Christmas is often flagged up as one of the most 'consuming' events in the calendar; everyone is buying presents, everyone is driving to everybody else to stay over the holiday, and millions of Xmas cards are posted all over the world.
We don't want to sound like Scrooge and go 'Bah Humbug' - but Xmas is a time of excess; and you should consider it your duty to operate your Xmas celebrations in a way that reduces your impact on the environment.
This article looks at various ways in which you can have your Xmas Cake and be eco at the same time..
Eco Christmas Cards and 'ecarding'
We find printed Christmas cards to be a rather outmoded form of communication in these days of instant messaging and email. So for your 'lower tier' friends and associates send them an Email Christmas card instead, i.e an ecard; unless they have actually sent you a real card in the last year of course.
If you must send a real Xmas card, we suggest you do the following:
- Make sure it is printed on recycled paper.
- If you have to send multiple Xmas cards to the same address, put them all in the same envelope. 'Shocking!' we hear you say, but the cards get open all on Xmas day anyways - let the recipients have the additional fun of working out which card is for whom! They are going to read each others cards anyways..
- Buy cards whose profits from go to support an Eco focused charity or scheme.
- If you are a creative type, recycle your old Xmas cards to make new ones. This actually not as hard as it sounds. First you need to create a blank card, basically take a piece of A4 card weight paper, fold in half longways (like a book), that will give you an A5 card. if you cut along the fold and fold again in half long ways, you will end up with two blank A6 cards - which is pretty much the standard size of most cards. Then just cut out the front of the cards you want to recycle and glue on the front to make your 'new' card (remembering the fold is to the left side as you open it, that will indicate which face is to the front).
Of course once you have received a Xmas card, please do make sure you see it gets properly recycled after the big event; either by putting in the recycle bin or keeping it to reuse to make your own cards next year.
Eco Christmas Presents
As a receiver of Christmas Presents, there a few simple things you can request:
- Ask not to receive a present! Very green, but not that much fun.
- Ask for cash instead of a present, and not a voucher, real cash! This then gives you the ability to pick something you want and spend it on something more Eco friendly.
- Ask the present be wrapped in Eco friendly wrapping paper (i.e. recycled), or forgo the wrapping paper all together.
- Ask for the present of them investing in an Eco friendly scheme or charity on your behalf.
- Spread the word! Get a gift book on organic gardening, or home cooking, etc Books are a very powerful way of educating many people over an extended period of time.
Regifting Christmas Presents
Ah the tricky subject of regifting - the ultimate form of recycling...
There are a few simple things you can do which really make regifting good for the environment and good for you too:
- 1. No Perishable goods.
- By next Xmas, anything food related (i.e. baskets, cheese, etc) will be off (unless its a sealed unit, like a Xmas Pud, which could be regifted indefinitely!) or a health hazard - so just use by the Use By Date and don't regift.
- 2. Avoid Out-Moded/Extinct Products.
- Platform shoes have a very limited chance of coming back in fashion.. So stay away of any goods or clothing 'bound' to a particular decade. Also remember technology has moved on since the cassette recorder.. Only exception to this is if you know they are collector of said item.
- 3. Avoid those Dead Giveaways.
- Certain regifts can be a right giveaway. Especially if your name is written on the base, or your initials are on it! Also anything company PR related is considered a bad choice.
- 4. ReWrap with recycled or “green” wrapping paper
- Ideally the gift should be in its original box and unused. If not, then wrap it in fresh 'green' wrapping paper and box, and make it tidy; otherwise it just doesn't work.
- 5. Note who got what and when
- This is critical. You do not want to either give a present back to someone who gave it to you in the first place, nor give them something they already got from you last year! A computer with a simple spreadsheet is ideal for this.
There are lots you can do with Xmas decorations to reduce your Eco impact and be more green.
- 1. Recycle decorations
- Collect up any empty packages, fabric scraps,old cards, paints; then with scissors and glue let your creativity flow...
- 2. Edible decorations
- If you cook, make some edible decorations, i.e. biscuits, fruit, marzipan, etc. Great with the kids.
- 3. Use what you have
- If you have a box of decorations - see that you use them. The 'Eco Cost' with them has already being paid, so not using them would be the worst thing to do.
