I love Christmas. It’s a magical time of year. With parties to enjoy, lighting the tree ceremonies to attend and of course all the shopping and wrapping of gifts. As much as I love to do Christmas in a really big way, over the last few years the amount of waste produced in December has grown more and more of a concern to me and my family.
As you know, I have a passion for being kind to the earth and those on it. I enjoy a plant-based diet and try to live as sustainably as I can, so why does this go a little out the window at this time of year? Surely there are more sustainable ways to enjoy the festive season?
Following this year’s COP26, we are all aware of just how important it is to make every effort we can to be more sustainable – and for many of us that starts at home.
Here are some top tips for making your Christmas more sustainable.
In the UK we use around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year, with over 83km2 of this will end up in bins. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimate that the wrapping paper used each year is enough to wrap the island of Guernsey! You might be thinking to yourself, that’s ok, I put my wrapping paper in the recycling. However, did you know the vast majority of this paper can not be recycled due to having glitter, foils or plastics incorporated into the design? And let’s not forget the 40 million rolls of sticky tape required to secure the wrapping paper.
Recently I have taken to using simple brown recycling paper which I decorate myself with eco-friendly ink and stamps. Alternatively, why not research origami folding techniques to make stunning festive paper embellishments like these 5 pointed stars? Well known companies have started producing plant-based sticky tape which is biodegradable and recyclable which is definitely worth investigating. If you’re not too keen on this idea then why not use Christmas themed fabric to make reusable gift bags? Make sure to save and reuse them each year for a more environmentally friendly gift wrap option.
Christmas Cards & Gift Tags
It’s said that on average, each person in the UK will send and receive 17 Christmas cards. I love receiving cards and displaying them proudly in my house for as long as possible. You might think that cards can surely be recycled but, sadly, like many wrapping papers due to the use of glitter, foil etc the majority can not be recycled meaning they end up in landfills. 1 tree makes 3,000 Christmas cards, roughly enough for 176 people to send cards to their loved ones. Don’t forget about those gift tags too, which are made from similar materials.
If you want to send cards keep an eye out for the Forest Stewardship Council stamp on them which certifies that the paper has been sustainably produced. Alternatively, why not try eco-friendly plantable greetings cards and tags which are made from eco-friendly paper made from post-consumer materials embedded with wildflower, herb or vegetable seeds. Simply rip up your card once you’ve finished admiring it and plant the paper in pots to watch them grow into little plants!
There are many companies that offer products made from recycled materials like AuraPrint who offer personalised Christmas gift tags made with recycled paper. Don’t forget you can always re-use Christmas cards and turn them into next year’s cards, gift tags or even gift boxes!
There are many alternative options if you think you’d like to cut out Christmas cards to reduce your impact. Why not send e-cards? E-cards have come a long way in recent years and you can choose from a huge range of beautifully illustrated designs that don’t result in waste.
Food production is the biggest cause of tropical deforestation. Make sure that your festive spread isn’t over the top, be realistic about how much food you need and put your leftovers to good use. My family tends to live off leftovers from Christmas practically all the way to New Year! There are loads of great leftover recipes out there so there’s no excuse to throw away food at Christmas. If you do end up with a few scraps use your composter or green waste bin!
If you really want to reduce your carbon footprint, try swapping out the turkey for a plant-based option. The livestock industry alone generates nearly 15% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions and requires space and huge amounts of water and feed. It’s far easier to reduce your meat intake today than in previous years. Many big supermarkets have fantastic plant-based festive food ranges to choose from. I usually enjoy the usual veggie trimmings alongside a vegan roast with plant-based pigs in blankets. Yum!
Just like when you’re planning your festive feast, consider your gifts carefully. It’s all too easy to end up with tonnes of packaging and toys that only last a few days. Buying fewer but better-quality gifts reduces the chances of gifts going to waste and can be better for your bank balance too, so think quality and not quantity!
Approximately £42 million of unwanted Christmas presents are thrown out in landfills each year – shocking! Rather than throwing out gifts that you’re not keen on find a charity near you that’s running a donation scheme over Christmas to ensure the less fortunate get gifts. You can always keep items that you don’t fancy yourself and re-gift them to someone else! Just be sure to check out regifting etiquette. Consider seeking second-hand gifts this year, shopping second hand is a more sustainable way of gift-giving. Think vintage clothes, furniture, and refurbished technology.
For an eco-friendly alternative to a physical gift why not offer your friends and family something other than more ‘stuff’? Why not gift an experience instead? From pampering, animal and flying Experiences – give them something to remember rather than something to shove in a cupboard.