Words: Maisie Cook Images: Adobe Stock
Who doesn’t love an annual Christmas shopping spree, togged up in your hat, scarf and gloves and on the hunt for a bedazzled outfit to deck yourself out in on the big day? Just thinking about it now gives me the festive butterflies. There is no better feeling than spending £30 purchasing the gift of your girlfriend’s dreams (or so you think…) and then packaging it up carefully with shiny, new wrapping paper. After you’ve stuffed yourself silly like a Christmas turkey and scraped the leftover sprouts into the bin, it’s time to roll into the living room and rip open 3 million ‘HO HO HO’ cards from family and friends galore. But whilst all these activities may sound comfortingly cosy and familiar, this year it’s time for a different kind of Christmas. An eco-friendly Christmas.
Whilst I let this proposition sink in, allow me to debunk a common misconception which most probably popped into your head upon first reading the phrase. Let visions of hours of handcrafting bespoke gifts made from leaves and twigs fizzle away. Think no more of painful cuts from folding piece of paper after piece of paper in order to make your own Christmas cards and save the dying planet in the process. Being sustainable during the festive period doesn’t have to be physically demanding or time consuming. With all your fears and worries hopefully long gone, take a look at these five trouble-free, painless (and even fun) ways to reduce your carbon footprint this Christmas whilst still having a jolly good time!
1. Rethinking your Chrimbo ‘fit
It’s easy to get carried away in the month of December. Your friends are all ordering a fresh outfit for the 25th and it would just be simpler to use the Internet to purchase that black velvet dress, the one you’d had in mind which you could pair with a black clutch bag and silver heels, except you don’t have those either so… they can go in the basket too! But wait. Don’t you already have a green velvet dress hanging in your wardrobe from last Christmas Day? Admittedly, it’s green not black, but I doubt Auntie Carol is going to remember and at the cost of saving the planet, it’s a much kinder alternative. If this all sounds too much to bear and you can’t possibly wear the same outfit twice, consider a clothes swap with your friends, as they will most likely have a similarly fancy outfit hanging dormant in their wardrobe, or visit your local charity shop where you are sure to find a party outfit, and at a price worth partying for too (rest assured, you won’t have to wear a pair of grandad trousers).
2. Choosing more eco-friendly alternatives for wrapping
Not many people enjoy the task of packaging up Christmas presents. The feeling of rage when you are unable to find the end of the Sellotape is unlike any other. When you open out a bottle bag only to find the champagne cork sticks out of the top - that is when you’ve really hit rock bottom. But what if I were to make a suggestion that might improve this difficult task just a tiny bit? You could help the planet just by reusing wrapping paper. It doesn’t just have to be Christmas-themed either; other suitable celebratory wrapping paper can be used too, provided it doesn’t have ‘Wishing you a happy birthday’ emblazoned across it in bold lettering. Although the temptation to rip open a gift with as much enthusiasm as possible may be too strong for the little ones, it surely wouldn’t be impossible for you to open your presents more carefully and tuck the neatly folded wrapping paper away in a drawer for next year’s gifts, being sure to say your Thank Yous first.
Another sustainable substitute proving to be trendy this year is using off-cuts of material instead of wrapping paper, think discarded t-shirts, pyjamas or any other items bearing bright and cheerful designs - this not only eliminates Sellotape but more importantly, adds a unique, personalised touch to your gifts.
3. Considering your gift-buying habits
Staying on the topic of recycling, let’s talk presents. It is reported that each year, the UK spends an estimated £700 million on unwanted gifts and £42 million worth of those end up in a landfill! How many of us receive a pair of garish socks year after year from a distant family member which end up being thrown away? Think about creating an online wish list to ensure loved ones don’t gift you items you won’t use. In addition, buying from local businesses at Christmas time is a great idea, as not only will you be putting money into their deserving pockets, but you can be certain of their origin. A few suggestions, Libby's offers a variety of products from independent UK makers and designers, and M's Gallery and Adorn Jewellery also seek out the best UK makers for items that are both beautiful and quirky.
4. Using another mode to send greetings cards
Another common item which is often discarded unsustainably at Christmas is the greetings card. The London Cleaning System reports that around 1 billion Christmas cards end up in the bin every year, when they could be recycled. Is it really worth the environmental impact, the hand ache from writing ‘Seasons Greetings’ a thousand times over, and the cost of the cards in the first place, just for a two second glance at the generic ink inside? You must think I’m a heartless bah-humbug, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Don’t worry, the death of the Christmas card is not upon us. Consider just sending Christmas cards to elderly relatives and people you rarely see at Christmas time, making use of local sources such as Sally Ginger and Herbert & Rose.
You can go completely paper-free, there’s a variety of e-card websites where you can choose your design, enter a festive message along with the recipient’s email address and let those magical things known as airwaves do the delivering for you.
5. Putting those leftovers to good use
Probably the most damaging effect that Christmas has on the environment is the food waste. We all know that overly full feeling, the point you reach where that last green sphere staring up at you from amongst the mash would cause your trouser button to fly off in despair. ‘I just can’t manage that last mouthful’ or words to that effect leave your mouth. So, the plates are swiftly swept away from under your nose and the remnants from your plate are emptied into the rubbish. That one leftover sprout could have been something. He could have made it big. He could’ve been reborn. Pan-fried into a lovely bubble and squeak or stirred into a casserole with leftover parsnips too. You could even take inspiration (if you dare…) from Paul’s turkey pie recipe. I’m certain a few rogue sprouts concealed beneath the meat wouldn’t alter the taste too much. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying parsnip soup for breakfast, dinner, and tea!