Christmas is fast approaching; think Christmas trees, Christmas carols and plenty of mince pies. But Christmas does have a darker side; wasted food, unnecessary packaging and unwanted gifts all bring with them major environmental tolls. Read on to learn some simple steps that you can take this year to help combat your waste.
Over Christmas 74 million mince pies and 4.2 million plates of turkey and trimmings are discarded. Shocking? Yes, but even worse is the fact that one in three people throw away their turkey before it even reaches the Christmas table, largely due to a lack of confidence on how to avoid undercooking this bird. Most of this avoidable waste occurs simply due to over-catering and poor prior planning – making a list before you shop is a simple yet effective way to help cut down these figures. If you do over-cater, make sure that you either distribute your leftovers to friends or family, or turn them into something delicious. Stuck for ideas? Get some inspiration here:
Christmas trees, although seemingly an innocent festive tradition, produce 250 tonnes of waste every year, most of which is sent to landfill. But before you make the switch to artificial trees, it is important to realise that these must be used for more than 10 years to be able to champion a lower carbon footprint than real trees. The best way forward? Do your research and check whether your local council offers a tree recycling scheme, whereby trees are shredded and turned into wood chippings and compost to be used in parks and gardens. Find out if your council offers tree recycling scheme. If this service isn’t available to you, why not consider planting the tree in your garden for re-use next year? Or look into the work of the charity Just Helping, who run a Christmas tree collection service across England and Wales. If you have an artificial tree you no longer want, donate it to a charity shop or voluntary organisation rather than disposing of it.
Plastic and packaging often makes headlines, but the scale of this problem is only amplified over Christmas. On average 4,500 tonnes of foil, 13,350 tonnes of glass, and enough wrapping paper to stretch around the equator 9 times is consumed. The amount of card used could cover Big Ben 260,000 times, enough, if recycled effectively, to save the same amount of energy as that used to light 340 Blackpool illuminations. Recycling is an effective method of reducing your Christmas impact; if all of the 13,350 tonnes of glass disposed of in landfill over this period was instead recycled, 4,200 tonnes of CO2 could be saved. This would have the same environmental effect as removing 1,300 cars from the road.
However, the mantra reduce, reuse and recycle is important here; the first action you should take, over recycling, is a reduction in the amount of waste you are producing. It’s not difficult; commit to using fabric napkins instead of disposable ones, and purchase Christmas crackers that use recyclable materials. Both John Lewis and Waitrose have committed to using no plastic and glitter in their crackers this Christmas. Get creative in your wrapping as well; re-use newspapers or magazines as well as no longer used scarves, pillow cases or tea towels. There are also a number of companies that produce environmentally friendly wrapping paper; Re-Wrapped is a London-based company using 100% recycled and unbleached paper and card, as well as vegetable based inks.
When recycling is the only option, ensure that you are well educated. The scrunch test works well for wrapping paper; if the paper maintains its shape when scrunched it can be recycled, if it springs back it cannot. Remember to remove plastic and glitter from greeting cards before you recycle them, as well as ribbons and sticky tape from wrapping paper.
Lastly, instead of buying friends and family gifts that they probably don’t need, each of which comes with its fair share of plastic and packaging, why not treat them to a day trip, meal out, or short course to learn a new skill, such as cookery or pottery? And if you receive a gift that you don’t want, rather than stashing it away or, even worse, throwing it out, re-gift it to a charity shop where someone will appreciate it.