Tips For a Greener Christmas

Ah, Christmas. We know that I'm all for boycotting huge great big supermarkets, international conglomerates, and of course, the factory farms that supply them, but do you know what I'm entirely sick of? This:

"Christmas is just sooo commercialised. It's all about how much money you can spend on crap and it's just companies making money out of us. Bllleeeeeuuuuuugh."

Now, let's get one thing cleared up. Yes, in some households, Christmas is a great big corporate money making scheme in which the family are, predominantly, one of the many victims. Now let's make something else clear; that is the Christmas that they chose. If that is the Christmas that you're having, year in, year out, and it's getting your down - blooming well change it - it isn't Christmas's fault, hell it isn't even Tesco's fault; unless they're sneaking in in the night, pulling you from your bed, and depositing you in front of the cocktail sausage platters with five Nerf guns and a box of Roses in your trolley, it's your fault.

You can have a Christmas that doesn't involve spending more on every day items than you usually would (how much is a supermarket frozen turkey in June? Anyone know?) and you don't even have to go near a supermarket, you don't have to buy your children expensive presents, and to be quite honest, there's nobody that you're forced to spend the day with either. Have your own frigging Christmas people, and whilst you're at it, make it a little less harsh on our planet with these easy tips.

Shop Local

I bang on about it, I know. You could probably buy your entire Christmas lunch at your local farmer's market though, direct from the producer, I'm talking meat (if applicable) veg, and your dessert as well if you're lucky. If you can't get to a market, use your butcher, greengrocer, bakery, sweet shop, fishmonger etc. It doesn't have to stop with Christmas dinner either, you can shop locally for cards, gifts, wrapping paper, trees, decorations, Christmas jumpers, a new oven and bin bags. Before you buy it from a supermarket, or mega huge shop, stop and ask yourself "could I get this somewhere smaller?" - chances are the answer is "yes".

Local shops offer a healthier, friendlier, more authentic shopping experience, better value for money, and what's more, what you spend will directly improve someone else's Christmas, funding their business for another year. 

Buy Second Hand

Ok, maybe not the turkey carcass, but how much of your Christmas do you need to buy brand new? Decorations? Christmas Day outfits? Gifts? Most can be bought second hand, and many you've probably got left over from last year with loads of life in them yet. This doesn't just save you money, it's kinder to our planet, reusing what's already cost our Earth in materials and production, rather than making it pay again. When it comes to children's toys for example, a young child is entirely unaware of whether something is bought brand new! If you don't want to rely on charity shops, or have something in particular in mind, use Ebay, Gumtree, and similar sites to find exactly what you're after.

Only Cook What's Going To Be Eaten

It's so easy to over-do Christmas lunch, or nibbles at a Christmas drinks party, I know - the last thing you want is to run out of food and for guests to go hungry. What we tend to do though is round everything up the nearest kilo "just to be on the safe side", and end up with an unimaginable amount of food waste.

The Love Food Hate Waste website has loads of helpful information, including recipes for leftovers, and a portion calculator, so that you can double check exactly how many potatoes you actually need to cook for thirteen people.

Don't Leave The Lights On All Night

House decorations are lovely, and decorating the front of your home with fairy lights is, for many, a corner stone of the Christmas preparations. However, all of those lights, buzzing away, often all night, or at least for around six hours per day, leave behind a nasty cost in electricity. Think twice before decorating outdoors, and if you must, then perhaps think about limiting the time that the lights are on for.

Indoors, leaving lights switched on, especially on the Christmas tree, whilst you're not in the room or even in the house, isn't just non-nonsensical (it's costing you, and costing the planet) but it's also downright dangerous. Fires can start easily and without warning, so don't leave lights on a tree for nine hours a night being admired by nobody.

Use Natural Candles

We burn more candles at Christmas than at any other time of the year, but paraffin candles are made from petroleum residue and aren't a particularly green option.

Luckily, there are lots of candles on the market made from natural materials such as soy and beeswax, which are far kinder to your health and the environment.

Go Real

This year I can't afford to buy a real tree, but luckily I have an artificial tree that I can borrow. Buying an artificial tree does mean you won't have to fork out again for approximately six years; but these trees are made from metals and plastics that are harmful to the environment in their production, most are also made in Asia, and so come with the additional environmental fallout associated with their transport.

Most artificial trees are non-biodegradable, meaning that whilst you might get several years use out of one tree, it will lay in landfill for a lot, lot longer.

There are of course problems associated with real trees as well, whilst growing, real trees provide a home for a variety of wildlife, who are forced to move on, or are killed, when the trees are harvested. However, for most, Christmas tree growing is an annual trade and those that are cut down for sale are replaced, maintaining a natural habitat for associated wildlife.

When you buy a real tree, make sure you buy from a small-scale, sustainable grower.

You could even plant a tree this year, and look after it until it's ready for decoration in a few years time.

Don't Throw Away Unwanted Gifts

If you receive gifts that you won't use, don't throw them away. Either hang on to them to re-gift for birthdays during the year (just don't re-gift anything to it's original sender!) or donate to charity shops, or your local hospital. Hospitals. hospices, refuges and care homes are always particularly keen to take unopened toiletries for their clients, and unwanted toys will find a great home on a paediatric ward or in your local women's refuge.

Recycle Your Christmas Cards

It isn't rocket science, but an alarming number of people fail to recycle the Christmas cards that they receive. It takes around 200,000 trees per year to produce the 1.8 billion cards that we receive, and of those, there are still a huge number going un-recycled.

Either do the obvious thing and recycle appropriately where facilities exist, or use cards next year as gift tags, to make decorations, or for children's craft activities.

Think twice before sending cards, is it really necessary? Rather than buy the "To My Husband" card that will be stuck to the wall for a month before either going in the loft, or the bin, think about why you're sending it in the first place. There's actually no obvious sensible answer; if you're not already wishing someone that you live with a merry Christmas anyway, then something's gone wrong, and actually - wouldn't it mean a million times more to tear ten whole pages from a notebook that you already own, and write them a beautiful long letter? If you can describe to me the Christmas card that you received from your partner seven years ago, then great, but most of us probably struggle to remember exactly what last year's looked like, and whilst it's "a nice thing to do", so is cooking them their favourite dinner and telling them it's taking the place of a piece of printed paper - they out to be more than grateful!

The same goes for sending cards to neighbours you don't know, people at work that you hate, or your dog... unnecessary and costly to our planet.

If you do need to send cards this year (the only cards I'll be sending will be to my Nan because I know that she'll be genuinely upset not to receive one from me and one from Seb) then buy recycled cards where you can, from an independent retailer.

Buy Ethical Wrapping Paper

This year, I took part in "Book Advent" with Seb; instead of buying a conventional, or chocolate advent calendar (he has one at his Dad's anyway) I wrapped up 24 different books (all bought from charity shops) - and every night before bed, in the run up to Christmas, Seb gets to choose another book to unwrap and read at bedtime.

So far he hasn't once asked why they're wrapped in The Guardian from 28th November. The point is, it's the excitement of unwrapping a parcel to find out which book he'll be reading that he enjoys, he couldn't care less WHAT they're wrapped in.

For presents under the tree, if you don't want to use newspaper (I do understand, and won't be using it for the main presents!) make sure you buy recycled paper - or brown parcel paper can look really lovely with some pretty ribbon or even just string.

Every year in the UK we throw away enough wrapping paper to double-wrap Guernsey you know.

There are hundreds of other ways that you can make your Christmas greener, and this post only scratches the surface, so I'd love to hear your suggestions!

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