How to have a greener Christmas

Christmas seems to be a season of excess these days. But how can we make our festive season more green, without coming across as a Scrooge? Here are some handy tips to make your day a little more eco-friendly. It’s time to ease up on the consumerism and remember what is really important this Christmas.

Presents

You want to show the people around you that you care. But buying heaps of stuff isn’t necessarily the best way to do it. I’m not saying don’t buy any presents (what would Christmas be without a gift to unwrap?) but try to avoid buying things just for the sake of it. It seems that every shop piles the shelves high with gift sets this time of year. You know the ones — one or two items wrapped in extra packaging and plastic especially for Christmas. They seem like an easy gift to grab when you’re feeling the pressure to tick off the list of presents. But ultimately they’re not necessary. Does Uncle Jim actually need a box with a tiny amount of his favourite tipple, complete with novelty glass and lots of packaging? Does your mum want yet another cheaply made wash bag, filled with tiny bottles or fancy soaps?

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of grabbing things that are easy. But there are alternatives that will save you money and still please your friends and family. Avoid the excess packaging and novelty items that you’ll end up paying a premium for.

Consider spending your money on items which are useful (come on, we all need socks!) or on experiences rather than material things. Instead of a gift bag, why not give your mum a handwritten voucher, promising to take her out for an afternoon tea? The memories of time spent together are far more valuable than any toiletries!

Use your strengths. Good at baking? Why not whip up some edible gifts to box up and give to your loved ones. Or if crafts are your thing, a handmade gift will bring a smile to someone’s face. Even if you haven’t got a creative bone in your body, there are amazing handmade gifts for sale on sights such as Etsy. You’ll be supporting small businesses as well.

If the kids have their heart set on a specific item, its OK to shop second hand. Check out your local charity shops, or get online to scour Gumtree and eBay. You can often find second-hand items in fantastic condition. They won’t care where it comes from as long as they can play with it!

The Tree

We face this dilemma every year. So which is more eco-friendly, a real tree or an artificial one? Well, if you already have a fake tree, the best thing to do is keep on using it. They only get a few weeks use each year, so if put away properly should last you many years. The absolute worst thing you can do is buy a new artificial tree every year!

Artificial trees take a lot of energy to manufacture. They also contribute to the sea of plastic waste once we throw them out. If you do have to get a fake tree, try and buy a second hand one from sites such as Gumtree. You’re sure to find some in good condition. When it is time to replace your artificial tree, there are more eco-friendly solutions.

A real tree makes us feel Christmassy, filling the house with a fresh pine smell. Make sure you buy one with the FSC certification logo. This way you can be sure that it has been grown in a way which does not harm the environment. If you have outside space, consider buying a tree which has been grown in a pot. You can keep it outside and use it again. If you have a real tree that isn’t in a pot, make sure you recycle it. Most local councils now provide a Christmas tree recycling area. They are shredded and used as mulch or compost.

Decorations

There are so many things you can do to make your own Christmas decorations if you’re feeling creative. It’s a great way of getting the kids involved too. Easy crafts such as making paper snowflakes or streamers can keep them entertained while avoiding adding to the plastic problem. Last years Christmas cards can be cut up and reused too, as gift tags or tree decorations. Try to keep non-recyclable decorations such as tinsel and reuse them each year.

When it comes to wrapping presents, there are many ways to make them look beautiful without creating lots of waste. Did you know that 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each Christmas? Many of the pretty sparkly, foil gift wraps you can buy today are not recyclable, which is shocking. You can choose to wrap gifts in old newspapers or brown parcel paper. Fabric ribbon makes any parcel look pretty, and can be reused again and again. Old Christmas cards can be cut out and used to decorate presents too. You could even wrap gifts in reusable canvas bags — it’s easy and good for the planet!

Food

Consider cutting down on the meat this festive season. You’ll be saving money and helping the environment. Food is the single most important, and easiest, way that we can change the impact that we have on the planet. There are loads of amazing veggie or vegan alternatives available now, and you can find mouthwatering recipes. Try the folks at Bosh, BBC Good Food and the Vegan Society.

It’s tempting to buy loads of extra food for the festive season, but try to only buy what you think will get eaten. Try and buy loose veg and items with little packaging. It’s easy to end up cooking way too much, but don’t just bin your leftovers. There are loads of delicious recipes to use up your festive feast. Brussel sprout curry anyone?