Christmas is a time of excess for most, and a time for relaxing and enjoying ourselves – but by taking a few little steps, or making a few little changes, we can reduce our impact upon the planet and be just that bit more environmentally friendly.
Would you consider wrapping your gifts in brown paper and ribbon? This can look very effective – the paper can be easily recycled, in fact it probably came from recycled material itself, and the ribbon can be reused.
Of course, not everyone will be using brown paper and ribbon, so you will undoubtedly get a range of papers coming in to your house. Please recycle all paper that can be recycled but remember that lots of Christmas paper cannot be recycled – anything with glitter or foil must go in your normal bin and head for landfill.
Again Christmas cards with glitter or foil cannot be recycled … but … why not cut out the images and use them for tags next year? Alternatively – if you have cards that cannot be recycled, tear them in half. Put the back half in the recycling and only send the pretty (but contaminated) front half to landfill.
Almost all Christmas gifts come in packaging – some excessively so. Make sure that you separate the packaging and recycle what can be recycled, such as rigid plastics, cardboard, paper, etc, but do not put non-recyclables in the recycling bin. Anything that cannot be recycled and is put in the recycling bin is classed as a contaminate and can ruin a whole load of otherwise good materials. Do not put plastic bags, cable twist ties, foiled materials, etc in the recycling bin. Unfortunately they need to head for landfill. More details can be found here https://www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/christmas-decorations-and-packaging
The Gift of Re-use
If you get presents this year which are to replace something that you already own, please consider gifting the older version to charity (as long as it works or is still in a useable condition). If you receive a new item of clothing because the old one has seen its life out, give it a quick clean and take it to your charity shop labelled “rag”. Charity shops get paid a small amount per tonne of rag, so it benefits them, but it also stops the perfectly useable fabric going to landfill. Find a shop here: https://www.charityretail.org.uk/find-a-charity-shop/
There is a tendency to over-egg Christmas food – buying a turkey that will feed everyone around the table twice, or three bags of carrots when one will do etc. etc. If you find yourself with leftovers, make sure that you use them or freeze them. Wasting food is not just about the food itself, but also the planetary resources that have gone in to growing them, making them and delivering them to your home. For some leftover recipe ideas, head to https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/leftovers
Cling film is easy to use but it is a single use plastic (Collins Oxford Dictionary has chosen ‘single-use’ as its word of 2018 https://www.collinsdictionary.com/woty ) which means that after it has covered your food it will end up in landfill or in the oceans. Try alternatives – foil can be recycled and old take-away pots or Tupperware can be reused.
If your household is a battery heavy user, consider investing in some rechargeable batteries. The less batteries that exist, the less risk of mercury, lead and cadmium getting into the environment.
Recycling Christmas Lights
Christmas lights that no longer work can be recycled, they (along with other electrical items with the crossed out wheelie bin symbol) should be taken to your local household waste recycling centre. To find your nearest centre and what they recycle, click here https://www.gov.uk/recycling-collections
There is certainly something special about receiving a card in the post, however could you consider sending all or some e-cards? There are free versions, such as https://friendsoftheearth.uk/take-part/ecards
If you have small children there is a growing trend to leave reindeer food out – this is oats mixed with glitter. But if you use glitter in the garden there is a risk of it being eaten by wildlife. Glitter is essentially little bits of pretty colourful plastic that will never biodegrade and they can cause stomach problems for animals. Try this instead: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/seasonal/christmas/reindeer
For more tips on how to be environmentally friendly the rest of the year, please head over to How you can help reduce plastic pollution.