With all the excitement at Christmas time, it’s easy to forget about the potentially negative impact our plastic consumption and wastage has on the environment.
Although it’s primarily down to retailers to take action to stop the production of needless and unnecessary plastic, there are many things we can do to minimise our carbon footprint and increase the amount we recycle starting with the holidays, without cutting down on the festive twinkle. Here are our best top tips for an environmentally friendly Christmas that will reduce damage to the planet or ruin your Christmas spirit.
Get creative with eco-friendly wrapping paper, or find a reliable source.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the excitement over decorative Christmas paper, with the average household going through four rolls of wrapping paper every Christmas. This glossy paper we are used to seeing beneath the tree may look lovely, but it certainly isn’t great for the environment. The plastic used in the manufacturing process to make the paper shiny means it becomes non-recyclable. This year why not use recyclable brown paper? You could even jazz it up with more eco-friendly decorations such as fabric ribbon and string.
Alternatively, you can source 100% environmentally friendly and recycled wrapping paper from various companies, such as your local post office or Re-wrapped, a London-based company specialising in the production of environmentally friendly wrapping paper, as well as cards, notebooks and more. Check out their website to get your eco-friendly Christmas off to the right start. Visit www.re-wrapped.co.uk
Tinsel and baubles are usually full of plastic which can’t be recycled because of the vast amounts of glitter used in them. You may be able to box them up and use them the following year, but eventually, they’ll get damaged, broken or a little tired, meaning, in the long run, they’ll be disposed of anyway.
An environmentally-friendly (and ever so tasty!) alternative this year is to hang home-baked Christmas goodies from the tree. BBC good food has a selection of step-by-step recipes you can follow to create some tasty treats for the tree and the rest of your home, including sugar charms, gingerbread bunting and snowy Christmas tree biscuit decorations.
Check them out yourself and get baking! (www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/decoration).
Eco-friendly Christmas crackers and food packaging.
Every cracking Christmas dinner is completed with Christmas crackers, but all those plastic prizes more often than not get thrown away, never to be seen again. This year try to do a little research before you head to the shops and aim to purchase plastic-free recyclable crackers, as well as recyclable food packaging.
Waitrose and John Lewis have said they’ll stop selling Christmas crackers containing plastic toys from 2020. This is part of plans to cut down on single-use plastic.
Other supermarkets are starting to make changes too; Asda removed plastic windows and film from their mince pies last Christmas, Sainsbury’s has removed all plastic packaging from its Christmas crackers this year, and Tesco has switched to a plastic-free, biodegradable glitter on its Christmas trees, plants, and flowers this year. They have also removed glitter from their own-brand wrapping paper, tags and Christmas cards. Marks and Spencer have also removed glitter from its entire Christmas range this year, and have said they’ll be making all of their cards and gift-wrapping products glitter-free by the end of 2020.
Do your research and check the information when you shop to ensure you are making responsible and environmentally friendly choices. If you’re feeling particularly creative you could go one step further and make your own Christmas crackers this year.
There are several websites you can check out where you can purchase Eco-friendly craft supplies and find easy step-by-step guides and suggestions for sustainable cracker prizes. UK company, the littlecraftybugs (www.littlecraftybugs.co.uk/), has a selection of 100% recyclable natural craft crackers on their website. All of their non-foil crackers, together with their hats, jokes, and snaps are fully recyclable.
There are many reasons why sending a digital card this Christmas is a great idea. Firstly, you can send the e-card from the comfort of your own home — no need to keep running to the post office in the chilly weather, and it’ll save you the cost of postage! Secondly, you can make it personal by adding a Christmas family photo and a personalised message. Finally, and most importantly, it’s environmentally friendly! Most store brought Christmas cards are covered in glitter. Glitter is not good news for the environment as it’s effectively tiny pieces of plastic (that often get washed down the sink and end up in our oceans), and cards that contain glitter cannot be recycled.
Besides, when you choose not to use paper, you’re doing your bit to save trees.
What about a ‘green’ Christmas tree this year?
Most Christmas trees are green, but not all trees are eco. The big question is, should you buy a fake or a real Christmas tree this year?
Artificial Christmas trees are made from a combination of plastic-based materials and therefore cannot be recycled. Although greener options are available, according to the Carbon Trust, you would need to box up, store, and reuse your artificial Christmas tree at least 10 times to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree.
However, if you do prefer the look of an artificial tree (or perhaps you need to for allergy reasons) you can still be mindful about the tree you choose by seeking out trees made of recyclable or degradable materials. You can also try looking in your local charity shops for donated trees that you could spruce up and re-home, or online sites such as Freecycle. Visit www.freecycle.org/ for more information.
Real Christmas trees require no manufacturing process and are 100% recyclable. Although there are some concerns over the environment in terms of cutting trees down and losing habitat for wildlife, Christmas trees are not usually grown in wild forests but are a crop like any other (always check with whoever you are purchasing from to make sure the tree was not wild forest sourced). Therefore purchasing a real Christmas tree from a local farmer helps to support the rural economy. Once Christmas trees are harvested, more are planted in their place.
The Christmas trees that are purchased and decorated (hopefully with eco-friendly and recyclable products!) can by mulched for landscaping or turned into woodchips once Christmas is over. Recycle Devon offers a Christmas tree collection service to recycle your trees responsibly. Visit www.recycledevon.org/recycle-your-christmas-trees to find your local authority for details on recycling real Christmas trees in your area.
With all these sustainable suggestions we hope you have a creative, fun-filled Christmas, full of creative crackers, delicious decorations, and plastic-free prizes!