How To Have A Greener Festive Season
By Alexa Scott-Dalgleish
With COP26 behind us and the world feeling very aware of how much work there is to be done, why not start with a few changes at home this festive season? From food and gifts to trees and decorations, we’re bringing you our tips and tricks for reducing waste, tackling overconsumption and keeping our environmental footprint to a minimum.
Eat Seasonally and Locally
Relevant advice all year round, but more so than ever during the holidays. Opt to support local, ethical, organic and small-scale suppliers, especially those who use minimal packaging. You can head to farmers’ markets to source oragnic fruit and vegetables and rest easy in the knowledge that you’re not only bolstering the local economy but you’re also likely to have got your hands on the tastiest produce in town – far more so than the mass-produced stuff you’d find in the aisles of the supermarket.
By shopping locally and in season, you’ll be slashing your second-hand carbon emissions too, since far less transport is required to ferry food from farm to table.
Keep Festive Food Waste To A Minimum
Planning is key when it comes to minimising holiday food waste since overbuying is the biggest contributor to things ending up in the bin. If you can, buy loose, as you’ll be cutting down on packaging as well as buying only that which you need. When heading to the shops, go armed with a shopping list and try to stick to it. Festive deals can be tempting but if no one likes a traditional figgy pudding, the fact that it’s half price isn’t going to make it any more appetising on the day.
Be sure, also, to put leftovers to work in the days following. Sandwiches and hashes will be your greatest allies in giving a new lease of life to everything from turkey and sprouts to cauliflower and cranberries. Start freeing up space in the freezer now!
Potatoes peelings, satsuma skins and any other uncooked fruit or vegetables can be composted and used to nourish a garden lawn, feed container plants or grow tomatoes or cucumber on a windowsill.
Some cooked vegetable scraps can also be composted but only with a hot bin or dedicated food waste digester, so best to try and find another use for cooked food unless you’re a composting pro.
Quality Not Quantity
Keep this mantra in mind this festive season and opt for one gift you think someone will really love as opposed to ten that’ll be discarded in the same number of minutes.
Plastic dominates at this time of year, especially when it comes to children’s gifts, so look out for those made from recycled plastic or, even better, biodegradable materials like wood.
Everyone loves a gift that’s been homemade so why not make it an edible one? Thoughtful, fun to make, and you can be sure the receiver won’t already have it!
From homemade jams and infused oils to fudges, truffles and even edible cookie decorations, your imagination is the only thing holding you back. Steer clear of the cellophane bags and plastic ribbons and instead consider beeswax wraps and reusable sealed containers, to keep packaging as eco-friendly as the gift inside.
E-Cards & Plantable Cards
It’s estimated that 1 billion Christmas cards end up in bins in the UK each year – the equivalent of 33 million trees – according to GWP Group. If you’re a dedicated card sender, why not make yours a plantable card this year, which are made from biodegradable paper and embedded with seeds that will sprout and grow when planted.
Even better would be an e-card, which lets you spread the festive cheer without the environmental impact (because let’s face it, anything that comes printed on paper and sent in the post is going to have a footprint!).
Alternative Wrapping Paper
The word ‘paper’ can be misleading, since many wrapping ‘papers’ in fact contact elements such as foil, glitter and plastic which mean they can’t be recycled. If you’re unsure, use the scrunch test (papers that stay ‘scrunched’ can be recycled, papers that bounce back contain non-recyclable elements).
If you’re willing to go ‘off-script’ when it comes to what you wrap gifts in, leftover newspapers and magazines make an excellent upcycled, collage-style wrapping paper, whilst fabric can be reused year after year, saving you pounds in the process.
Reuse, Reuse, Reuse!
Christmas jumpers and decorations are only used once a year, which means they’ll see you through at least a decade before you even need to think about replacing them!
If you’re a dab hand at crafts, why not try making your own? You can make recycled paper lanterns, rustic twig candle holders, festive dried citrus garlands and origami stars.
Refillable Advent Calendars
The countdown to Christmas isn’t half as fun without an advent calendar and there are a host of reusable ones on offer, from wooden and paperboard to hanging and fabric make-your-own calendars to be assembled in advance.
A favourite of ours is Irene Forte’s handmade reusable wooden calendar, containing 12 beauty treats to illuminate, hydrate and regenerate skin this winter season.
Choose A Sustainable Christmas Tree
There are a few key things to consider when choosing a Christmas Tree. Firstly, an artificial tree has to be in circulation for at least 8 years – but ideally 20 – to reduce its carbon footprint. They’re also often made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a highly un-environmentally-friendly plastic which pollutes across its entire lifespan. So if you’re going to choose an artificial tree, try to find a high-quality second-hand.
A living tree is a more sustainable option, especially if it’s potted and can continue its life after the festive season is over. Certain places also offer the possibility to rent a tree, meaning you can enjoy all the benefits of a living tree (hello wonderful pine smell) without the conundrum of what to do with it after. For those who do find themselves in this situation, the best answer is to recycle it, with many cities offering a dedicated Christmas tree recycling service. If you’re of the DIY persuasion, why not turn your tree into firewood, garden mulch or compost? Alternatively, if you’re looking for something requiring a little less effort, why not consider a wooden tree?
A fully decked-out table is a wonderful festive centrepiece and can easily be made greener with a few small changes. Swap out single-use napkins for fabric ones that can be washed and used again, and head out to the garden or park to hunt down decorations such as pinecones, holly, dried flowers and festive berries.
If crackers are a must in your household, why not consider ‘eco crackers’ which are 100% plastic-free and typically made from recycled paper? Keep This Cracker also offers reusable crackers which only requires you to replace the snap each year. Eco-friendly and purse-friendly – what could be better?
Consider Your Wreath
Wreaths have become a staple item of the holiday season over the years but unfortunately, many of them contain more plastic than plant. Look for one that’s entirely free from any plastic parts or glittery components, since these are both non-biodegradable and harmful to birds and small animals, who mistake shiny red plastic berries for a tasty snack.
Creative types can also make their own wreaths from fresh foliage or fabric. For the former, you’ll need a wreath base, plenty of twine, some thick moss (an eco-friendly alternative to oasis) and an appreciation of the messy aesthetic. For the latter, you can opt for a wreath of burlap and lace, leftover ribbons or even sheet music.
Switch to LED festive lights this year which use up to 80% less energy than traditional incandescent lights. They use light-emitting diodes rather than filament which makes them more efficient, durable, and longer-lasting as well as safer, as they don’t get hot to the touch.
Set indoor and outdoor lights to a timer to reduce the impact on both the environment and your energy bill.
By Alexa Scott-Dalgleish
Alexa is the Content Director at Talia Collective. Previously, she worked for a top travel PR firm with a focus on sustainability in London, before moving to Madrid to learn Spanish and cut her teeth as a freelance travel copywriter and PR consultant.