Christmas is all about excess – eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much and, let’s face it, wasting too much. And thinking green at this time of year can be tricky. However, by following a few simple tips it doesn't have to be such an expensive time for the pocket or the environment.
Energy use over the festive period increases significantly. Much of this is from Christmas lights and the trend for huge, lit-up Santa scenes on roofs and garages has increased the amount of carbon dioxide, along with all the activity inside the home. An extravagant display can cost as much as £170 to power throughout December - producing enough carbon dioxide to fill 140 telephone boxes. Consider replacing old tree lights with LED strings which can use nearly 90 per cent less energy than incandescent lights. If every household in the UK swapped one string of incandescent light for an LED equivalent, during the 12 days of Christmas alone, we could collectively save more than £16 million and 57,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Solar powered/PV lights for the garden work a treat too instead of using your mains electricity supply.
Which Christmas tree?
Consider investing in a pot-grown Christmas tree as this can be put back outside quite happily and brought in again the following year – effectively lasting you a long time, absorbing carbon dioxide and having a lower impact on the environment. If you can't use a potted tree, try to buy one from a local, sustainable forest and ensure its recycled after Christmas.
Upcycle Christmas decorations
The vast majority of wrapping paper goes straight in the bin by Christmas afternoon. Save and re-use bigger pieces, ribbons and bows. Much wrapping paper isn’t recyclable (metallic/foil/laminated paper) so it will head straight to landfill. Wrapping presents in recycled brown paper and adding natural raffia instead of plastic frills and bows will reduce your impact. Use last year’s Christmas cards creatively cut up as tags for gifts, recycling paper and saving manufacture of new ones.
Buy local to cut down on air miles and carbon emissions from transport. You’ll also be supporting British farmers if you buy fresh produce from your local butcher or farmer’s market. Cooking for more people in a single home is more energy-efficient than many people cooking and heating their homes individually. And it's a good idea to plan your food shop which could help alleviate food waste. Food packaging alone at this time of year will likely fill your recycling bins so think about ways of providing extra storage for this and recycling it afterwards – or cutting down in the first place.
A leaf out of Scandinavia’s book
Christmas is a serious business across Scandinavia. So take inspiration from nature and use natural products to decorate both the inside and outside of your home. Wooden letters on a mantelpiece spell festive cheer and fir branches with traditional Nordic red trims look stunning, and no plastic in sight! However your festive season looks this year, just by bearing in mind the reduce, reuse, recycle message will mean you’ll benefit by wasting less and saving more, without having to compromise the spirit of Christmas.