- Gift wrapping: In Britain we use over 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper over Christmas, which creates over 83 square kilometres of rubbish! To cut down on this, try using old maps or magazine pages to make your own gift wrap. If you do buy, choose recycled wrapping paper or brown paper, and avoid metallic or sparkly papers as they can’t usually be recycled. Tie your parcels with string, ribbon or scraps of fabric rather than sticky tape. Make your own tags; if you’re stuck for time (or inspiration!), use last year’s Christmas cards. Recycle used wrapping paper and keep ribbons, bows and string to reuse next year.
- Decorations: Use a real tree (the Forestry Commission have a list of places where you can buy a sustainably grown, local tree) – then recycle it; or buy a potted tree you can plant outside after Christmas. Reuse decorations rather than creating a new theme, or if it really is time for a change, get creative and make your own out of pine cones, ribbon, twine, scraps of fabric, bows, old pot pourri, coloured paper, scrabble tiles, last year’s wrapping paper.
- Presents: Make your gifts – try giving edible gifts, such as chutney, mulled wine or homemade cakes or biscuits. Give experiences rather than physical objects, or buy gifts made from recycled or repurposed materials. You could also choose a gift that will keep on giving, such as flower or vegetable seeds.
- Energy: Lower the thermostat – you can put your favourite Christmas jumper on instead! Switch to energy-efficient LED lights (they use 90% less power) and switch them off during daylight hours and in rooms you aren’t using. Try lighting candles in the evening to create a festive Christmas glow – and save on your electricity (try using beeswax, soy or vegetable wax candles to further lesson environmental impact).
- Food: Shop locally – get your Christmas vegetables from a farmers’ market and your meat from your local butcher. Be realistic about what you’ll actually eat and stick to a plan – and a budget. Use your tablet instead of your laptop to find recipes (they use 70% less power). Freeze your leftovers to use another day to avoid waste – and invest in a kitchen composter for all those vegetable peelings!
- Shopping: Remember to take reusable shopping bags with you when you do your Christmas food and gift shopping. Focus on the quality and significance of the gifts you buy, rather than buying piles of presents. And avoid the sales after Christmas – you’ll only end up buying things you don’t need, and use up fuel queuing in traffic to get there.
With a little effort and creativity, we can all reduce the environmental impact of the festive season – and enjoy a more thoughtful Christmas.