Genevieve Silk suggests a few ways
to make Christmas a bit greener.
It’s hard to imagine Christmas without the colour green: Christmas trees, holly leaves, Brussels sprouts and festive wreaths. Yet the aftermath of Christmas is anything but. Every year, food is wasted, gifts are discarded, and decorations are thrown away, making Christmas a nightmare for the planet. One solution would be to copy Oliver Cromwell and ban all things fun. Although, I think we can all agree that’s not the solution we’re after! Instead, we can all make a little effort to make our own Christmas a little less wasteful and together achieve a huge result.
Nothing quite gets you in the Christmas spirit like playing some festive tunes and wrapping up a pile of Christmas presents. It’s something of a comedown, however, to learn that 227,000 miles of wrapping paper ends up in landfill ll every year! Fortunately, most wrapping paper is recyclable unless it is shiny, metallic or glittery. A simple way to test this is by scrunching it into a ball; if it stays scrunched up, it should be recyclable. Alternatively, lend your gifts a kooky, quirky look by using the newspapers and magazines you already have lying around the house as wrapping paper. Even better, brown paper is compostable and can be jazzed up with a snazzy ribbon. (Are brown paper packages tied up with strings not a few of our favourite things?) Or for those wishing to take their zero waste Christmas a step further, fabric wrap and ribbons can make the perfect reusable wrapping ‘paper’.
What would Christmas be without the family gathered around the table with eyes as round as saucers as they prepare to dive into the scrumptious feast before them? But how often are our eyes bigger than our stomachs? Roughly four million Christmas dinners are thrown away each year, resulting in 270,000 tons of wasted food. In fact, if all Christmas food waste were turned into energy, it could power a medium-sized house for 57 years! Better to have too much food than not enough, but best of all to have just the right amount. Making a list of the food we need and sticking to it, (as well as checking expiry dates) will go a long way towards reducing our Christmas food waste. Freezing leftovers or rustling up a batch of bubble and squeak will also lead to less food being thrown away. Rather ironically, Christmas is often a time when fervent respect for tradition convinces us to prepare foods we would normally avoid. Many people find turkey rather dry and tasteless and about half the population hates sprouts, which leads to approximately 263,000 turkeys and 17.2 million sprouts being thrown away every year. Who says that certain foods must be eaten at Christmas? Don’t be afraid to turn your nose up at tradition and leave certain foods off your plate.
While we’re on the subject, an article of this nature would not be complete without mentioning that the single biggest way for individuals to shrink their carbon footprint is by reducing consumption of meat and dairy. Why not get creative and challenge yourself to a meatless Christmas?
Tackling climate change isn’t about a few people living a zero-waste lifestyle perfectly, but about all of us living it imperfectly. Individually we can make a few small changes to our lives and together put the green back into Christmas.
Christmas is a period of generosity and gift-giving. But is giving someone a gift they neither need nor want truly an act of generosity? How often have we all eagerly torn open the wrapping paper only to put on a show of false appreciation? And how many times have we given someone a gift more out of convention than because we know they will like it? Every year the UK spends roughly £700 million on unwanted presents that are often either shoved into the back of a wardrobe or simply thrown away.
However, this Christmas you can cut down on waste and support local businesses by shopping local and giving vouchers or gift cards instead. Giving money is often considered impersonal but a voucher shows the recipient that you have taken the time to think about what they would appreciate. Whether that’s a Christmas hamper relaxing beauty or hair treatment, quality food and family time at a local restaurant, or a bottle (or two) of novelty gin, vouchers can provide an ideal ‘experience’ gift. A list of Barrow businesses offering vouchers can be found on the following pages. If you don’t see a business mentioned, ask them if they do vouchers!
Alternatively, whip out some felt-tip pens and scissors and make one yourself (you’ll have to back it up with your money, too, of course!).