How to minimise waste at Christmas
I love Christmas. We make our Christmas cake in September and I lovingly ‘feed’ it every two weeks. I start making homemade gifts in July or August each year so I can give family and friends something special. The Christmas music goes on from December 1st and is on repeat! Any one else the same?
What I am beginning to love the most is the traditions that we are making with our two young Daughters. My eldest (now 5) is starting to remember things from previous years and we talk about them and plan what is coming this year. The thing with traditions is they are often full of items we re-use, rather than single use, so they are good fun and good for keeping waste down.
Waste at Christmas time increases. It’s almost impossible to avoid but there are ways to minimise the impact.
How do I do this? I hear you shout. Here are some of my top tips to reduce the waste Christmas decorations can create.
Christmas Trees – Real vs Fake – there has been some huge debates over recent years on whether real or fake trees are better for the environment. The general consensus is that real trees are better, but only if you dispose of them in the right way! Take a look at this article for some of the facts and figures. In brief, a fake tree needs to be used for a minimum of 10 years in order to have a lower carbon footprint than a 2m real tree. But only if the real tree is burnt or shredded to spread on gardens. Left to decompose on it’s own it can actually produce a high amount of methane gas which is more dangerous than carbon dioxide. If you’re going to get a fake tree, invest in one you will want to keep and reuse for many years.
Advent calendars – they bring so much joy and can be so simple! There are also a vast range of calendars now available on the marker, from pictures (all card/paper) to chocolates, gin and candles! I have even seen one this year which is a different tea to taste each day. However, all of these produce waste and, it is actually very very easy to have a completely waste free Advent Calendar. You could opt for a wooden calendar that you fill with sweets. They have little drawers and you simply pop a sweet in for each day. Buy sweets from a refill store or pick n mix in your own jar and it’s a double win as you have no waste at all. You can also buy fabric advent calendars that you hang on the wall or door. Again, pop sweets in or as an alternative you can put different Christmas activities for each day. Write these out on card and reuse each year (then you don’t have to think of things to do every year). Ours include decorating the tree, making mince pies, singing Christmas Carols and more.
Lights – I am a sucker for Christmas lights. I love cosy nights with the lights on and I also love wandering around looking at all the local villages lit up. Of course one of the main themes here is – REUSE! Don’t buy new each year, just use what you have. If you need/want new lights, look for second-hand. If that’s not possible then buy LED bulbs which are more energy efficient. The easiest way to minimise your impact with lights is to make sure you are with a renewable energy company.
Crackers – such a simple pleasure but the waste from Christmas Crackers is mind boggling. It is estimated that 40 million crackers end up in landfill each year. A lot of high street stores are making the move to eco-friendly crackers. Plastic free boxes, fully recyclable outers and no plastic toys. Phew! What isn’t so pleasant is the crazy price tag they come with. I saw a box of 6 for £40 last weekend. If you have a big family then no one is going to buy those – instead they will go for the totally un eco option and spend a third of the money. If you do want to have eco crackers then try shopping small, you’ll get a better deal. Check out these beautiful handmade crackers or perhaps some DIY ones that you fill yourself.
Tableware – who doesn’t love a good Christmas place setting? From table runners to napkins and all the candles, plates and bowls in between – you can really go to town on your dinner table. The thing to remember is to invest in something you love so you keep it for years to come. Buy a set of tableware or buy on a theme so that every year you will look forward to getting your special items out. Avoid paper table cloths and napkins – I know it’s easier to throw them in the bin on Christmas Day when often the house is full of chaos, but is that actually any easier than throwing them in the washing machine? You can leave them until the next day when you’re ready to turn the machine on, you don’t have to do washing on the big day itself!
Tree decorations, wreaths and general items – you can buy tree decorations in just about every shape, colour and size going, so make sure you buy what you love and will keep. Our tree is a mish-mash of decorations that we have collected over the years. They all mean something and we will keep them for as long as they are in one piece. Buying a colour theme is great – but only if you’re going to keep that same colour theme for years, so invest wisely. Wreaths can also be bought to be reused but if you prefer fresh then just make sure you compost and dispose of correctly. For all of your decorations, think before you buy and invest in something you can keep.
Make sure you store all of your Christmas items safely! Wrap breakables in plenty of tissue paper, store in air tight boxes and keep them safe until next Christmas. This will make them last years, saving waste from landfill and keep money in your pocket (for extra mince pies?)
By sticking to these ideas, reusing from years before, buying second hand and selling on what you no longer want or need, you will make a massive impact on the amount thrown away over the festive period. It is so important that we don’t just leave our principles behind for the month of December! Give some of the ideas a go and see how you get on.