At Christmas, we generate more waste than any other time. We produce around 300,000 tonnes of cardboard packaging – probably even more this year as we increasingly move to online shopping. With environmental issues now so important, a big question mark hangs over the sustainability of all the tinsel and glitter we love so much. So we need to come up with ways to avoid all the plastic waste that goes into our cards, decorations and gifts.
With a bit of extra thought, there are plenty of greener alternatives. Here are some ideas from the Environment Agency to ensure your Christmas won’t cost the earth.
First, the tree. Consider buying a potted tree that you can plant outside once the festivities are over. If you don’t have space to plant it, you could keep it in its pot outside on the patio. This enables you to do your bit for the environment and reuse the tree again next year - it could last a lifetime! And if you have no outside space you can still recycle your tree responsibly – your local council will have details on its website. If you prefer an artificial tree, it will need to be used for at least10 years for its environmental impact to be lower than a real tree. So if you’re buying one this year, make sure it will last and doesn’t just end up in the dustbin
We all love a wreath for the front door – but some are more eco-friendly than others. Go for a real wreath made using natural foliage, which can be recycled along with your tree. If you choose one with glittery decorations, just pull them off before recycling and re-use them next year.
When you’re wrapping presents try and use recyclable paper if you can. If it’s got foil or glitter on it then it can’t be recycled and could contain plastic. Most supermarkets have recyclable options, so try to buy these where possible. Even better, get creative (if you have the time) and decorate brown paper with fabric ribbon that can be re-used next year and festive foliage.
We throw away around a billion Christmas cards every year - that’s the eye-watering equivalent of 33 million trees. So if you can, buy cards printed on FSC-certified, recycled card and which are recyclable. Just like wrapping paper, if cards are decorated with glitter or foil, they can’t be recycled.
Avoid using single-use decorations which often contain plastic and think twice about Christmas crackers. These are laden with glitter and are often filled with plastic toys and gifts that go straight in the bin with the leftovers. If you can’t resist a cracker joke and a paper hat, look for FSC-certified crackers that are made from recycled paper and contain sustainable party favours.
Finally, here’s something you may not know. Dairy products are one of the most environmentally harmful items that you can pour down the kitchen sink. They need loads of oxygen to break down, which means less oxygen in the water for wildlife. This is why pouring milk down the drain is a criminal offence for businesses. So be conscious of overbuying dairy products and if you do have some left over, recycle it in your food waste bin.
Of course, if you are highly organised all this advice may be too little too late. But it’s never too early to start thinking about next Christmas, so why not make it your New Year’s resolution to go green next year.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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