That time is creeping up on us again. You know what I mean. The festive season. The time to battle the hoards of shoppers coming soon to a high street near you, Google ‘good cheap gifts’ and systematically ignore all your impending deadlines with the excuse that it’s Christmas. The most magical time of the year.
Now if you’re anything like me, all these sparkling Christmas lights, abundance of warm mince pies and wintery weather has left you wondering one crucial thing: how can I enjoy Christmas without destroying the planet even more than we currently do? Well fear not folks, here’s a roundup of five easy ways to reduce your environmental impact while you indulge in some Yuletide shenanigans.
- Ditch wrapping paper – you’re going to find out what you got anyway
The national mania for enveloping all gifts great and small in a layer of shiny paper is arguably one of the most easily avoided ways we accumulate waste. Although much wrapping paper is actually recyclable, the reality is that last year British households threw away 83 square km worth of wrapping paper. A lot of permanent damage done for the sake of the approx. 3 second thrill of savagely tearing some paper to see that your aunt got you yet another thermal vest that you’ll later ‘forget’ to pack for spring term.
Alternatives: literally anything else. Gift bags are great because they’re reusable (trust me, nobody will notice if you snatch them back at the end of the day and use them the following year). You could also use newspaper, brown paper, or cloth tied with ribbons and unicorn dust if you’re that kind of Pinterest person.
- Christmas is a great way to get eco-friendly products for free
This is the ultimate money-saving eco tip. Ask for items that are eco-friendly and actually useful and you have saved yourself a lot of time and money. Fancy flasks, water-bottles, high quality items that will last longer than the Morrisons Savers version of life you can currently afford, these are all things worth asking for. Other ideas are gift cards for second-hand online booksellers World of Books or Abebooks to get those textbooks for next term, bamboo or metal straws, or fancy ethically sourced beauty products that your student budget doesn’t allow you.
Some might argue that asking for these specific items removes the element of surprise in gift-giving but this is unapologetically a guide for the skint, not the sentimental.
- Get locally-sourced food and gifts
This is the one time of the year you might genuinely find yourself counting up your pennies in front of some National Trust elderflower jam and artisan woollen tea cosies or whatever it is your gran asked for this time. So resign yourself to discovering the Waitrose Essentials of the gift-giving world and put your money towards items that have been produced and sourced locally.
Not only does this support small independent businesses and give you a sense of enormous wellbeing, but it reduces the carbon footprint of your shopping and allows you to avoid the borderline-insane amount of packaging that online deliveries come in. Good places to check out are local craft fairs, farmers’ markets, the gift shop of your town’s tourist office, and often local cafes will sell some produce as well.
- Don’t waste food
If you have Christmas food and let it go to waste then you are officially insane. At no other point in the year will you have such a readymade opportunity to consume a staggering variety of great food. Mulled wine, Christmas cake, a roast to end all roasts. Families across the country are stocking their fridges like the apocalypse is due.
However, with great food comes great responsibility. Resist the urge to go mental in the Sainsburys aisles and buy more than your household will reasonably consume, and make sure you store any leftovers (this also extends the magic of Christmas food so double win really). Use the power of the internet for fancy leftovers recipes and if you still have too much, offer it to neighbours, friends, or put it on the Olio app.
- Why would you buy plastic decorations when you probably already have 5 boxes of them in the attic
So the internet has no shortage of suggestions for handmade decorations and upcycling inspiration to make your suburban house look just as festive as the other identical houses in the street. However if you’re like me and the notion of sitting down to do crafts is about as likely as submitting your essay a week before the deadline, don’t panic. You don’t have to be creative to deck the halls.
Unless you are inexplicably throwing out decorations each year, you probably already have plenty of baubles and shiny things sitting in the attic, some possibly hidden. Do some hunting and don’t forget: if it’s red and green, it counts as a decoration. Yes folks. Get those vine tomatoes on that Christmas tree.
In all seriousness, the UK has already generated enough stuff to render first-hand shopping virtually unnecessary when it comes to things like Christmas decorations. If you really have nothing at home, check charity shops. String up old Christmas cards. Use ribbons and shoelaces as bowties. The only limit is your imagination (and presumably the time you’re willing to spend struggling with boxes in the attic).
This has one exception: if you haven’t already, ditch the traditional incandescent fairy lights and opt for LED, or do one better and go solar powered! Cutting your energy use will benefit both the environment and your pocket.
How do you reduce your environmental impact at Christmas? Tell us below in the comments!