The holiday season is here and now more than ever, it is extra important to recycle and be aware of what and where we purchase for the season. Here are some ways to keep it festive while going green:
1) Opt for a real Christmas tree
“Real trees are much more green than fake ones,” Bill Ulfelder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York, told HuffPost. He explained that there are many reasons for this, including the fact that real trees clean the air, protect water and provide wildlife habitats. Fake trees, on the other hand, tend to be plastic and manufactured overseas. “They’ve been found to contain things that can cause health issues, and they have pretty big carbon footprints given we’re shipping them into the United States,” said Ulfelder. “Hands down, real trees are the way to go. And they just smell so much better.”
In addition to this, you can:
- Rent a Christmas tree, which you decorate and care for during the festive period, and then take it to replant in January–or if you have the space, do it at home.
- Find out about drop-off points in your area, where your old tree will be recycled into chippings for local parks and woodland areas.
- Alternatively, take it to your local dump where you can add it to the other green waste or chop it up and stack the wood in your garden to create a habitat for birds and bugs.
2) Use LED lights
Light Emitting Diode or LED lights use up to 80% less energy. Being more energy efficient, LED lights are better for the environment and will also save you money on your electric bill. You can also just opt for fewer strands or buy solar-powered Christmas lights to decorate your house.
3) Be mindful about gifts
Make good choices while shopping for holiday gifts. In some cases, that may involve buying less, going local or choosing items made from recycled materials.
Another way to reduce waste is to steer away from object-based gifts. You can plan experiences, donate to charity in someone’s name or plant trees.
4) Choose eco-friendly wrapping
- Try to choose wrapping papers that are recyclable. Many rolls contain non-recyclable elements like foil, glitter or plastic.
- Reuse gift bags, ribbons and bows you receive.
- Opt for recycled wrapping paper, brown paper or tissue.
- Store gift bags rather than recycling right away. They can usually be reused more than once with a new tag.
- Try knot wraps – colourful fabric squares that can be reused again and again.
Tip: If you want to know if your wrapping paper can be recycled or not, use the scrunch test. Scrunch up the paper in your hands and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up then it can be recycled but, if it unfolds on its own accord, then it likely contains non-recyclable elements.
4) Send forest friendly or plantable Christmas cards
- Look for cards with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark. This guarantees the paper has been produced sustainably and ethically.
- Send plantable cards.
- Recycle or compost your cards in January or turn them into decorations for next year
6. Show your support for small-scale producers
There are many environmental benefits to purchasing produce grown locally and planning more plant-based meals as well. You’ll use fewer food miles, less packaging and you can feel confident that you haven’t supported any intensive farming practices.
Tip: Eat the food in your freezer in the run-up to the main event, leaving plenty of room for leftovers.
7. Be mindful of the food waste
The holidays are a time for big gatherings and indulgent meals, so it’s important to be mindful about food waste as well.
- Try not to buy more than you can eat, and make use of leftovers after big meals.
- If it’s an option where you live, compost whatever is left over.
- Buy less. It can be tricky when guests are staying, but it is always possible.
- Food waste apps such as Olio, that connect you to people in need in your local area. You simply list what's available, snap a photo and share your location with other app users.
8. Buy certified "green" or plastic-free gifts
Third party certification is the best way to determine if a product is environmentally-friendly, according to Anthesis. Look out for respected eco logos, such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Energy Star and Palm Oil Free.
9. Rethink your decorations
- Look for designs made from brass, glass and wood.
- Make your own wreath using paper and twine.
- Another option are biscuits threaded on ribbon or foraged red berries, holly and mistletoe.
- Family heirlooms are a great option, since they emerge year after year.
- If you want candles, choose eco-friendly soy or beeswax varieties rather than paraffin.
10. Think about your outfit
- Resist the temptation to buy sequins (they’re made from PVC and there are no biodegradable substitutes)
- Opt for sustainable materials.
- Try clothes-swapping apps.
11. Invest in a reusable advent calendar
Invest in a reusable advent calendar and fill it with a variety of gifts such as handmade truffles. You can even treat your dog to a calendar too.
12. Get a smart meter
They can help you save money on your energy bills, while being an easy way to make a genuine difference to climate change.