24 ways to waste not this Christmas

AT this time of year around 30% more waste is generated. This includes over 1 billion Christmas cards which are thrown away each year. It’s estimated by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, that around 50,000 trees are cut down each year to make enough paper to wrap presents. Also, around 12 million tonnes of plastic enter our environment each year, equivalent to a bin lorry load every minute.

By following the simple steps outlined by the Environment Agency below we can ensure that Christmas isn’t wasteful this year.

1. Advent calendar

Invest in a reusable advent calendar and fill it with a variety of gifts. Why not get creative and make your own reusable advent calendar and items to fill it with.

2. Cards

Approximately 1 billion Christmas cards are thrown away every year. It would take the equivalent of 33 million trees to make that amount of card.

Try and buy cards printed on FSC-certified, recycled card and are recyclable. Better still go for the personal touch and make your own from recycled card. Remember just like wrapping paper, cards decorated with glitter or foil, can’t be recycled.

3. Christmas wreath

Wreaths are a beautiful Christmas decoration, but some are eco-friendlier than others. Go for a real, fresh wreath made using seasonal, natural foliage and adornments. Even better, make your own out of natural resources from your garden such as leaves and pinecones.

4. Christmas tree

An artificial Christmas tree needs to be used for approximately 10 years for its’ environmental impact to be lower than a real tree. Trees, woods, and forests are vital for tackling the climate emergency. Buying your real Christmas tree from a certified by Grown in Britain supplier* will ensure the tree you purchase is from a legal and sustainable UK source.

5. Christmas lights

500 tonnes of Christmas lights are discarded every year in the UK. Switch to using LED lights on your Christmas tree – you’ll be using less energy but make sure you switch them off at night!

6. Decorations

Avoid using single use decorations. Why not get crafty and make some homemade decorations instead.

7. Reusable shopping bag

When you are out shopping don’t forget to take your bags for life!

8. Gifts – make and bake

A homemade gift is unique and personnel and not only shows thought but also can be low cost. You could make preserves, jams or knit a pair of socks or scarf!

9. Gifts – toys

Have you thought about buying preloved toys or a toy subscription? How about buying wooden toys over plastic.

10. Gifts – experiences

You could gift a membership to a charity or wildlife trust, helping to support vital environmental work such as the National Trust or Woodland Trust.

11. Gift – eco

Why not give eco-friendly gifts to family and friends.

It could be something like a reusable coffee cup, reusable makeup remover wipes or a solid shampoo bar helping others make sustainable lifestyle choices. 

12. Wrapping presents

Use recyclable wrapping paper where possible. Remember if it’s got foil or glitter on it then it can’t be recycled and could contain plastic.

Or why not use old newspaper to wrap gifts or even recycle last year’s paper.

13. Bows

Instead of adding plastic ribbons to your gifts that will end up in landfill, why not use a more sustainable alternative like a fabric bow that can be kept and re-used on future gifts.

14. Christmas party wear

Every year, an estimated 336,000 tonnes of used clothing is thrown away by people living in the UK. This year, choose the sustainable option and try to refashion clothing that you already own, or visit second-hand shops.

15. Glitz and glam

Did you know that cosmetic and sanitary wipes contribute to 93 per cent of sewer blockages in the UK? Once flushed down the toilet, wipes can get caught in piping and accumulate, congeal with fatbergs. They can litter beaches and even create large, messy mounds along the banks of riverbeds.

If you use make-up wipes this Christmas, remember to never flush them!

16. Christmas Eve box

Invest in a reusable Christmas Eve box that can be used for many years to come, perhaps even becoming a family heirloom! Get creative and make your own reusable box and items to fill it with.

17. Christmas travel

Where possible try and use public transport when visiting family and friends this year. If this is not possible, try and car share. This will help reduce emissions, wear and tear on the vehicle but will also save you money.

18. Candles

If you are using candles this year as part of your festive celebrations, please remember to buy candles made of,

  • soy wax, bees wax, coconut wax or rapeseed wax
  • scented with essential oils
  • cotton, hemp or wooden wicks

All these candles are kinder to the environment as they’re less toxic.

19. Christmas crackers

Unfortunately, most Christmas crackers are often laden with glitter that means they’re not recyclable. They are filled with plastic toys and gifts that are quickly thrown away.

Why not make your own Christmas crackers without the environmental cost. Using FSC-certified, recyclable paper and recyclable paper ties. Filling the cracker with small presents for each person.

There are Christmas crackers available to purchase that use FSC-certified, recycled paper and the items inside are sustainable too.

20. Festive food shopping

Try and buy as many items as possible from local suppliers, such as your meat, fruit, and veg. Buy your vegetables loose where possible, as plastic packaging accounts for nearly 70% of the UK plastic waste.

Plan and be realistic about how much food you need and use up leftovers where possible.

Instead of clingfilm, use reusable containers/covers and wax cloth covers to keep your leftovers fresh.

21. Christmas dinner

When it comes to cooking Christmas dinner and other festive treats, there are some simple yet important ways we can protect the environment.

Pouring leftover cooking fats down the sink can harden in cold pipes. Instead leave to cool, then scrape into the food waste or bin. Don’t feed a festive fatberg this Christmas.

22. Festive drink

We use over 35 million plastic bottles every day, so when you are buying drinks for the festive season, please buy products that can be reused/recycled.

23. Christmas walk

Instead of a Christmas drive or just dropping down in front of the TV why not go out for a Christmas walk?

If you swapped an hour of TV for a walk you could save 170g CO2e.

Being in a green space has been shown to be good for your physical and mental health. Make sure you follow the Countryside Code** which tells you how to get out and enjoy green spaces while respecting wildlife and other people.

24. Unwanted gifts

Approximately £4 billion is spent on unwanted gifts. That is over 60 million unwanted gifts every year!

If you receive a gift that is not something you would use, there are various things you could do rather than throwing it away.

You could donate the item to charity, sell the item or organise a charity sale for unwanted gifts. Remember 1 person’s trash is someone else’s treasure. 

*Grown in Britain supplier: These suppliers have all been assured against our standard, which means you can be guaranteed that their products are from legal and sustainable UK sources in accordance with the UK Government’s Timber Procurement Policy and the UK Forestry Standard. – Grown in Britain – Search our database of GiB UK certified timber suppliers.

**Countryside Code link The Countryside Code

Photo caption: A woman wraps Christmas presents for family and friends in brown paper, rope and natural plant decor.

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