'Tis the season for a sustainable Christmas
Last updated: 25/11/2022
Easy swaps to reduce your impact on the environment
Are you dreaming of a green Christmas? Unlike the ones you used to know, where there was so much waste and over-consumption, and sustainability was as rare as the snow.
If so, here are some simple changes you can make to have a more environmentally-friendly and less wasteful Christmas
Gift wrapping paper can’t typically be recycled because it is often laminated with plastic, foil or other non-paper materials.
But you can buy rolls made from recycled paper and printed with water-based inks to reduce toxins to the environment.
Or you could take inspiration from Asia, and try adopting furoshiki, the Japanese art of fabric wrapping, using materials that can be re-used.
It’s easy to imagine a time when the tradition of sending physical greeting cards becomes a ghost of Christmas past.
But for now, you may still feel compelled to send some to friends and family. If so, find a set of Christmas cards that come without glitter or foil which can be more easily recycled.
Each Christmas in the UK, a shocking 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings, and 74 million mince pies get binned, even though they’re still edible. This contributes to almost 270,000 tons of total festive food waste.
But there is so much you can do with Christmas leftovers. What’s not to love about leftover roast potato, turkey and stuffing pie or a pigs in blankets traybake? Or a Christmas pudding strudel or tiffin made from leftover chocolate? The options are endless.
Besides, you don’t need to eat them all in one go; provided you’ve made space in your freezer, much of it can be frozen and gradually used up.
To avoid having too much leftover in the first place, take more time to only buy what you need. This portion planner helps you to do exactly that.
Hitting the shops and stocking up on pressies is a tradition many people would be reluctant to sacrifice. But even sustainability-minded shoppers can still hit the high street - just make sure you do so locally.
By purchasing from local shops and markets this Christmas, you’ll be more sustainable and will also support your local community and economy.
Rather than buying new advent calendars every year, to save waste (and some pennies as well, in the long run), consider investing in a reusable advent calendar. Then you can fill it up each year with items of your choice - perhaps even homemade goodies like truffles.
Christmas jumpers are often made from plastic. In 2019, a charity analysed the materials used in 108 Christmas jumpers and found that 95% of them were made completely or partly of plastic materials.
So, you could boycott Christmas jumpers altogether. Or, if you want to avoid accusations of Bah, Humbug! Then how about buying a used one and giving it a second life. Websites like Beyond Retro often have the most impressive (and cheesy) collections. Or you might be able to pick one up even cheaper in your local charity shop.
Reduce food miles by buying British. One simple way to do that is by including more traditional UK veg in your Christmas dinner.
Also, much as it might be hard to swallow for committed carnivores, avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to scientists.
Cutting back on meat can be hard if it’s a regular part of your diet. If so, instead of going cold turkey, try taking things slowly: you could, for example, gradually increase the amount of veg you use when you make dishes like lasagne or a casserole, reducing how much meat goes into them and swapping in some lentils for added protein and texture instead. On the big day itself, you could forego a turkey - with all the waste that often entails - and opt for chicken. It's cheaper and you’re less likely to end up with tonnes of leftovers.
Real Christmas trees are generally better for the environment, although you might not think it.
If you can buy an artificial one that’s built to last, and eke it out for nine Christmases, then it will likely have a lesser impact on the environment than natural alternatives.
That’s a long time though. So, it may be time to embrace the lovely aroma (and occasional pesky dropped needle) that comes with a real tree. You could even take it to the next level if you have a garden and buy a potted real tree, that will grow with you and your family. When Christmas is over, you can pop it back outside for next year.