Christmas is such an exciting time. Think family parties, carols, gifts, decorations, food, Mariah Carey and Michael Buble….it’s amazing! But have you ever thought about the waste? In the UK in 2016, it was estimated that the equivalent of 2 million turkeys, and 300,000 tonnes of christmas card packaging was turfed, meanwhile 1 in 4 christmas jumpers are tossed after a single wear. It’s time to put on our santa hats and rethink our festive waste with these simple tips and tricks.
Every facet of christmas time can pose a threat to your local landfill. Things like disposable christmas trees, christmas cards, gift wrapping, cheap decorations, unwanted presents, not to mention the potential for massive amounts of food waste. If you are one of those awesome people getting serious about reducing your waste footprint, read on for some tips and tricks and have yourself a waste free christmas this year!
Be mindful of food (and food related) waste
Most of us are going to find ourselves entertaining or visiting family who are entertaining this Christmas, perhaps more than once. With family get togethers comes lots of food so here are a couple of things to consider and plan for to stop any food waste getting to landfill.
- Plan your menu appropriately to avoid a fridge full of leftovers that no one wants to eat.
- If you do have leftovers, ensure that you store them in sealed containers so as to avoid using a whole roll of cling wrap.
- Eat your leftovers by using them as the base for your next meal!
- Compost your food scraps in a compost bin or worm farm.
- Properly recycle your food packaging where possible and be sure not to place recyclables in your general waste bin. *Check your local council’s website for information on what can and can’t be recycled in your area.
- Do your best to use reusable crockery and cutlery.
- BONUS POINTS: Purchase your fresh produce from a local farmers market so you can be sure you are getting food with the lowest food miles (carbon footprint) while supporting your local economy.
Christmas trees, decorations, cards and wrapping
Putting up your christmas tree is one of the special days on the festive calendar, so be as green and waste-free as you can with these tips:
- Real or fake? According to the UK forestry commission, real christmas trees use ten times fewer materials and five times less energy than an artificial tree. And according to a 2009 study by Ellipsos in Montreal, you would have to use an artificial tree for 20 years to be more sustainable than a fresh cut tree bought once per year. Moral of the story, if you like artificial trees, keep them as long as possible and recycle them as best you can if you need to replace it. Otherwise, go for a fresh-cut tree, or even better, make one out of sticks or driftwood, use a tree from your own backyard, or buy one in a pot that you can replant later!
- Christmas decorations…we all have that box of them up in the cupboard that we pull out once per year. They are mostly plastic, and will no doubt eventually end up in a landfill. Avoid purchasing new ones in favour of some natural biodegradable and inexpensive DIY options such as those from Natural Living Ideas.
- Reuse your christmas cards by cutting off the kind words and using the blank side for christmas next year. Or do what my wife does and take them to a local kindergarten. They are always happy to take random things for arts and crafts!
- No need to purchase another 20 pack of christmas themed wrapping paper, just use the 10 rolls left over from last year. Alternatively, use some old newspaper or whatever you have lying around the house. I have used old clothes to wrap presents before…….i know that’s a bit much but you get the point.
- BONUS POINTS: If you don’t enjoy thinking about the 300,000 + tonnes of christmas card packaging ending up in landfill every year in the UK alone, use a service like Paperless Post. They send e-cards for a very small fee and are just as enjoyable as real card. No waste, no fuss.
Be green with your gifts
What about the main event of Christmas…….giving and receiving gifts? In Australia, roughly 20 million unwanted gifts will change hands every christmas and it’s getting higher all the time. The waste footprint and environment impact of consumer goods is enormous. When you are purchasing gifts this year, consider these tips:
- Avoid purchasing cheaply produced and highly packaged goods. Cheaply produced goods have a shorter lifespan and are designed to break sooner i.e. destined for landfill!. Look for quality items that can be fixed or at least recycled once they eventually breakdown in the future.
- Without taking the fun out of gift giving, try and purchase things that you know for sure the recipient wants. This ensures that they aren’t left with things that are likely to be thrown out or just collect dust in the top of a cupboard i.e. gimmicky christmas jumpers that are likely to only be worn one day per year!
- Christmas is the perfect storm when it comes to purchasing the latest and greatest phones, tablets, computers etc. do your best to sell your old technology to someone else who will continue to get value from it, or drop it off to your nearest e-waste recycler and keep those precious metals and toxic chemicals out of landfill. Check your local council for drop off spots.
- Hate buying for every single one of your 74 person extended family? Do an Op Shop Kris Kringle! You only have to buy for one person and you can make it fun by searching for great second hand items! It is a really fun time, and best part is you don’t have to purchase new gifts that use virgin resources. If you don’t like your gift, just take it back to your local op shop.
- BONUS POINTS: Think about buying less this year and check out our post on the benefits of keeping a minimalist wardrobe for some inspiration. However, if you can’t help yourself, find a local charity that can distribute gifts to some families or children less fortunate than yourself.
Look I know that it seems there is a lot to think about when you are considering your waste footprint…and that’s because there is! But most waste can be easily diverted with a little thought and planning. If we all have a crack at reducing our waste just a little this christmas, together we can have a massive impact! Let us know in the comments if you have any more links or tips to help other festive waste warriors! But most importantly…have yourself a merry (waste-free) christmas!!
Editor’s note: images via Unsplash.