Christmas is traditionally a time when families gather together at home and enjoy each other’s company. However, it can also be a time of massive environmental waste: all those presents and all that special food generally comes with a lot more packaging, for starters.
Most of us would like to be able to reduce our environmental impact at this time of year – so whether you’ve yet to start your Christmas planning or you’re deep into it all, here are a few tips that could help you make it a ‘greener’ experience.
1. The tree: real or plastic?
Real trees are evidently ‘green’, but if you buy a plastic tree that lasts ten years, isn’t that a better option?
The consensus is no: plastic trees use up resources in their manufacture and shipping (they’re often imported from China), and they’re unlikely to be recyclable, so when you do eventually dispose of your artificial tree it may spend many more years in landfill.
Today’s real trees are increasingly grown in this country and it’s easy to buy one close to the place it was grown. Check out the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association website for details of nearby growers.
2. Wrapping paper
It sometimes feels impossible to avoid excess plastic packaging when you’re buying toys for children at Christmas. As well as being a challenge to break into, pre-formed blister packaging on toys is impossible to recycle.
But if you can’t bring yourself to deprive the kids of their favourite toys, at least you have a choice how wrap them up. Some wrapping paper is recyclable and some is not. If you can scrunch it up and it keeps its scrunched shape, go ahead. But glossy foil and metallic paper will spring back when you scrunch it up, and is not recyclable.
3. Let there be light
Christmas lights, both indoors and outdoors, can be stunning, but power-hungry, too. LED lights use up to 95% less electricity than traditional lighting and last a lot longer, too. As an added bonus, if one of the bulbs on a string of LED lights dies, the rest of them stay lit. No more testing every single light on a strand of 120 to find the weak spot!
Obviously, lights are more effective in the dark, but save energy by switching them off when you go to bed.
4. Thoughtful presents
Unless you’re lucky enough to be getting a Caribbean cruise or Tiffany diamond ring for Christmas, you may well give and receive a lot of stuff you don’t really need and can’t really use – stuff that may well end up being thrown away. Reduce the environmental impact of transporting goods around the globe by buying locally-made gifts. As well as being environmentally friendly, you’ll be supporting local businesses.
Regional food and wine can make fabulous presents, too. Check out Christmas craft markets or farmers markets for the real deal. If you’re a bit crafty yourself, why not try making your own gifts? Homemade jam, biscuits and cake never fails to delight the recipient, for example.
Or you could donate to a local charity, such as Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People – the amazing place Jelson is supporting with our Christmas appeal this year. Rainbows, along with other charities, will provide a Christmas gift tag for you to present to your friend or family member with details of your donation on their behalf.
5. On the twelfth day of Christmas – recycle and re-gift!
It won’t be long until Christmas is over for another year. After you’ve packed the decorations away, check if you can recycle your Christmas tree – many councils offer a kerbside Christmas tree collection service. Re-use Christmas cards - cut the pictures out to use as gift tags next year – and recycle the remainder at a local charity shop or supermarket charity collection point.