With the Christmas season approaching it’s worth thinking about how we can make it a more ethical, sustainable Christmas. Whilst for some it’s a religious festival, for others, it’s a chance to spend some much needed time with families. However, for most of us, it’s also a time of excess and waste. For example in the UK we will use roughly 40 million rolls of sticky tape, we will also throw away an equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper, 54 million platefuls of food and almost 100 million bin bags of packaging from toys and other presents according to research by onepoll.com. It is also estimated that there are one billion Christmas cards and between 6 and 8 million real Christmas trees sold.
Put all this together and it adds up to a huge amount of waste, a lot of it potentially unnecessary. So maybe if we can each tackle one or more of these issues individually collectively we can make it a more ethical, sustainable Christmas.
Sticky Tape is not only non-recyclable, any residue on otherwise recyclable materials is very difficult to remove and may mean those materials become unrecyclable. One option is to use paper tape instead of plastic tape it might be more visible however when combined with paper wrapping paper and possible some ribbon or twine it can look very sophisticated and stylish. You can purchase these from the likes of Eco-Craft and Eco Vibe.
A large portion of the 108 million rolls of wrapping paper used in the UK at Christmas is non-recyclable. Any paper with glitter, foil or texture is generally not able to be recycled. It is, therefore, definitely worth checking that the wrapping paper you buy can be recycled. Another option is to pair brown paper tape with plain brown wrapping paper and then add some embellishments. This can also make the wrapping more personal.
The obvious solution to the massive amount of food wasted is to buy less. However, in reality, this is not always possible. With large family gatherings, it is very difficult to work out the exact amount of food required and it seems better to err on the side of caution and buy plenty. However, if you do have leftovers then there are other ways to deal with them than throwing them in the bin. If you have random food leftover and are unsure what to do with then a website such as Lovefoodhatewaste.com can help. It provides a comprehensive list of recipes and food ideas using leftovers. After Christmas, it is also likely that you want a few less calorific days and even the thought of leftovers is too much. In that case, a lot of food is freezable and can be stored until you get your appetite back for it.
One way to reduce packaging is to buy less presents, however, that is understandably often not realistic. What you can do is try and buy products that either have less packaging or where the packaging is recyclable. Another option is to purchase ethically sourced and packaged gifts from ethical online stores such as Natural Collection or Plastics Free. Another option is to give memories or experiences like a meal out, theme park visit or spa day Red Letter Days and Virgin Experience Days are two of the most well-known companies in this space. For children, an amazing gift could be the gift of cooking. Little Cooks Co is a home delivery food box company that is aimed at children from 3-10 providing amazing recipes for them to cook at home. For a list of ethical brands, you can also check out our brands’ page here.
With regards to Christmas cards, it is worth considering if it’s really necessary to send and give Christmas cards to everyone if we all sent just a few less it would really help. Another option is to post a digital Christmas message perhaps on social media or via a digital Christmas Card. You can then let those people know that the money saved you will be donating to charity. This way they still get your Christmas wishes and there is a benefit to the environment and your chosen charity. If you really feel like you have to send physical Christmas cards then it would be great to support a charity when you buy cards for charity has a comprehensive selection of Christmas cards that benefit different charities. It is also best to avoid cards with Glitter or embellishments as this makes it difficult or impossible to recycle.
Real or Fake that is a difficult question. On the one hand, we have a real tree that is used for a few weeks then destroyed, on the other hand, we have a fake tree that can be used for years, but is made from plastic which is nigh on impossible to recycle. I guess it’s a very personal choice. If you plan on using a fake tree for years to come then it could be environmentally the best solution. However, if you’re only going to use it for a few years then real would be best. If you do buy a real tree then try and get it sourced as locally as possible to reduce the carbon footprint and where possible have it recycled by the local council. Trees that go into and fill end up releasing a huge amount of CO2 emissions as they rot slowly. The best solution, if you have space would be to buy a potted Christmas tree that can go in the garden after Christmas and can then be reused year after year.
As you can see although Christmas is usually a great time of the year for spending time with family it is also a bad time of the year for the environment. However, if we all do a little bit then together we can make it a more ethical, sustainable Christmas. I would also love your suggestion to make it a more ethical, sustainable Christmas for me.