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Every year, Christmas places a heavy burden on the earths resources and our environment. However, it is the major festival in Britain, offering lots of fun to millions. We don’t want to be killjoys but we would like to reduce its environmental impact.
Luckily, with a little thought and a bit of information we can significantly reduce its impact, save money and actually have more fun.
On this page you can find out how to reduce the waste you produce over the festive season and recycle what you do produce, as well as how to save energy (from the increased use of all those new electrical appliances) and money and have a very merry green Christmas!
Here’s our top tips for a green Christmas:
1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK residents each year according to Imperial College researchers.
1. Why not send an e-card instead of a paper card this year. This is becoming increasingly popular, with senders sometimes donating the money they have saved on cards and postage to a favourite charity.
2. When Christmas is over don’t just throw your old Christmas Cards away – recycle them. Probably the easiest way is through your kerbside paper collection. If you are feeling particularly crafty you can make them into gift tags for next year. Try to go easy on glitter, cards and paper with glitter on them are difficult to recycle and glitter is a microplastic that has harmful effects on the environment.
3. If you buy a real Christmas Tree make sure you buy it from a sustainable source. For suppliers of UK-grown sustainable Christmas trees check out www.christmastree.org.uk and try to buy it from a local producer.
4. Don’t let your tree be part of the 90% that end up in landfill. When Christmas is over recycle your real tree by cutting it up and putting it in with your green waste kerbside collection. Alternatively, if you are visiting the zoo see if they want it to use in the animal enclosures. Otherwise, you can recycle it at your local Household Recycling Centre.
5. Artificial trees -If you have one already, use it for as many years as possible to make the most of it. If you don’t have one, try Freegle, Freecycle, Ebay or Gumtree for a pre-loved one.
Christmas Dinner and all that food and drink
6. Buy local, seasonal, winter vegetables (these include sprouts, carrots, cabbage, leeks, onions, parsnips, swede, potatoes and nuts such as walnuts and chestnuts). Visit your local Farmers’ Market or Farm shop and pick up some quality local produce to give yourself a treat at Christmas. Find your local market or producer at https://www.bigbarn.co.uk/
7. For those foods where you can’t buy local choose Fairtrade, organic fruit, nuts and chocolate. Visit Fairtrade for a list of Fairtrade products in shops.
8. Buy bottles of wine and champagne with real corks not screw caps or plastic ones. Not a single tree is cut down in their production – just a small part of the bark is removed leaving the tree alive. In fact insisting on real cork helps maintain one of the most environmentally friendly industries possible. It provides essential employment for the people who work in the cork forests of the Mediterranean and helps to maintain vital habitats for the endangered wildlife of these forests such as the Iberian lynx (the last remaing habitat), Spanish Imperial eagle and the Barbary deer, The stoppers also make excellent fire lighters.
9. And now you have got all those corks recycle them through Recorked! We collect corks here at en-form!
10. Buy and cook only what you need. If you do have food left over make sure you compost your vegetable waste such as potato and sprout peelings and dispose of any cooked and meat waste through your food waste kerbside collection.
11. Buy your Brussels sprouts from a farm shop or Farmers Market still on the stalk. They will keep for up to two weeks in a shed or on the patio, saving vital fridge space and cutting down on packaging. Compost your stalk and sprout peelings.
12. Don’t forget our garden birds. Use excess cooking fat from the goose or turkey and muesli to make your own fat balls. While the fat is still warm, spoon into muffin cases; add a hanging string or make sure they fit your bird feeder.
13. Don’t buy useless presents that the recipients don’t want. What about taking them out for a meal, the cinema or buying a season ticket for the local football team or local zoo for a present to remember. Better than another pair of socks.
14. Try and buy environmentally friendly and useful gifts. What about a bike instead of some electronic game that is discarded on boxing day. Or something very useful but unusual for your elderly relatives like cavity wall insulation that makes a real difference to their quality of life.
15. We are all a little time poor these days so why not give a little time instead of money. Use your imagination but what about offering a foot or head massage, makeovers, dinner or the washing up. Why spend if you don’t have to? Free Christmas Gift Cheques are a lovely way of making your time the thing that counts.
16. Follow the four gift rule. This is a trend which has become more popular on social media in recent years. Parents pledge to give their children just four presents: Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.
17. Give all your unwanted presents along with old clothes, toys etc that may have been replaced to local charity shops or on Freegle freecycle or sell them on ebay or Gumtree
18. Re-gifting’ is OK. There’s much discussion these days about the etiquette behind the trend to ‘re-gift’, that is, to pass on a gift you received but do not need. What’s to discuss? Re-gifting makes perfect sense. If you receive something you really don’t need, look for ways you can reuse this gift by passing it on to someone who can use it. Of course, re-gifting needs to be done with care so as not to offend the original giver, but keeping a gift you don’t need is wasteful.
Recycle all your Christmas waste
19. At Christmas thousands of extra drink cans and bottles are produced. Don’t just throw them away. Make sure you recycle all your glass bottles, cans, aluminium foil, paper and cardboard through your kerbside collection scheme or recycling banks. If you use the recycling banks please remember they are normally overflowing during the festive period so it would be helpful if you could spread your visit to the banks over a longer period.
20. Save your old Stamps – It won’t be long before Christmas cards start arriving through the post. This year tear off the old stamp and give it to charity. Many charities, schools, churches and clubs save old stamps which they sell for money. You can hand them in at many of the towns charity shops.
Save Energy at Christmas
Christmas is a time of particularly high energy consumption. The whole house is heated as extra family members return for the holidays. Lights, televisions and stereos are left on and cooking appliances are used more heavily. Not to mention the energy needed to power all those electric gadgets bought as presents. Being careful with your energy usage at this time of year can save your household a considerable amount of money. Visit the Energy section to find out how to save energy at home.
21. Many gadgets bought for Christmas require batteries, which cost money and need to be disposed of. Try to buy things that don’t need batteries but can be run from the mains or are rechargeable. If you have to buy batteries make sure they are rechargeable ones, preferably Nimh – they .last a lot longer and save you money into the bargain.
22. And when you have had to use batteries make sure you recycle them when they no longer work. Most shops and supermarkets have recycling points these days.
23. You could also purchase gifts that use renewable energy, for example solar powered (or wind up) radio’s and torches and mobile phone chargers.
24. Use LED lights for house and Christmas tree lighting – LED (Light Emitting Diode) christmas lights use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors. LED christmas lights use .04 watts per bulb, 10 times less than mini bulbs and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Not only will this save you money but as an added bonus, if one of the LED lights burns out the rest of the strand will stay lit.
25. Instead of energy-intensive computer games, have fun with board games or old-fashioned parlour games like Macavity’s Cat, charades or Moriarty – our family favourite which consists of blindfolded adversaries trying to whack each other with rolled up newspapers. Search for games on www.vam.ac.uk/moc.