Because not everyone has time to make gifts from scratch.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most wasteful. In the UK we create 30% more waste than usual during the festive period. Last year 125,000 tonnes of that was plastic packaging alone, and that’s not taking into account other materials such as paper, card, glass and food.
But the season doesn’t have to be synonymous with waste. The good news is that you can make a major dent in the amount of rubbish you generate with very little extra effort – you just have to make smart choices. Here’s how.
The UK sent 277,000 miles of wrapping paper to landfill after Christmas 2017 – that’s enough to reach 90% of the way to the moon. Fortunately, this figure was considerably down on 2016’s (which saw the UK use enough paper to wrap around the world 22 times!) but there’s still a lot to be done.
Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled because of special coatings and inks, so opt for non-shiny or plain brown paper and add some festive cheer with colourful ribbons or your own designs. Another trick is to use old magazines or car maps that are lying around your home. Better yet, use bright fabrics to wrap your gifts – it’s completely reusable and doubles up as an extra pressie in the form of a scarf or napkin. Fabric.com has a great tutorial on gift wrapping with material.
The average Brit sends 18 greetings cards in the run up to Christmas, which adds up to a mountain of waste destined for the bin. It goes without saying that any cards you receive should be recycled (or reused as gift tags), but it would be a whole lot better if they weren’t used in the first place. In this age of social media and email, it’s just as simple – if not more so – to send a festive greeting over the internet. Take the money that you’d normally spend on cards and postage and donate it to charity instead.
There’s huge debate around the environmental pros and cons of real Christmas trees versus artificial trees. Ultimately, it comes down to what you’re going to do with it after the festive season. More than 250,000 tonnes of trees are thrown away every January – the majority of these have taken around 10 years to grow. Before you opt for a real tree, be absolutely certain you can make sure it’s recycled. Many local authorities now offer tree recycling services, where trees are shredded into chippings used in parks and schools.
If you’re not certain that you’ll be able to recycle your tree, you could be better off choosing an artificial tree – but only if you intend on reusing it for many years. Studies suggest that you need to use an artificial tree for four years before it becomes a better choice in terms of its carbon footprint.
Food waste is a mounting problem year-round, and the Christmas period only exacerbates matters. Last year, Brits threw away two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings, 17 million Brussel sprouts and a whopping 74 million mince pies. Top tip? Only buy what you’re going to eat. It sounds obvious but as a nation we love to ‘stock up for Christmas’ as if the shops will never open again!
Consider how many guests you have coming and make a list of the items you actually need – and then stick to it. Having a clear list will make doing the Christmas shop a lot less stressful, too. And if you do end up with leftovers, use them! Love Food Hate Waste has a great recipe creator that lets you search by ingredient, cooking skill level and even dietary requirement, so there are no excuses!
Christmas gift giving can be a bit of nightmare. How many times have you opted for the packaging-laden toiletry set for a distant relative because you weren’t really sure what else to go for? How many drawers in your house are home to cheap novelty mugs bestowed upon you by well-meaning colleagues? Christmas is responsible for so much waste largely because we feel like we should be buying, wrapping and giving to anyone and everyone.
But before you rush out to join the throngs of shoppers on the high street, or settle down to an evening of mindlessly clicking things into an online shopping basket, take a moment to think about who you’re buying for and why, and consider the following instead.
While it’s true that the festive period is no good for the environment, staying mindful of your waste doesn’t mean putting a stop to celebrations altogether. By making informed choices, planning ahead and reflecting on your beliefs about Christmas consumerism, you can make the very most of the holiday without putting any extra strain on the planet.
We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:
This information is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.
The High Street and sustainability are not always the most obvious pairing. But while searching out the niche sustainable companies is great, it can be time consuming. Fortunately there are companies on the high street working to bring down their carbon footprint, sort out their supply chains, and work towards making every garment ‘green’.
Father’s Day is on 16 June - time to let Dad know he’s loved and appreciated. But this year, why not spoil Dad without spoiling the planet? Here’s our rundown of the best eco gifts for Dads in 2019.
When David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 showed us the harm plastic pollution was causing our oceans, more than two thirds of us said we’d reduce our plastic waste. But how do we go about making real changes?
Sustainable fashion aims to help solve the many ways the fashion industry is damaging the environment. From the pesticides and toxins from producing fibres, to greenhouse gases caused by clothing in landfill, the one thing we can all agree on is that it’s time to change.