Christmas may be the season of giving, relaxing and indulging, but it’s certainly not the most eco-friendly time of year. With the added strain on landfills and extra CO2 emissions that occur during the Christmas period, the festive season is one of the most taxing times of year for the environment.
If you’re concerned about your carbon footprint this December but you don’t want to compromise on a fun, flamboyant Yuletide, here are our top tips for an eco-friendly Christmas that won’t harm the planet, or your Christmas cheer.
Green People has partnered with the Plantlife to create a range of limited edition organic skin and body care gifts that help support wild flowers, plants and fungi.
1. Eco friendly Christmas trees
In the UK an estimated 6 million Christmas trees are sent to landfill every year, equalling approximately 9,000 tonnes of extra waste. Each tree sent to landfill has a carbon footprint of around 16kg (the average UK person has a yearly carbon footprint of around 1,000kg) and costs the local authority around £2.32 in fees, wasting money that could be injected back into the community.
But don’t be tempted to switch to an artificial tree this year. Plastic Christmas trees are made from a combination of unrecyclable materials that can be potentially hazardous to health. The majority of artificial trees are shipped from China, adding to their large carbon footprint.
If you have an unwanted artificial tree lying around somewhere, rather than throwing it away try advertising it on an exchange website such as Freegle, or see if anyone you know would like to reuse it.
The Soil Association has a list of organic, eco friendly Christmas tree growers in the UK, helping you to make a greener choice when it comes to your Christmas spruce.
Andy Bond of the Woodland Trust says: “Everyone loves the smell of Christmas trees and decorating them is part of a fun family Christmas! What we do ask people to do though, where possible, is to check their tree supplier before they buy it to see if it is grown sustainably - look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification.
“However, with a shortage of trees across the UK and the fact that only a tiny amount of Christmas trees purchased by millions every year actually survive the festive season with many finding their way to the green waste compactor rather than the garden, there is an alternative available. A tree planted in a pot or in a garden has the likelihood of surviving for the long term and with it comes amazing benefits – you can buy a beautiful holly tree for example in our shop at our Woodland Trust Shop.”
Andy adds: “Another really special Christmas present idea is to dedicate a tree for someone. It’s a great way of protecting a woodland and will inspire someone to have – or they may already have - a special connection to a certain wood for years to come. Go to: woodlandtrust.org.uk/dedicateforchristmas"
Most importantly, always recycle your tree! Recycled Christmas trees are usually shredded into chippings or mulched and reused locally in parks or woodland areas, they also make excellent environmentally friendly animal bedding.
2. Planet-kind cards
150 million cards per day are delivered on average by the Royal Mail in the run up to Christmas. Considering how simple most of these cards are to recycle, 1 billion still end up in landfill and can take up to 30 years to decompose.
As well as recycling the cards you receive in the post, why not get crafty with the kids and make your own eco friendly Christmas cards to send. Use recycled card and envelopes and cut down on plastic packaging, or you can buy recycled cards if crafts just aren’t your thing.
Try and hand deliver to friends and family who live close by and further reduce your Christmas carbon footprint total.
3. Choose recycled wrapping paper
It’s not just the packaging that some shops use that can make your Christmas presents problematic for the environment. Over 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper are used in Briton over Christmas, equating to 83 square km of rubbish – that’s more than enough to cover Guernsey!
Do your bit to reduce this figure by using recycled wrapping paper and always recycling the wrapping you receive wherever possible.
4. The Christmas food wastage crisis
While Britain’s food wastage may be outrageously high throughout the year, at Christmas we are guilty of wasting food at crisis level. 16.5 million turkeys are bought every year in the UK, that’s 1 turkey for every 3 people in the UK - that's a lot of turkey!
When planning your Christmas feast, the most eco friendly way to dine is to eat organic wherever possible. Whether you are veggie, vegan or plan on having turkey this Christmas, choose local, organic produce to reduce the impact on the planet.
Be sure to plan your meals carefully so you are not buying food you and your family won’t eat. Put your vegetable leftovers that can’t be reused in a compost bin or compost heap in the garden.
As well as the meal itself, 4,200 tonnes of aluminium foil are thrown away over Christmas. When thoroughly cleaned you can recycle aluminium foil at many recycle points. Some councils will accept aluminium foil as part of your recycling collection, but be sure to check with your local recycle service first.
5. Time to switch off the box?
During the Christmas week, the average person in the UK watches 30 hours of television, vegging out for over a day! This uses a huge amount of energy that could easily be avoided to help the environment.
If you are keen to cut your energy consumption this Christmas, switch off the TV unless there is something you really want to watch. Play games, go for a walk, do some carol singing and give your eyes a break from the screen.
6. Not all lights are created equal
There’s isn’t a more festive sight than when the Christmas lights start appearing on houses in your neighbourhood. As we all know, electric lights are costly both to our pockets and to the environment, but you can still enjoy the twinkle of fairy lights at home whilst remaining environmentally conscious.
Indoor LED fairy lights are a great option when decorating your home for Christmas. They don’t need much energy to run and are much more efficient than standard or even energy saving bulbs. LED lights generally don’t produce heat, making them ideal for decorating your Christmas tree and reducing the risk of fire hazard.
7. Deck the halls
Rather than buying new decorations this year, you can revamp your old baubles and give your tree a whole new theme. By re-covering them with recycled papier-mâché or even newspaper, you can create a cheap, eco friendly home spun look that saves money, packaging and energy.
For an even more organic approach, why not use nature to decorate your home? Holly branches, berries and ivy all help to give your home a rustic Christmas aesthetic, what’s even better is you can forage for them for free! Be careful to use gloves when handling plants if you have sensitive, allergy prone skin as some can cause irritation.
Shop for eco-friendly gifts
You can also make a difference this Christmas by shopping for eco-friendly Christmas gifts.
Green People's range of natural and organic cruelty-free gifts are kind to the environment and to your skin. With recyclable packaging and gentle, safe ingredients, Green People's skin and body care gift collections are the perfect choice for anyone looking to have an environmentally conscious Christmas without sacrificing any festive indulgence!
Green People has partnered with Plantlife, a British conservation charity that works to protect threatened species of wild flowers, plants and fungi. For every Modern Botanicals gift sold, we’ll donate a portion of the profit to Plantlife, helping to support their vital work. With beautiful packaging adorned with unique botanical illustrations, our Modern Botanicals gift collection looks good, feels good and DOES good this Christmas.
Have you seen our eco-friendly advent calendar?
Our beautiful Green Regime Beauty Advent Calendar is a perfect earth-conscious collection of organic beauty products. Discover a new favourite every day with 15 cruelty-free, natural skin and hair care products in recyclable packaging.
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The Woodland Trust name and logo are trademarks of the Woodland Trust used under license from Woodland Trust Enterprises Ltd
The Woodland Trust, charity registered in England and Wales (No. 294344) and in Scotland (No. SC038885)