the adults!).

- Agree that you will limit presents to four per child in total – something they WANT, something they NEED, something to WEAR and something to READ.  

- What about low-impact gifts, e.g. an experience (a trip to the theatre?) rather than a plastic toy; a gift that is linked to conservation (e.g. adopting an endangered animal through WWF); buying something second hand e.g. clothing (often you can find great children’s clothes in charity shops that looks as good as new – or try online second hand aggregators like Oxfam, Mini Boden Preloved or Sweet Pea Preloved.

- Finally, could you give something homemade?  E.g. homemade jam, biscuits, etc. (Plus food isn’t going to end up in landfill, so it won’t generate waste!)

And if you are giving physical gifts – think about how to wrap them. Most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, and sellotape is yet another single-use plastic. Can you make gift bags or wrapping from old newspapers / magazines and wrap with string or ribbon? The tip here is to reuse, reuse, reuse.  

For corporate gifts, if hampers are your thing, how about a hamper that helps the recipients to be more sustainable – see this one from Planet Organic.

The food!

Christmas dinner is a great example of eating seasonal produce, which reduces air miles and carbon footprint. The one exception is the meat. Your choice of meat can make a big difference because the carbon footprint of beef makes it a major contributor to climate change, so if you can stick to with white meat (or even go veggie), so much the better.

It’s very easy to over-cater at Christmas, particularly when you take into account all the cake, pudding, chocolates and extras that accompany the main event. Wasting food is a no-no, so try to limit the excess and consider whether you really need the cake and the pudding in the first place (better for the waistline too!).

Christmas crackers

When you’re planning your Christmas meal, if you like crackers, how about reusable ones that you fill with your own sweets or gifts?  This cuts down on the plastic that will be left with lying around your house. In the same token, a reusable advent calendar is much nicer than buying a new one each year.

Christmas cards

Virtual cards mean we aren’t wasting so much paper and card (and the cards with glitter on can’t be recycled). Some companies will even plant a tree for every card you send, such as Just One Tree. If you receive cards this year, think about keeping them so you can re-use the picture next year to make home-made cards. 

The tree

The big debate is plastic or real better for the environment! If you have a plastic tree, then the tree you already own is the most sustainable. Plastic trees need to be used for at least 11 years to have less impact than a real tree. But chopping down millions of real trees a year is not a good solution either. If you are desperate for a real tree, then rental may be a good option for you as the tree is delivered in a pot and replanted, such as London Christmas Tree Rental.

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