Christmas for many has become a consumerist trap to buy more toys, more food, more clothes, more wrapping, more cards, more more more. And all of this, every single extra bit of plastic and card and chocolate, has an environmental cost.
According to one study, ‘Three days of festivities could result in as much as 650 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per person. This is 5.5% of our total annual carbon footprint.’ In just 3 days! And that data is from2011, I can only imagine it has increased since then.
But – there’s no need to feel guilty about it. Instead, use that knowledge to change some habits. Here are some ways you can make your Christmas a little more earth-friendly.
You may not know that most normal wrapping paper can not actually be recycled due to its fibres being too short for re-pulping. Plus of course any glitter (and sticky tape) also contaminates the recycling, resulting in the paper going to landfill.
Brown paper, printed with inks at home if you like, or coloured on by the kids, and tied up with string or ribbon that can be re-used, is a much better alternative but here are some even more ingenious ways of wrapping using recycled goodies you’ll mostly have lying around the house.
As Founder of sustainable baby, gift and homeware company, Smallkind, recently said, ‘Living a more sustainable life isn’t so much about what you buy as what you don’t.”.
So before we begin searching online for ethical gifts, think first about gift alternatives;
Anything consumable like experiences (like these treasure trails) are a great way to give something meaningful.
Look up local businesses in your area and you’ll find a lot of great experiences. Here in Bristol there are haps including Wot Pots Pottery, Hives and Herbals who does bee-keeper experiences as well as ‘adopt a bee’ gift certificates. Or how about an Avon Need Trees gift card? Every £10 voucher goes towards 4 metres squared of local woodland.
Or even ask me about health and fitness for mums gift vouchers.
And for some home made gift ideas, Pinterest is a great place to go for some inspiration (but careful not to fall down the rabbit hole).
According to Love Food Hate Waste, in the UK we waste the equivalent of more than 4million Christmas meals, including 17.2million sprouts, almost 12million carrots, untold numbers of potatoes and somewhere in the region of 7.4m mince pies (nooo, not the mince pies!).
Why does this matter? According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, in 2007, the global carbon footprint of food waste was more than twice the total emissions of all USA road transportation.
Plus, 74 percent of total annual deforestation (and all of the wildlife - flora and fauna that goes with it) is attributed to food production and seeing as 1/3 of that food goes straight in the bin, food waste contributes devastatingly to biodiversity loss, which ironically, our food production relies upon.
So here are some super simple tips to reduce your food waste this year.
1. Get organised. Before you even get your food shopping this year, sort out your fridge and freezer to make space. While we want to reduce food waste, if there’s stuff in there that already needs to go, get it gone so you don’t end up having to store refrigerable food in the garage and risk it spoiling.
And have a system. Make sure the food that goes off soonest is on a particular shelf- even label it!
2. Make a plan. Meal planning is by far the best way to cut out your food waste so plan your meals and snacks. Think about the number of people you’ll be feeding and don’t get caught up with the fear that you may not have enough. If family or friends are visiting, they’re bound to bring food and drink with them (probably to help cut down on their own food waste!).
3. Write your list and check it twice. Using your meal plan create a proper list of what you need and STICK TO IT. Try not to get sucked into to special offers and buy one get one free deals. They rarely offer much of a saving.
4. Keep an eye on the use by dates for foods (remember to organise your fridge), but don’t confuse ‘use by’ dates with ‘best before’ dates. Best before dates are just a rough guide to indicate when food might have gone past its best, but they are very conservative and for most foods, not even necessary. Use your eyes, nose and common sense instead.
5. Use up your leftovers. Before I became vegetarian, I used to love the Turkey and ham pie my Aunty made from leftover Christmas dinner, more than the Christmas dinner itself! Here are some creative and healthy recipes to use up the inevitable leftovers.
And perhaps instead of going into Christmas with the food attitude of ,’Oh go on then it’s Christmas’ (we’ve all said it), we could be a little more mindful about how much food we consume.
You see, so you CAN make a difference. For more ways to reduce your Christmas Carbon footprint, from what tree to buy to making a New Year pledge, read this.
And, as my favourite TV Detective, Columbo often says, ‘There’s just one more thing’.
If YOU found this useful, the best thing you can do for the planet is to share it with others through facebook or email.
Wishing you a greener, happier, healthier Christmas.