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With the holidays around the corner, you may be wondering how you can make the most of the festive season, without negatively impacting our planet. Over the festive period, people tend to be extra generous and giving. While everyone appreciates a gift from time to time, at this time of year we are more wasteful than ever which contributes to excess emissions and can be financially draining.
Here are a few tips to enjoy the holidays sustainably.
Instead of buying the biggest and most impressive presents, consider gifting items that are better quality but will last a long time. Children’s gifts and toys are particularly plastic intensive and often aren’t built to last. Some quick research will allow you to find gifts that are built to last. Being mindful of materials will likely mean you source better quality products that have a much longer life.
Products from sustainable companies or made with green/recycled materials are much better for the planet. If you don’t specifically want to purchase from eco-friendly companies, a lot of companies now offer more sustainable alternatives. Look for toys made with bamboo as opposed to single-use plastic, for example.
Also consider how much you are buying. While this is a time for giving, there is no need to go overboard. By buying less, there is inevitably less rubbish, and you’ll cut back on your overall emissions for the period. Even better, you may be able to make presents yourself!
A big issue over the festive period is waste materials and packaging. This includes the packaging on gifts, wrapping, food waste, and everything in between. The good news is that there are some simple solutions!
When it comes down to wrapping gifts and sending cards, a lot of what is sold in shops is not recyclable. Fortunately, in recent years companies have become more mindful of the waste and now offer recycled and recyclable paper and cards. If you’re doing lots of wrapping, try to opt for recycled/recyclable paper where you can and avoid plastics (these are often found in ribbons and bows).
In terms of gifts, if you are buying from independent stores and eco-friendly businesses your gifts are likely to already use reduced packaging compared to plastic-intensive alternatives. A great example of packaging free gifts is books, which can suit all ages, often don’t come highly packaged, and can even be bought as recycled materials!
For many, food and drink play a huge part over the holidays. But food waste and food emissions are both big contributors to an unsustainable festive period.
The first solution to this is to cut food waste back. This can be done in a couple of ways starting with limiting what you buy in the first place. Be realistic about what you’ll need to buy and how many people you’re catering for. If you have leftovers, don’t waste them! Either eat them at a later date or freeze anything you can. You can often find recipes for leftover meals that will allow you to use what you have left and create a whole new meal.
As well as planning your meal sizes, think about what you’re serving up. Poultry is in the top 10 most wasted foods in the UK, with over 100,000 tonnes ending up in landfill each year. Not only is it highly wasteful, but meat and dairy are far higher in emissions than plant-based alternatives. There are many options available in supermarkets, or recipes if you’d rather make your own food, so you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out.
Around this time of the year there is more waste than just gifts and food. Festive decorations and seasonal outfits are both big causes of waste.
A large amount of home decorations are not reusable or not recyclable. Certain decorations, including crackers, are often used for the sake of tradition but mostly just contribute to a lot of waste. The crackers themselves are often not recyclable and usually they contain prizes that will end up in landfill. An easy, and fun, option to get around this is to create your own decks where you can! Homemade crackers will allow you to fill with your own treats and reduce your rubbish. You can take your creativity to the next level too with homemade wreaths and upcycled ornaments.
Finally, think about what you’re wearing. While there may be plenty of opportunities to showcase new outfits, fast fashion is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases and global warming. If you’re looking for something special, see if you can borrow clothes from friends or family, if not, check out second-hand shops to give pre-loved garments a new lease of life.