Christmas can be a really wasteful time of year, and if you are trying to live more sustainably it can be really hard to negotiate. But we've come up with some tips to help you reduce what you produce this season.
1. Christmas Tree & decorations
There are many options for Christmas trees: a real Christmas tree, a living tree, an artificial tree or even a tree you construct yourself. You can also use an existing plant in your house and decorate them with lights and ornaments. How about a Christmas Cactus or a Festive Ficus?!. If you need new decorations, think about supporting local makers and artisans. Local artist Kate Brigden makes beautiful ceramic ornaments, while sustainable designer Emily from Zola Amour makes material decorations (pictured) from off cuts which would otherwise go to waste. If DIY is your thing, you can dry orange pieces in the oven to make garlands, use old Christmas cards and gift bags to create a paper wreath or collect pine cones to make into ornaments for your tree.
It is so easy to get swept up in the excitement of Christmas and feel the pressure to buy-buy-buy. But before you do, stop and think about the people you are buying for. What would they really like? What is most useful or most meaningful? For a lot of us, we live in a world of abundance and often complain about the burden of too much stuff. Some perfect gift ideas include experiences rather than things, a low or zero waste swap for an item you know someone uses (for example, a safety razor instead of plastic disposables), gift cards, donations made on someone’s behalf, gifts you can pass on when you’re finished with them (like books) or something edible or homemade, like biscuits or bath salts.
3. Gift Wrapping
Much of the paper that we use in the UK is actually not recyclable. Last year 60% of UK public incorrectly recycled shiny, metallic or glittery paper. This year, why not make the shift to more environmentally friendly ways of wrapping your gifts. There are many options including brown paper, material or reusing newspaper or the wrapping from your Who Gives a Crap toilet rolls. If you do get given gifts wrapped in un-recyclable paper, remember you can reuse the paper next year! Rather than using plastic cello tape why not use paper tape, ribbon or string to fasten your wrapping or try out the Japanese art of wrapping using cloth: Furoshiki.
Christmas is a time of indulgence! But it doesn’t have to be a time of waste. Plan your meals ahead of time based on how many guests you expect, and have a think about what meals you could make using left over food or ingredients. When it comes time to shop, try to stay local and where possible buy from bulk food shops or farmers markets to reduce packaging. Local farms, such as Barcombe offer a Christmas Veg Box delivery a few days before Christmas and also a ‘Holdover’ box to keep you stocked up on local, seasonal, plastic free veg while all the shops are closed.
5. Cleaning Up After Christmas
There will be at least some waste after the festive period, so remember to deal with your waste responsibly. Have a quick think about the following things now, so that you know what to do when the time comes. Where possible, compost your food scraps. Make sure you check what your local council accepts in their kerbside recycling and for other items find out whether they can be taken to your local recycling depot. Wash glass jars and sort your recycling so that it is ready to be processed. Find out where you can drop your Christmas tree for it to be mulched. For any unwanted gifts, donate or re-gift them. Unopened non-perishable food and hygiene products are graciously accepted at homeless shelters and hygiene and food banks. Fold and store paper, ribbons, string, gift tags and cards ready for next year’s low waste Christmas.
This is a guest post by Grace Stewart.
Grace is a sustainability blogger, baker, mum and nature lover. You can follow her on Instagram @plasticfreegrace