Christmas is meant to be the season of giving and goodwill but most of us know that it is also the time of mass consumption and waste.
The statistics are anything but jolly: we waste 30 per cent more during those few days of holidays that at any other time of the year. A staggering 66 per cent of us buy too much food that ends up in the bin – amounting to a shocking 42 million dishes of Christmas food in the UK alone, according to Business Waste.
Ten million turkeys are bought for Christmas Day and yet 263,000 are thrown away after being cooked, along with a mountain of other unwanted, discarded food.
Then there’s all the plastic food wrapping, gift paper, tin foil that was used to cook the turkey, advent calendars and toy packaging adding up to 114 tonnes in 2018 in Britain (the latest figures available.) Multiply that by the global population and we are looking at an environmental disaster each Christmas that certainly shouldn’t be celebrated.
As well as the environmental cost, there’s the financial waste: UK citizens spend a shocking £700 million (AED4each year on unwanted gifts – with only one per cent of gifts still being used six months after Christmas. It costs Britain £26 million to dispose of all the holiday waste while the Christmas carbon footprint accounts for 5.5 per cent of the nation’s annual total. The Christmas feasts alone have the same carbon footprint as one car travelling around the world 6,000 times. Just cooking Brussel sprouts uses enough energy to power a house for three years.
So it’s time for us to start dreaming of a Green Christmas not a wasteful one which we can all do by making some very small changes. Follow our simple and easy eco tips and you can have plenty of festive fun with a green Christmas that won’t cost us the Earth.
Wrap it up
We get through sackfuls of wrapping paper each year, and so few of us recycle. The truly eco method is to upcycle sheets of newspaper, but copies of Sports 360 don’t have the same appeal as The Sunday Times sadly.
The alternative? Wrap up gifts with fabrics and ribbons that can be used again, or choose recycled wrapping paper and make sure you recycle that too.
Pre-loved Festive Clothes
While it’s (very) tempting to hit the shops and get new outfits for every party, fast fashion is one of the biggest threats to the environment. If you need that festive fix of something new, organise a swap night with friends so you get an injection of life into your wardrobe, or have clothes altered, fixed or accessorised so you see them with fresh eyes. Or buy something that’s suitably festive, and from an ethical designer that you can wear again for a true green Christmas.
Simply put, buy less and buy local. Choosing presents that are made regionally cuts down on your carbon footprint, and you’re also supporting small businesses, so check out the many farmers’ and festive markets popping up to track down unique gifts.
Buying internationally? Choose ethical companies. And set a budget in the family – if you’re on the same page about not overspending unnecessarily then everyone won’t be left with piles of unwanted presents that were bought out of politeness. Or buy ethical by treating loved ones (we’ve done gift guides for him and for her to inspire you) to an experience. Of course, you could always make your own gifts for a green Christmas if you’re feeling creative…
’Tis the season to be jolly – but also to entertain more than usual, with endless guests and excessive eating. Whenever possible opt for real plates, cups and cutlery rather than disposable, and – of course – recycle if you do use the paper variety.
When it comes to giving green Christmas cards, try to choose recycled paper, or send an e-card instead, making a donation to a favourite charity with the money you save on postage. Paperless Post has some gorgeous options.
Spoiler alert: you don’t need as much food as you think you do, so put that second supermarket trolley back… Keep a stash of jute bags in your car at all times to avoid plastic and buy local if you can.
If you choose your cheese from France, cranberries from the US and veggies from all over the world, your food will have travelled a long way to your plate, so offset your carbon footprint by planting trees. There are plenty of options online.
Food waste is a huge problem at Christmas, so don’t go crazy, use leftovers, and compost what’s left.