At this festive time of year, we eat more, drink more and spend more, so it’s no surprise that we produce more waste too. But wouldn’t Christmas be even merrier if we also tried to reduce the amount of waste that we create? It would certainly make Santa’s trip that little bit easier if he didn’t have to navigate piles of discarded rubbish!
Jokes aside, the festive holiday presents a notorious problem for the industry, not least because the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mentality often goes out the window. So, as we begin our countdown to Christmas, we thought we’d collate some top tips to cut out unnecessary waste.
Reach for reuse bags
Everyone does a lot of shopping at Christmas time, whether it’s buying presents for family and friends, or stocking up on the abundance of food and drink that will inevitably be consumed when we’re not watching our waistlines. With so many purchases, things aren’t always easy to carry. But don’t automatically say ‘yes’ to one plastic bag after another. Up to five trillion of such bags are wasted globally each year, and they can take around 1,000 years to break down! So, if you haven’t done so already, invest in and switch to your own reusable bags. They’ll last longer, ensure you protect the environment, and you’ll have more 5p’s in your back pocket, at a time of year that already costs enough!
Give something a second life
Another activity that would help save the environment as well as your valuable pennies, is shopping at second hand stores. In fact, it has actually become a popular pastime to hunt for ‘pre-loved’ clothes, shoes and household furnishings. If you’re not personally a fan of used goods, think if there’s anyone on your Christmas list who loves all-things-vintage – you might find them the perfect gift in a charity shop. Failing all that, if Santa looks set to fill your home with sacks of brand new presents, why not clear out your ‘old’ things so that they can go on to be enjoyed by someone else.
The problem of packaging
Frantically ripping wrapping paper off our presents is what Christmas is all about, especially for little ones. The anticipation of what lies beneath is half of the fun! However, wrapping paper creates tonnes (literally!) of excess waste. In fact, we throw away around five million tonnes of wrapping paper every year. When you consider that it takes six mature trees to produce just one tonne of paper, the environmental impact is staggering. And that’s before you count the unbelievable volume of Christmas cards and product packaging that we also discard of.
So, keep up with your waste segregation and ensure wrapping paper and all other recyclables go in the appropriate wheelie bin. If that becomes full, check out the services offered at your local supermarket, where recycling banks are usually available. You could even save Santa and his elves a job by getting rid of wrapping paper altogether in favour of using gift bags that can be reused time and again. Finally, why not opt for an alternative gift like planting a tree for someone, adopting an animal or treating them to a day out – all save on packaging, and you’ll get brownie points for being creative!
Even the calorie conscious allow themselves a few treats at Christmas. So, from the carrots left out for hungry Rudolph, to the bacon that our little piggies are wrapped in, food ends up dominating our December shopping list. It’s also a time when there are extra discounts on items that aren’t ordinarily bought during a weekly shop, meaning we stock up on things whilst they’re cheap. And you never know when you’ll have an impromptu visit from family and friends, so you need constant supplies of mince pies, of course.
But this indulgence adds up to us wasting seven million tonnes of food at Christmas. So, rather than being tempted to try and feed an army, think carefully about the things you really need to buy at the supermarket, and the portions that people can actually devour. If there are leftovers, be creative with the remaining ingredients – there’s more to turkey than a cold boxing day sandwich! Even the birds will appreciate a few remaining tit bits. Separate organic waste too, and use it for your own composting, whilst ensuring you don’t contaminate other recyclable materials in your bin.
Take your tree to be recycled
It’s often one of our least favourite parts of the festive season – taking our decorations down. Your home has never felt so bare! But when you take down your tree, don’t leave it ‘fir-gotten’ behind the shed or worse still fly-tipped wherever you find a bit of spare land.
Do a quick online search of waste sorting sites, community groups and churches in your local area who will ensure real trees are recycled. Many even offer a collection service in return for a donation to a good cause!
Use common sense
Of course our waste reduction tips could go on and on but, essentially, it all boils down to common sense. Don’t just automatically put things in your trolley, and think carefully about whether something really needs throwing away when you believe you’re finished with it. If it genuinely has no further use, stick to the recycling guidelines provided by your local authority and, if you need any extra advice, check their websites for additional information.
Above all, enjoy the Christmas break and the opportunity to spend time with loved ones. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly! But try to set the right example and encourage the entire family to be environmentally smart over the holidays too. That way future generations will be able to enjoy it just as much!