Carbon’s Christmas tips: Do your bit for the environment
With Christmas nearly upon us, it’s very easy to get caught up in the indulgence of the season. So while munching on that 6th mince pie, and knocking back your 3rd mug of mulled wine, it is essential to remember that it’s not just your bank balance paying the price for our festive fun, the Christmas period also comes at a huge cost for the environment.
Each Christmas in the UK, we collectively throw away 226,800 miles of wrapping paper, 125,000 tonnes of plastic wrapping and 10 million items of turkey packaging (and that’s just the beginning). Along with having a hugely negative impact on the environment, our wallets also feel the strain with the potential taxpayer’s bill for the disposal of all Christmas waste set to reach £168 million.
Whilst this seems like an overwhelming issue to tackle, there are lots of little things you can do to help limit the negative effects. Here are Carbon’s top tips for a more eco-friendly Christmas.
1. Christmas Trees
Each year Britons decorate and throw away 6-8 million real Christmas trees during the festive season, producing an estimated 160,000 tonnes of extra waste to go to landfill sites (theguardian.com). So what can we do to reduce this harmful practice?
The debate: Artificial or real?
It is often argued that artificial trees are the more eco friendly option when it comes to decorating your home during the festive season. However a study by Ellipsos in 2009 found that taking into consideration all contributing factors, including green house gas emissions, use of resources, transportation etc., then an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree once a year (www.telegraph.co.uk 2014).
What can you do?
Go local and from a sustainable source, and of course make sure you recycle it in January. Many local councils offer a tree recycling service which means there’s no excuse for that beautiful tree sat in your living room to end up rotting in a landfill site, releasing a steady stream of methane into the atmosphere as it decomposes.
Simply check your local council’s website to find out how best to dispose of your tree.
2. Wrapping paper
According to Recycle Now, each year 50,000 trees are cut down to produce 8,000 tonnes of Christmas wrapping paper. Whilst we’re not suggesting you present your loved ones with unwrapped gifts (a sure way to ruin any surprise), there are ways to make your consumption of wrapping paper more eco-friendly.
What can you do?
1. Choose recycled paper- The phrase ‘recycled paper’ often conjures images of rough brown paper with little aesthetic appeal. However this is just not the case. There are a great variety of pretty festive papers out there which are produced using recycled paper and printed with environmentally friendly inks. Notonthehighstreet.com has a particularly great selection including this pretty festive print.
2. Recycle your paper- Most councils will now accept wrapping paper in your blue bin, but if your council does not, then look for a local event where you can take all your discarded wrapping paper to one collection point.
3. Christmas cards
The original festive token, each Christmas in the UK we send an average 1.7bn Christmas cards- that’s right BILLION!
What can you do?
1. Reduce- Mix it up a bit and rather than just sending physical cards, why not send an e-card this year instead? The perfect option for all those that missed the last post at the weekend, lots of charities offer great digital cards and our friends at the Christie and Mind have some lovely e-cards available here: https://www.christiecards.org/ and http://ecards.mind.org.uk/
2. Reuse- A great way of both reducing your waste and saving money is to create homemade gift tags using your old Christmas cards ready for next year’s presents. Pintrest is a great place for inspiration for DIY projects like this, so if you want to get your creative juices flowing then why not give this cost effective activity a go.
3. Recycle: With 1.7bn cards being sent each Christmas, we just cannot afford to be lazy about recycling. Marks and Spencer are currently working in partnership with the Woodland trust on a great project which means for every 1000 cards recycled, Marks and Spencer will plant a tree in the UK. So come January, do something positive and get your cards down to your nearest M&S store.
4. The food
According to IGD, spending on Christmas food and drink this year is set to be worth a massive £20bn, yet according to the government’s waste reduction advisory board, each year we throw out the equivalent of 2m turkeys, 5m Christmas puddings and 74m mince pie. With 1 in 5 people in the UK currently living below our official poverty line, food waste figures as high as this are unacceptable. There are many ways to be economical with your festive food consumption so don’t be one of the people adding to these ever increasing numbers.
What can you do?
1. Plan ahead- The best way to reduce your waste is to properly plan ahead for your Christmas meals. Panic shopping for all your ingredients on Christmas eve is never going to end well.
2. Make use of any leftovers- There are lots of great recipes out there for transforming those leftovers into something delicious.
Turkey: This Christmas, a whopping 10 million turkeys will be sold in the UK, weighing a massive 55,000 tonnes (Recycle Now 2014). If turkey sandwiches just don’t do it for you then there’s plenty of other recipes out there. This year I plan to use any Christmas day left overs in Nigel Slater’s creamy turkey lasagne recipe from his book ‘Eat’, but this turkey leek and ham pie from Angela Hartnett also looks delicious.
The veg: For any left over veg I intend to make quick and easy, cheesy bubble and squeak patties, but there are so many recipes available to us now that it’s just a case of typing in the ingredients you have left over and seeing what tickles your fancy.
So with so many easy ways to reduce your waste this Christmas, there really is no excuse not to do your bit.
Merry Christmas everyone!