How To Have Yourself A Guilt-Free, Green Christmas

The festive season is always the perfect excuse for excess. Between all the mince pies, Christmas drinks, gifts and tinsel, it’s not only the most wonderful time of the year but the most wasteful, too. UK households generate 30% more waste over the Christmas period, and last year Brits binned the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper and 54 million plates of food. According to a survey by sustainable packaging initiative Beyond the Box, 60% admit they don’t know what can and can’t be recycled at Christmas time.

As this is a busy and stressful period for many, hopping from one party to the next and running around for last minute gifts, it’s understandable that you might not have time to research the most sustainable options available. Fifty-three percent of Brits admit that it’s sometimes easier to throw things in the bin rather than work out whether they can be recycled. Luckily, we’ve done the work for you. If you’re dreaming of a white green Christmas, read on for our top five eco-friendly festive tips.

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It’s the annual Christmas debate: should you buy a real tree or a fake one? While it’s true that using the same artificial tree every year doesn’t produce more waste, many are made of PVC, which isn’t widely recycled and will likely end up in landfill. Most fake trees are also produced in countries like China and Taiwan, where environmental regulations aren’t as strict, and shipping across the world contributes to a huge carbon footprint. If real trees aren’t your cup of tea, opt for less traditional ones made of sustainable materials like wood.Choosing a real tree will limit plastic waste and since they’re grown in special tree farms, cutting them down doesn’t contribute to deforestation. Many local councils will collect your tree after Christmas and drop it off at a recycling centre where it can be chipped for pathways or turned into soil or compost – check to see if yours offers this service.If you want to go the extra mile, you can rent a potted tree through schemes like Forever Green Christmas Trees and Love A Christmas Tree – simply arrange delivery and return the tree without any decorations when Christmas is over. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, you could buy a potted tree and avoid having to go through this whole palaver each year.
Research by price comparison site estimates that Brits waste £5 billion on unwanted Christmas gifts over the holiday season. Generosity is a wonderful trait but this year, try being a little more mindful with your gift-giving and ask yourself if you really need to buy a present for your second cousin’s new girlfriend.Another way to cut back on unnecessary gifts is to do Secret Santa, not just in the office but among friends and family as well. Adopting a quality-not-quantity approach to presents could significantly reduce waste (and your overdraft). When shopping, opt for conscious consumerism. Stick to cruelty-free beauty and sustainable fashion brands, go for upcycled vintage like Mary Benson x Gemma Cairney berets, or buy products that help cut back on waste, like THINX period pants.
A lot of festive wrapping paper isn’t recyclable due to the use of plastic, dyes and glitter. If you’re unsure how to dispose of your wrapping, try the ‘scrunch test’: Simply scrunch a piece of the paper in your hand – if it remains scrunched, it is paper-based and can be recycled; if it springs back, it likely contains metallised plastic film and is non-recyclable. Wrapping made from recycled materials is easy to find (your local post office will probably stock recycled brown paper and it’s cheap as chips), and instead of using sticky tape go for twine or paper tape, both of which can be recycled.Better still, try going without wrapping paper altogether or, if you’re giving someone multiple gifts, wrap them in a bundle rather than individually. Another option is to tie presents up in natural materials like cotton, hemp or silk, in keeping with the Japanese tradition of furoshiki – wrapping an item in a reusable piece of fabric. High street fave Lush sells knot wraps for this exact purpose, and they’re so beautiful they have the added benefit of being an extra gift.If you’re trying to save money – and let’s be honest, who isn’t – then get thrifty and upcycle brown paper bags from your last takeaway by tying some ribbon around them and turning them into minimal gift bags. Just make sure there are no grease stains…
Christmas is a gloriously indulgent time, but while food is one of the best parts of the holiday season, it’s also the cause of a huge amount of waste. According to Unilever, the UK threw out the equivalent of 4.2 million Christmas dinners last year, which amounts to £64 million worth of food.The easiest way to cut back on food waste is to avoid buying more than you need by planning your meals (especially if you’re hosting a dinner or party), and try to buy loose food that doesn’t come in plastic packaging. Shopping at your neighbourhood grocer or market is also a great way to support your local economy and reduce your carbon footprint, so keep an eye out for farmers’ markets near you. If you’re willing to part with tradition and ditch the turkey and pigs in blankets, try opting for more veggie and vegan dishes. Should that be too much of a sacrifice, stick to local, free-range and organic meat wherever possible.
Fairy lights and baubles scream Christmas, but all those pretty decorations aren’t great for the planet. LED lights with timers are a great way to save energy, as is remembering to turn off fairy lights during the day and while you’re out of the house. Figures show that 189 million batteries are used over the festive period, so use rechargeable batteries where you can, and remember to recycle disposable ones.As for decorations? Instead of festooning your flat with plastic knick-knacks and tinsel, go for decorations made from glass, wood, burlap or organic cotton (if you’re creatively inclined, why not try some DIY?). Nature is the best source for decor inspo, and things like pine cones, holly and cinnamon sticks make for a very atmospheric and fragrant room.Speaking of fragrance, most candles contain paraffin wax made from petroleum, which are no good for the environment – or your health, for that matter. Candles made from soy or beeswax are smoke-free and biodegradable.

Source: Refinery 29 UK

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