In recent times, Christmas has become synonymous with excess consumption, over-indulgence and waste. A lot of this is marketing led – sparkly adverts on TV showing Christmas ‘must-haves’ and giving the impression that if you buy lots of new things everyone will have a wonderful time and be happy all year. In reality all this does is put a great strain on family finances and has a very negative impact on our planet.
Here are a few suggestions for ways to reduce consumption and waste at Christmas and benefit the planet at the same time:
Food and drink are a very important part of the festive celebrations and everyone likes to buy some special treats at this time of year.
- Plan your meals over the festive break. If you make a list you will be much less likely to impulse buy and end up with too much food. Producing food uses land, energy and water. UK households throw away 7.2 million tonnes of food each year – that’s a lot of wasted resources, and wasted money.
- It’s always nice to have some extras in the house in case of unexpected guests, but make sure that what you buy will keep – a pavlova will need eating in a couple of days, but Christmas cake or crisps will keep for months.
- Buy local seasonal food – it is fresher, tastes better and is better for the environment. Shipping food around the country or flying it in from abroad burns fossil fuels producing carbon which contributes to climate change.
- Making your own cake, pudding and mince pies will cut down on wasteful packaging, and you can get children or grandchildren to help when decorating the cake.
- Use, or freeze your leftovers, rather than putting them in the bin. ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ is an online resource to help people avoid food waste. Click here to access the website.
Giving gifts is very much part of Christmas, but how often have you given or received a present that you didn’t really like? Some unwanted gifts are listed on resale sites like e-bay on the evening of Christmas Day – they haven’t even been kept for twenty-four hours.
- Planning in advance gives the time to find a present that the recipient will really appreciate.
- Look round charity shops: there are some real bargains; your purchase benefits the charity and you haven’t used up more of the world’s limited resources by buying something new.
- Try making your own gifts such as biscuits, jam or chocolates.
- Gift an experience like driving a steam train, a spa treatment, or a voucher for a night out. The memories of the experience will last a lot longer than a cheap plastic present that is thrown out after a week.
Think about the decorations you use inside and outside the house.
- Plastic decorations are very bad for the environment. Although an artificial tree is re-used each year, a huge amount of energy is needed to make it, generally using PVC, a plastic that is really difficult to recycle, so when it is thrown out it has to go to landfill and will pollute the environment for decades to come.
- A real tree can be chipped and composted, to be recycled back into the earth. Make sure you buy a locally grown tree – some farms and National Trust properties let you choose your own and will cut it while you wait, so it is really fresh and will last longer.
- Other natural decorations like holly and evergreen branches can be cut from the garden for free and when you have finished with them they go in the green waste bin to be recycled.
With a bit of planning and forethought you can have a wonderful celebration that is truly memorable and does not cost the earth.
The article ‘I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas’ by Rachel Hickley, first appeared in the December 2021 issue of Ledbury Focus magazine, published by Grapevine Publications.