So, you’re buying fewer presents this year and skipping the pigs in blankets. You’ve got a plan to avoid single-use wrapping paper and those annoying little bits of plastic from crackers. What’s left? Here are 7 cheap and easy ways to seriously green your Christmas.
Get your Christmas jumper second-hand (or wear last year’s again…….)
I think by now everyone knows about the environmental disaster that is fast fashion. The production of new fabrics is responsible for eye watering amounts of CO2 emissions and water consumption, and this is before we even start to factor in the problem of textile waste. With this is mind, are we really going to buy new items of clothing that are only worn once or twice a year? Christmas jumpers are easy to find second-hand.
The Energy Savings Trust recommends opening up your home at Christmas, pointing out that cooking for more people in one home saves energy compared to cooking across several. I guess you can see the sense in this, especially when you add the energy consumed from heating, lighting and powering a home for the day.
But: I can’t help wondering whether the carbon savings from reduced home energy use will be offset by the emissions from everyone travelling to go visiting over Christmas. That brings me on to….
Cut the carbon from travel
If you are travelling, try to make your journey as low carbon as possible. If you can get there by public transport that should slash your emissions. If you need to drive, could you car share? If you don’t know of anyone who is going your way, there are liftsharing apps that can put you in touch with potential passengers. If sharing gets just one car off the road, you could be reducing the CO2 emissions and air pollution of your journey up to 50%.
Hopefully it goes without saying that it’s best not to fly for short distances.
Focus on food
It’s easy to associate Christmas with the frenzied and unsustainable consumption of new stuff. But keep in mind that food production is the number one driver of environmental destruction. The average person from Europe, North America and Oceania already demands around 1000 calories over their energy requirements on a normal day. Imagine how this figure must shoot up at this time of year.
If food is wasted, all the resources that went into producing it is wasted too, and if it ends up in landfill, will produce methane, a greenhouse gas which is 30x worse for the climate than CO2.
Get smart about your food shopping, buying only what is likely to be eaten in time and factoring in that you may receive drinks and edible treats as gifts.
If you are preparing food for a group of people, allowing them to choose their own portion sizes by serving themselves can help to reduce waste, as you will fill less inclined to use up leftovers from people’s plates.
After Christmas, expect articles to appear everywhere with recipe ideas for Christmas leftovers. Give spare food away to friends, family and anyone who can eat it. Just don’t waste it.
Load the dishwasher
Research has found that dishwashers are far more efficient than humans at doing the washing up. Yes, not only do they use 3 times less water and reduce energy consumption, they get the dishes cleaner and save time. So considering that hot water use = carbon emissions, loading the dishwasher so that it’s completely full is an easy way to reduce your impact over the feasting season. If you don’t have a dishwasher, aim to minimise the amount of hot water and soap used for washing up.
Most of us are aware of the environmental craziness that is bottled water. But all packaged liquids are problematic as they are heavy to transport and therefore involve lots of emissions from fuel consumption. Glass bottles are particular offenders, due to their increased weight, the extra material required, and their awkward shapes meaning you can fit fewer of them into a lorry.
If there is anywhere near you that offers refills of wine and beers, this can reduce the carbon and material footprint of your drinks (although clearly this only works if the bottles are actually reused and you don’t make a special car trip to fill them). In the pub, beers on tap will be more earth-friendly, and if you can get locally-brewed, even better.
Think about savouring, not consuming
How good do you really feel after you have consumed most of a box of Quality Street in a single sitting? (Yes, we’ve all done it). Or 4 solid days of Christmas TV? (Don’t forget to include consumption of energy in your sustainability assessment). And do you really want to spend the season browsing frantically online for stuff to buy?
Think about what you love about Christmas that doesn’t involve consumption. Is it the way the Christmas tree looks when it is all lit up in the dark? The memories/time spent with family and friends? Music? Scents? Games? Hibernating with your favourite book? The magical pink and orange sunrises and sunsets at this time of year?
Do whatever it is that makes Christmas sparkle for you.
I’ll be sharing Christmas ideas on Instagram. See also 9 ideas for zero waste gifting, 5 ‘eco-friendly’ ideas to avoid this Christmas, and What to do with your waste this Christmas.