For all the joys of Christmas, it’s not exactly kind to the planet. It seems like we use enough wrapping paper to fell a whole rainforest, and the electricity consumption through December must be astronomical. It’s important that at this time of year we think of new ways to be kinder to the planet. All the festivities can be preserved, just with a little less wastefulness. Here are some helpful ways for you to cast a smaller environmental shadow this Christmas.
The environmental impact of all those new toys and gadgets aside, there is a huge impact on shipping them across the world. Instead of going to buy Chinese imported gadgets and items from far-flung places, consider trying to source your gifts from local producers. Traditionally crafted items make great gifts, have a far smaller environmental impact, and do your local economy good.
Additionally, you should take stock of how many presents you really need to buy. The volume of the gifts you give doesn’t equate to how much you care. Be thoughtful about what you buy, and you’ll find the recipient is just as grateful for one great gift as they would have been for a mountain of small, thoughtless gifts.
There is a huge amount of debate over Christmas trees and how damaging they are to the environment, and whether or not buying a real tree is best. The bottom line is that real trees are better, and here’s why: despite the fact that chopping down trees might not sound very eco-friendly, the process of growing and disposing of real trees is actually much better for the environment than the production of plastic trees. And despite the fact that you can reuse a fake tree several times over, the PVC they are made from makes them impossible to recycle.
A real tree is going to shed needles, and it’s going to go brown eventually, but over the actual Christmas period it’s going to smell fantastic and in general look much better in your home. To be kinder to the planet this Christmas, go get a real tree.
Christmas shopping can be really tough. You’ll have loads of different shops to go to, not a lot of time to do it in, and you’ll be competing with everyone else who’s rushing around to get everything done. In order to limit your environmental impact, it’s important to take as few trips as possible. Try and think about a place that you could park (or even better, get a bus) and get plenty of shopping done in one trip. Where possible, try and get as much of your shopping done in local, independent stores as you can.
Make sure that you take your own bags to each shop, instead of using the bags that the shop provides. Cutting back on the use of disposable packaging should be a top priority.
A fantastic way to save energy and time is online shopping. You could still find locally sourced products online, but in any case, shopping online is a much more environmentally friendly option. Find a place for all those quirky presents and Secret Santa Gifts that’ll deliver to you, and save a tank of petrol and all the emissions that would have come with it.
On some streets, decorating houses for Christmas turns into a festive arms race. Whilst they may look pretty, Christmas lights take a serious toll on electricity usage. Leaving lights on all day and night is not good for the planet, or indeed anybody’s electricity bill.
There are number of ways you can do better this Christmas. The first is to switch from incandescent to LED bulbs. LED bulbs can glow in every colour of the rainbow, but have a much lower energy consumption.
Another great option is to buy a timer for your Christmas lights. Rather than leaving them on all the time, connect them to a timed plug socket and set them to come on for about three or four hours each evening, and not until it’s really dark. This way, you can still make the most of the lights without burning unnecessary energy.
Turkey with all the trimmings is a Christmas essential (with or without Brussels sprouts). The centrepiece of Christmas day can produce a lot of waste, however. The first thing to consider is how much food you really need. Think carefully about the number of guests you have coming, how much they eat (or how much they should be eating), and how many different foods you really need to serve. Instead of cooking everything and putting it out on the table, plating up everyone’s serving is a good way to limit consumption but still keep everyone satisfied.
Everything you eat for Christmas dinner should, where possible, be bought locally, rather than purchased from a supermarket. A typical festive meal can rack up a huge amount of air miles, unnecessarily. Source some local vegetables and find a local farm that can supply the turkey (or whatever meat you happen to be having).
These are just a few ways to cut down on consumption, but they’re a great start. At every turn during your Christmas planning, take a couple of seconds to think about how you’re impacting the local economy, the local environment, and the planet as a whole.
Photo by James Case
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