There are plenty of little things you can do this festive season to have a positive impact and make the season less wasteful. By Prudence Wade.
Christmas is a time of excess, and it’s nice to be a bit naughty once a year. However, there’s a dark side to the festive season as well: the sheer amount of waste it creates.
From the mountains of presents, to leftover food chucked in the bin, not to mention the mammoth amounts of throwaway plastic from wrapping paper and crackers, it’s easy to overlook the impact Christmas has on the environment.
“I think we are encouraged to make each Christmas bigger and better than the one before,” says Eilidh Gallagher, eco blogger and author of Green Christmas. “More presents, more decorations, more parties, just more. We all feel the need to keep up thanks to social media, and see so many images of the picture-perfect Christmas that we feel pressure to recreate. It’s hard to take a step back and think about what we really want from Christmas.”
We’ve all been shocked by some of the environmental damage seen on the news this year though, whether it’s wildfires in Australia and California, or temperatures reaching record-breaking heights all over the world. As a result, many of us have been thinking about our personal impact and what we can do better.
This December is a perfect opportunity to be a bit more eco-friendly – but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the trimmings you’re used to. “If everyone made a few swaps or thought more about their gifts, we could reduce the huge amount of waste that is created at Christmas,” says Gallagher.
Here are some easy changes you can make this year, to make the festive season a little bit kinder to the environment…
Make or upcycle gifts
Gallagher’s top piece of advice is to “have a think about what presents you can make this year with foraged ingredients, or ones you already have in your kitchen”. Chances are, this will make for even more personal and touching gifts for your loved ones.
If you really don’t trust yourself to make any presents, Gallagher suggests you “look into sourcing pre-loved gifts, rather than buying new, and try to shop local”. Of course, if you do go out shopping, remember to take reusable bags with you.
For minimal waste, you could even consider gifting your loved ones an experience rather than a physical thing.
Think about your decorations
Christmas isn’t complete without brightly coloured decorations, but many of us fall into the trap of buying new tinsel and baubles every year – and this adds up to a lot of plastic waste, particularly if you throw it all away come 1st January.
Gallagher recommends keeping your decorations, instead of buying them new – meaning you can reuse them every year – and also says: “Bring the outdoors in with freshly cut greenery, like holly or mistletoe.” You could even throw a Christmas party and invite your friends round to create your own wreaths (pandemic restrictions permitting, of course – otherwise, create a ‘remote’ craft group!). All you need is an old metal hanger to repurpose as a circle, and you can get creative with leaves, berries and anything else you can think of.
Don’t buy a new Christmas jumper
For Gallagher, clothing is one of the worst offenders in December. “We are encouraged to buy a new Christmas jumper each year that may only be worn once before being discarded,” she says. “Instead, start looking now for pre-loved Christmas jumpers, customise your own, or swap with family and friends.”
Plan your festive meal properly
Christmas dinner is an opportunity to stuff yourself until you can’t eat any more, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of wildly over-catering. This year, really think about how much everyone is likely to eat, and plan ahead so you’re buying the right amount of food.
If leftovers are inevitable, don’t throw anything away – instead, repurpose your festive veg into Boxing Day bubble and squeak, or shred the rest of the roast turkey and bake it into a delicious post-Christmas pie.
Rethink wrapping paper and gift cards
A remarkable amount of wrapping paper can’t be recycled. If it has glitter in it, is laminated, or can’t be scrunched into a ball, it’s not recyclable. This year, make sure your paper is fully eco-friendly, and instead of throwing it out, you can easily save it to be used again.
According to The Greeting Card Association, nearly 100 million Christmas cards were sold in the UK in 2017. As lovely as cards are, this is an awful lot of waste for something pretty much immediately thrown away. This year, why not swap a physical card for a digital one?
Green Christmas by Eilidh Gallagher is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £10.99 (ebook £7.69). Available now.