At the risk of sounding like a Debbie Downer, Christmas is one of the most wasteful times of the year. According to Unilever, in 2014 we threw away 4.2 million Christmas dinners across the UK. This is the equivalent of 263,000 turkeys; 7.5 million mince pies; 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding; 17.2 million Brussels sprouts; 11.9 million carrots and 11.3 million roast potatoes. And that's not including wrapping paper, decorations and even presents that also wind up in the bin.
But don’t worry, our solution is not to forgo the festivities, or scrimp on the trimmings, but rather suggest a few easy ways that you can have a more sustainable yuletide celebration.
This one is a little controversial because nothing will ever be quite the same as a real christmas tree. But, indulge us for a moment....In the UK, 8 million Christmas trees were used last year and most of them ended up in landfill come January.
Shocking, right? But before you head to Amazon to buy a fake tree, think again! Natural trees use 10 times less basic materials to produce & five times less energy. Their CO2 emission is four times lower and all waste is reusable. Dr. Patrick Moore, founder of Greenpeace said "Artificial trees are made from non-renewable plastics and petroleum-based products. Although some people claim that these trees last a lifetime, most are thrown away within nine years – and remain in landfill sites for centuries.”
There are lots of alternatives to a real or fake tree which are just as festive. If you feel like getting creative, then check out this article for some crafty inspiration…we’re big fans of the chalkboard option...
If you are going to buy a real tree, look for a sustainable supplier like Pines & Needles and one listed on the Forest Stewardship Council. Try and keep it as local as possible by finding your local tree farms or by using the postcode search online at The British Christmas Tree Growers Association.
You could even rent a real tree, which is a hassle-free and eco-friendly option.
After Christmas, check with your local garden centre or council about recycling it (make sure you remove the decorations before!)
2. Wrap it up
Guess how much wrapping paper we use in the UK? Wait for it….wait for it…..enough to circle the equator NINE TIMES. How’s that for a stat?! And the bonkers thing is that most of the time you can’t even recycle the bally stuff.
- Make your own gift wrap using old maps, music sheets, magazine pages. It’s a nice, personal way of giving your prezzie.
- Use a gift bag that can be reused.
- This one’s a bit ‘out there’ but cloth wrapping is BIG in Japan so it must be great. Furokishi is the name of the game and it’s basically a bit like origami but instead of folding paper, you’re saving paper!
- If, even after all our great suggestions, you still insist on wrapping them using gift wrap, just try to avoid metallic or plastic coated wrapping paper and go for one made from recycled paper or one that can be recycled after.
3. Shop smart
Christmas shopping is a bit of a minefield, but there are some amazing companies that make great things whilst doing good at the same time.
- Here’s a good list of social enterprises to get you started
- If you're in London in December, why not pop down to the This Because pop-up in soho to discover some great, ethical brands (including yours truly ;) )
- Choose sustainable booze where possible - Toast ale is a great company making great-tasting beer from surplus bread.
- Don’t forget some of the best gifts are experiences, such as beauty treatments, tickets to a show or a fun class or workshop.
4. Love your Leftovers
Christmas can be full of surprises, but one thing you can guarantee is that despite your efforts to prepare the right amount of food, you will almost certainly over-cater and be left with a mountain of leftovers. We’ll be posting some great recipe ideas for your leftovers over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, check out www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for some ideas.