6th Day of Christmas: Being More Sustainable Over the Holiday Period

Photography by    Jenny Gavan

Photography by Jenny Gavan

Christmas really is one of my favourite times of the years, mostly because it involves spending lots of time with family and eating more food than is socially acceptable. However, despite it being mine and many others’ favourite time of the year, it’s not a very good time of the year for the environment, due to the wastefulness and excess of the holidays generally. So, along with all my other typically festive posts, I thought I’d include one that can have some sort of positive impact on the environment, providing you with some simple tips on how to have yourself a more environmentally friendly Christmas (not quite as catchy as Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas but I tried!)

But first, here’s some facts on how the month of December affects our environment:

  1. 27,000 miles of wrapping paper is used each year in the UK alone.

  2. Only 1% of consumer goods are still in use 6 months later.

  3. The equivalent of 2 million turkeys end up in the bin every year.

  4. 1 in 10 unwanted Christmas gifts end up in landfill

    (facts taken from https://www.asustainablelife.co.uk/12-not-so-fun-festive-facts/)

Being More Sustainable Over the Christmas Period

Now I don’t always like sharing facts like these because often guilt-tripping can scare people off. But I think it takes reading these types of statistics to actually make some changes, even if they’re only small! I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t buy any Christmas presents or that you should carefully measure out all of the food you buy to ensure none of it goes to waste (although if you want to, great, go for it!) The amount of people who are willing to make changes like this is minimal, but if everyone could make just a few changes to the way they do Christmas, think of the positive effects this could have on our environment!

So, with that, here are my top 5 tips t be more sustainable this Christmas! They’re not groundbreaking but they’re easily doable so do try at least one of them…

1.Use 100% Recyclable Wrapping Paper & Switch Out Sellotape for Washi Tape

As shown from the previous statistics, wrapping paper is one of the main ways in which Christmas can be a very wasteful time of year. Obviously the most effective solution would be not to wrap your presents but I’m not quite ready to take this step yet, firstly because I really do love having wrapped presents and, secondly, because I don’t have the energy to explain to every family member why their present isn’t wrapped and have them assume that I’m just lazy!

So, instead I’ve bought one roll of brown wrapping paper (just the one you get in the post office). It’s 100% paper and totally recyclable, plus it only cost me about £3 and it’s about 5x the size of a normal roll of wrapping paper. I actually really like how presents looked wrapped in this. I must admit that I have bought a few rolls of ribbon to ‘jazz it up’ a little bit but I’m hoping to reuse that for next year (I’ll be that person crawling around picking it up off everyone’s presents once they’ve opened them).

Another way in which I’ve made present-wrapping more environmentally friendly is by sticking down paper with Washi tape rather than sellotape. Again, washi tape is 100% recyclable and it looks a lot nicer than sellotape too! Unless you’re going to pull all the sellotape off the recyclable wrapping paper you’re using, it can’t go in the recycling bin anyway, so by using this you can avoid that and still recycle all the wrapping paper you’ve used.

2. Give the Gift of Sustainability

The statistic that only 1% of consumer goods are used 6 months later is one of the most shocking to me! That’s a crazy amount of waste. So, for that person (those people) that you always have no idea what to buy, why not get them something that’s going to improve their climate footprint rather than something that’s going to sit around and eventually go to landfill?

I received a Chilly’s water bottle for Christmas last year and, not only does it look super attractive and is very practical, I’ve probably bought around 500% less plastic water bottles because of it. Other ideas for environmentally friendly gifts include a reusable coffee cup, such as the Keep Cup, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable straws and reusable shopping/tote bags (of which you can get very nice ones, see this Independent article). Some of these I would reserve for people who are actually interested in being more sustainable but things like the Chilly’s bottle and the reusable coffee cup would be great gifts for anyone!

Being More Sustainable Over the Holiday Period

3. Lower Your Consumption of Animal Products

This might be the point where, if you’re a meat-eater, you click off this post now. But wait! I promise I’m not telling you to go vegan tomorrow! Animal agriculture causes 18% of all greenhouse gases and consumption of meat, dairy and eggs is significantly increased over the festive period, probably making this number even higher.

I’m not telling you to switch out your turkey for a nut roast (definitely do so if you want to) but maybe try some vegetarian canapés rather than meat-filled ones? What about switching out some of your milk chocolate for dark every now and then? Little things like this, do make a difference, especially in terms of supply and demand over the Christmas period.

I have a post coming very soon (like, tomorrow) with some tips on how to be vegan during Christmas and lots and lots of examples of the best veggie Christmas food! So even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, be sure to check that out to see how you could maybe swap out a few animal products for some animal-friendly ones over Christmas!

4. Leftovers

This is one that you’re going to like, I know it. I’m encouraging you to make the most of leftovers! Savour your Christmas dinner for as long as possible! Put it in sandwiches, eat it for breakfast, feed it to your pet. I know from my own experience, and I’m sure you do to, that the amount of food waste over Christmas can be crazy. Everyone panics and stocks up on enough food to last them a month on the days leading up to Christmas and so much of it ends in the bin, which then goes into landfill.

Firstly, try and not buy too much food! But when you inevitably do, make the most of it and eat ALL of the leftovers. Lots of food lasts for days even after it’s been cooked, such as all the vegetables that people avoid on their Christmas Dinner plate. So maybe even research/plan in advance the types of meals you can make with your leftovers, so your boxing day menu is just as good as the Christmas Day one. Also, if we’re talking about planning in advance, clear some space in your freezer so anything that can go in there for a later date instead of in the bin can fit.

5.Avoid Spending All Your Christmas Money on the Boxing Day Sales

There has been a huge increase in awareness of just how bad the fashion industry is for the environment over the past year. Black Friday, the Boxing Day sales and the January sales all fall in this period, causing many people to impulse buy clothes that they’ll only wear once, which will more than likely eventually end up in landfill. So, even though the sales are tempting, try not to buy anything that you wouldn’t already want to buy if it was full price.

It really gets on my nerves when bloggers tell people not too shop the sales, as, for many people, the only time that they can afford to buy clothing they want is when its reduced! So, I’m not saying boycott them. Just really think about the things that you’re buying (almost) as much as you would if they were full price items. Maybe even make a little wish list in the run up to Christmas of things you really like and have thought about, so when these sales do happen you can buy things you actually want rather than shop impulsively.

Being More Sustainable over the Holidays

I hope this post has been helpful and that you’re considering taking some of these steps in order to have a slightly more sustainable Christmas! But, also, don’t feel guilty if you’re not having the most environmentally-friendly Christmas possible- we live in a world that generally has never really cared about the environment so you’re working against the odds in order to live in a way that is careful, especially around Christmas! So just try your best and hopefully, Christmas can become more and more environmentally sustainable every year.