As the festive season approaches it’s got me thinking about mass consumption and how it’s the least earth-friendly holiday. Presents wrapped in paper with lots of tape and crackers that get thrown away, leftover food and unwanted gifts.
We create 30 per cent more rubbish than usual at this time of year, using more than 300,000 tonnes of card and sending more than 100 million bags of garbage to landfill.
Christmas may be the most wonderful time of year but it’s also incredibly wasteful. The average child receives 16 gifts in total. With the world’s population standing at 7.6 billion people (as of May 2018), that’s a lot wrapping that gets thrown away.
Why Should You Care?
The more waste we send to landfill the more methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) that gets released in the air, and the more the temperature of the Earth rises. This increases the likelihood of natural disasters happening across the world such as droughts, floods and hurricanes.
These can have a devastating effect on habitats as is evidenced by the current flooding in Britain and California’s wildfires. As of 14th November 2018, the Camp Fire near Chico has already burned 85,500 acres, claiming 29 lives, and destroying over 111,000 structures. (source: VoxMedia)
Changes like these affect us all and are happening across the globe. Most of the articles about the floods in Britain don’t mention climate change at all and don’t say that it is our own doing. If you’ve never cared about your impact on the planet before you NEED TO now.
What You Can Do
When you think of Christmas you think of the tree, gifts, the food.. it is a wonderful time of year. But have you thought about how to actually be more ethical and conscious this Christmas? I’m talking about taking small but mighty steps to reduce your carbon footprint this festive season.
It might feel like how can you make a difference you’re just one person, but imagine the impact if we all did it? There is a lot you can do to combat waste and do your part for the environment.
Check out some of the stats below to give you an idea of the crazy waste we are consuming at Christmas time plus my tips to be greener.
Waste Not, Want Not!
Many of us are guilty of loading up our plates and having eyes bigger than our bellies, pace yourself. You can always get more after you clean your plate. “I love feeling nauseatingly full,’’ said no one ever.
263,000 turkeys, 7.5 million mince pies, 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding, 17.2 million Brussels sprouts, 11.9 million carrots and 11.3 million roast potatoes were thrown away in 2014
The Brussels sprouts wasted at Christmas could power a home for 3 years. If all Christmas food waste was recycled into energy, it could power the average medium-sized home for 57 years.
Here are some tips to avoid food waste this festive season:
- GO VEGAN (save the turkeys and the planet!)
- Freeze leftovers.
- Send family home with food.
- Don’t load up your plate too much. You can always get more.
- Donate them to the homeless or use the olio app.
- Make soup/broth with your veggie scraps
- Make pies or curries with leftover meat alternatives and veggies.
- Make bread pudding with panettone.
- Makes sundaes or a trifle with Christmas pudding.
- Make a frittata with potatoes and veg.
- Make bubble and squeak with potatoes and veg.
- Make potato hash.
- Make gratin or veggie bake.
- Use reusable containers like glass not throw away plastic.
- Make homemade dishes instead of shop bought ones in plastic.
- Buy local produce (less co2 and plastic used).
- Take your own bags to the shop.
- Buy nuts and dried fruits at refill stations and take own containers.
- Put stale pies, bread, fruit and nuts out for the birds.
Lifestyle: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
On average more than 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper is used for Christmas presents every year, equivalent to 50,000 trees!
227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each year. Instead of being recycled, 1 billion Christmas cards are also put in the bin.
300,000 tonnes of card packaging is said to be used during the festive season, which is enough to cover London’s Big Ben almost 260,000 times.
Here are some things you can do to reduce your wrap waste:
- Turn your cards (or last year’s) into gift tags.
- Use brown paper & string.
- Reuse last years wrapping paper.
- Use gift bags and boxes from last year.
- Make the switch to recycled or eco-friendly wrapping paper.
- Use gift boxes and bags which can be reused next year. If the person you gifted to won’t use them ask for them back so you can.
*Most wrapping paper is suitable for recycling unless it is a shiny metallic or glitter variety. You can easily check this by scrunching the paper; if it stays in a ball shape, it should be recyclable.
Each year, the UK spends around £700 million on unwanted gifts.
Here are some tips to avoid unwanted gifts and buying in excess this festive season:
- Buy an experience like a spa day rather than a physical gift.
- Buy from small businesses and local artisans.
- Buy from ethical businesses.
- Raise money for charity rather than receiving gifts.
- Upcycle your old clothes and make a DIY gift like a tote bag.
- Make cookies and preserves to give as gifts.
- Buy secondhand (charity shop, depop, facebook).
- Buy less. Give your child 1 or 2 presents this year instead of 16 things they’ll grow out of or be bored of in 6 months.
- Donate unwanted clothes toys to foodbanks, shoebox causes, children’s charities and hospitals.
According to a survey from 2017, 14% of people said that they would be binning their artificial Christmas tree, rather than reusing it the following year.
WRAP estimates that the weight of the real trees that are thrown away after Christmas weight in at around 160,000 tonnes.
6 million Christmas trees are discarded each year.
The Carbon Trust calculates that the carbon footprint of a 2-metre high real Christmas tree in landfill is 16kg of carbon dioxide.
Every piece of plastic ever made is still on our planet today in some form or another. We are using and throwing away so much plastic, it’s quite hard to get away from these days. Although there is more awareness of plastic straws and cups these days which is a great start.
8 million tonnes of plastic are thrown into our oceans each year, equivalent to 1 rubbish truck full of plastic going into the ocean every single minute.
Here are some tips to avoid single use plastic and tree waste this festive season:
- Avoid the synthetic chemicals from plug-in or sprays and scent your home with real festive fragrances. By simmering cloves in water on the hob with saved orange peels, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg you get a real festive feel (and it’s a lot cheaper than a fancy candle).
- Repurpose old clothing and make fabric ornaments or cloth napkins.
- Use cloth napkins, tablecloths – which can be from your wardrobe or old sheets – real cutlery and plates instead of single use plastic.
- Reuse decorations or donate to charity shops.
- Buy synthetic trees and use them every year, don’t buy a new one.
- Recycle trees and wreaths or donate them to charity.
Use this tool to see where you can recycle your Christmas Trees & other items.
When it comes to the festive season it can feel essential to buy yet another outfit for that Christmas party. 30 percent of annual retail sales typically happen around the holidays.
Not only is it another expense you could do without the stress from but it’s an even heavier burden on the environment. The production of our clothing destroys Mother Natures resources of water, trees and clean air.
People are becoming more aware of ‘fast fashion’ and are shopping at charity shops, swap events and online secondhand stores like depop. We still have a long way to go though as many love to hit the high street sales for Black Friday bargains.
Here are some tips to avoid waste and excess buying this festive season:
- Give new life to old clothes by dying or adding embellishments.
- Go to a clothes swap event.
- Buy from a charity shop or secondhand store like depop or vinted.
- Check facebook for people selling their unwanted clothing.
- Donate unwanted clothes to food banks, charities and hospitals.
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I hope you enjoyed this guide and found it useful. Let’s all take little steps to care for our environment and live more consciously this Christmas!
Let me know what you think in the comments or tweet me @veganbabelife
Thanks for reading!