- 4. Xmas Lights
- If you must have these, first make sure they are actually legal - so many fires get started by bad/old wiring on these it's not a joke. Secondly, do put the lights on a timer, so they are on when you are there and off when you aren't.
Millions of Christmas trees worldwide are 'dumped' or destroyed. This is real waste, as the trees pump out oxygen in return for using climate-changing CO2.
Now you can choose not to buy the tree, but the problem here is that the supplier won't grow the tree's unless there is the demand, so no net gain for the environment. So if you must buy a tree:
- Make sure its roots are in good condition and that it is in a good pot; and,
- Once you have it home keep it away from strong heat sources in the house and give it water, i.e. don't let it dry out.
Once you are done with the tree, plant it! Although do inquire with the place you bought it from that you haven't bought a tree that will dwarf your backyard in 5 years time!
If you can't plant it - find out if anybody else wants it. Then make sure you dispose of it in an Eco friendly manor, i.e. take to a recycling center to be shredded and composted.
If you don't want to buy a tree, look around outdoors for fallen cones, branches, and ivy, and use this to transform your home into a magical natural wonderland. If you don't have a yard then you can buy a synthetic tree, but only as long as you keep reusing it, using it once and throwing it away is not the right thing to be doing (also do make sure it is fire safe).
Christmas Food and drink
What would be Christmas without food and drink, but there are some sustainability factors to be considered:
- 1. Food miles
- Buy your produce locally and make sure it is locally produced.
- 2. Organic food
- Food grown with a thought for biodiversity. Perhaps even grown yourself.
- 3. Fair trade food
- This is food whose growers have been fairly paid for their labors.
Of course, do only buy what you realistically expect to consume, as good food going in the bin is bad for everybody..
Travel and transport
Car journeys can be particularly stressful over the festive season as drivers become over-tired and many may be the worse for a seasonal drink or two, so aim for a few car-free days this Christmas. if you must travel by car, do make sure you:
- Car pool
- Travel at times to avoid the traffic congestion. This will be easier for you and less polluting
Taking a cheap flight for Christmas seems like a super bargain, but this is very polluting, CO2 emissions from aircraft go straight into the stratosphere. So instead look for a local holiday, or take a more Eco friendly form of transport, like the train.
Heating over Christmas
Everybody wants to be comfortable at Christmas - but do check that:
- your home is fully insulated;
- your heating appliances are serviced and working efficiently; and,
- that windows and curtains are closed at night and turn down your thermostat one degree.
If you use Gas heating, do make sure that a carbon monoxide detector is fitted.
If you are going to have external lights at Xmas time, do make sure that:
- you are using LEDs instead of traditional bulbs. LEDs will last up to 10 times longer, produce virtually no heat and dramatically reduce the power consumption.
- you put the lights on a timer, and don't bother having the lights on after midnight
This is also a good time to replace old inefficient bulbs around the house with energy efficient ones. This is a great investment, as every low energy bulb you use could save a small fortune in its lifetime!
Knee deep in Batteries?
Wind-ups toys and solar-powered gifts apart, Xmas brings yet more battery-hungry appliances and toys. Therefore use mains or go for rechargeable appliances where possible, and treat your household to a battery charger or two - preferably one that charges NiMH batteries, these are the least damaging to the environment, and recharge up to 1000 times.
Also educate the children to turn off the toys when they are finished with them. You would be amazed how this simple little bit of education can make toy batteries last a lot longer. In fact even educate them on how to do the recharging as well.
If you feel the urge to go out and shop at Christmas, do consider the alternatives:
- Go online
- Plenty of online stores now selling everything you could either want as a gift or to give as a gift.
- Order and delivery online
- Quite a few online stores will both process and gift wrap the present for you - this halves the posting needed (i.e. you don't have to post it onto the recipient). so if the recipient lives in another country or is inter state, definitely consider this.
But if you must shop, do make sure that:
- You shop as locally as you can;
- Limit your number of trips, better one big 'super shop' than loads of little shops; and,
- If you can be this organized, shop ahead, i.e. buy Christmas presents 4/5/6 months in advance.