Tis the season for sustainability… Sustainability has been a major buzzword over the past few years. And it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The festive season, filled with gifts, Christmas crackers, wrapping paper, and all manner of single-use items, is not great for the planet. But there is a way to have a more earth-friendly festive season. Below are some tips and tricks for a more sustainable holiday season.
What waste levels look like over the festive season
Inevitably, waste levels have increased over the festive season. According to Stanford, Americans discard 25% more rubbish in the period from Thanksgiving to New Year than during the rest of the year. This equates to a massive 25 million extra tonnes of trash which works out at about a million extra tonnes per week. The statistics around single-use products and the festive season are crazy.
According to Use Less Stuff, if each family in the USA re-used just 2 feet (60 cm) it would save about 38000 miles of ribbon. This would be enough to tie a bow around the earth. In the UK, about 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away each year. According to Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, households across Northern Ireland threw away 231 tonnes of waste during the festive season last year.
Re-think wrapping paper and cards
One of the biggest sources of waste during the Christmas season is wrapping paper and cards. Just this aspect of Christmas creates over 8000 tonnes of paper waste annually. It also results in the destruction of thousands of trees. Most of the paper and cards used for gifting over the festive season go straight from under the tree to the landfill.
Instead of buying the (admittedly pretty) brand new wrapping paper on offer, choose recycled paper options. Brown paper is also a good bet as it is easily recyclable and can be jazzed up with bows and ribbons. Make sure to choose ribbons and bows that can be re-used for years to come.
Other easy changes you can make include:
- Re-using packaging and tags if you can
- Make use of e-cards instead of physical, paper cards
- Make sure you’ve used all the paper you have before buying more
- Try to avoid cards and paper with glossy, shiny, or gold foil coatings since these generally cannot be recycled
Think before you gift
Buying gifts for people that they don’t use is also a huge source of waste over the festive season. Then, of course, getting the right gifts can be an incredibly challenging and expensive task. Lots of us (myself included) enjoy the act of giving. But it’s important to really think before you buy. Though the feeling of giving is nice, it’s vital to make sure that you know that what you’re giving the person will be useful to them.
When you do buy gifts, think about how frequently the person might use them, how much enjoyment they will get out of it and how long it is likely to last. This will all help you to decide whether it’s a good gift. Try to avoid any single-use items or fad-based gifts, as these tend to end up in the bin more quickly.
Ultimately, it is better to spend a bit more and get the person something they are likely to get a lot of use and enjoyment out of. When you’re looking for gifts, try to buy from local shops or markets and support those small businesses around you. Eco-friendly, or recycled products are also a good choice. Alternatively, you can also look to charity shops or even re-gift something if it’s appropriate.
There is absolutely no doubt that all the Christmas lights are beautiful. However, it is a good idea to consider the environmental impact of all those gorgeous lights. Opt for LED lights with timers if you can, as they’ll save on energy. If you still get sunlight through over the festive season, consider solar lights as an alternative.
When it comes to the Christmas tree, an artificial tree is much better for the environment than a traditional, living tree. This is pure because it can be re-used year on year and doesn’t go straight to the landfill after Christmas.
Before you go out and buy more decor, really give some thought to what you already have. It might well even be worth getting all your decorations down just to see what you have. Another good way to make sure you aren’t overbuying is to have a list of what you already have.
Personally, I have one on my laptop that I can look at so that I know what I already have. It’s also a good idea to see how many decorations you need to cover your tree. If you can DIY or re-use decorations and ornaments, it’s always better than buying new ones.
Think about what goes on your table
When it comes to food and drink over the festive season, we tend to go overboard. Nobody wants a situation where they run out of food during the course of lunch or dinner. This often leads to overbuying and ultimately, more waste. It’s best to try to just buy what you need. However, most of us will inevitably end up with leftovers.
If there isn’t a huge amount leftover, you can probably finish it off over the course of the week that follows. Otherwise, if it seems like too much, instead of throwing it away, offer a warm meal to someone less fortunate.
Other things you can do:
- Buy locally; it’s always better when you know where the food you’re eating comes from.
- Make sure you bring your reusable bags when you go shopping
- Try to opt for at least one vegetarian option rather than meat
- Save any food scraps that are compostable
- Freeze leftovers if needs be
- Make sure you recycle everything you can