HOW TO HAVE A GREENER CHRISTMAS
With these 10 ways on how to recycle this Christmas, you can have all the festive fun without the footprint
Wendy Rea, Business Development Manager at Direct2Florist, gave her insights into how you can recycle more this Christmas and enjoy a sustainable season of festive celebrations.
Christmas ‘tis the season to be jolly and overindulge in every possible way. Unfortunately, our festive choices can have a greater than intended impact on the environment. But is it actually possible to have a sustainable, low-waste Christmas?
Recycling has become an important tool in protecting our planet and this doesn’t need to be something we drop by the wayside throughout the holidays. Instead, some simple changes to our Christmas celebrations can reap big environmental rewards.
1. Be conscious in your choice of Christmas cards – and what you do with them
You may have already begun sending out cards to your nearest and dearest for this festive season. But if not, think carefully about the cards you purchase; not all cards are made (or can be recycled!) equally.
Buy cards that are marked with the FSC logo, which indicates they’ve been sourced from sustainably managed forests or contain high levels of recycled materials. To ensure that they can be recycled, avoid cards with glitter, bows or any metallic embellishments; if put into your recycling box, they can actually contaminate everything, leaving the whole lot to go in landfill.
Top tip: Get even more use out of Christmas cards by cutting them up into decorative gift tags for next year’s presents!
2. Find eco-friendly alternatives to wrapping paper
One of the most important ways to recycle is to actually limit our use of things in the first place. While sustainable wrapping paper follows the same rules as Christmas cards, consider adopting furoshiki into your gift-giving this year.
This Japanese tradition involves wrapping gifts in fabric, rather than paper. It’s proving to be a hot 2020 trend as it promises to reduce the volume of new things being produced and consumed.
Top tip: You can buy fabric designed for this purpose, or make use of an old scarf or item of clothing you have lying around. You may need to explain the concept to the receiver, who can well re-gift the same fabric the next time they’re wrapping presents.
3. Put your tree outside to live another day
There’s been a growing trend of pot-grown rather than cut Christmas trees and there’s a good reason: the former is much more sustainable because it doesn’t result in the less-than-festive Christmas tree graveyards that litter the streets in January.
A potted Christmas tree isn’t just for Christmas – well, at least not just one. If you’ve remembered to water it a couple of times, kept it away from radiators and not had it in the house for more than three weeks, it’s got a strong chance of living outside until next year.
Top tip: An easier option is to rent a potted tree from a local business, who’ll look after it throughout the year and make sure it lasts to see next Christmas.
4. Say no to plastic Christmas crackers
The little plastic toys that are flung out of a Christmas cracker as you sit down to eat your festive lunch might seem like a fundamental feature of the big day. But, given these are practically impossible to recycle, we should try and think more sustainably.
Most big supermarkets are now selling 100% plastic-free crackers, many of which contain wooden gifts, as well as the all-important Christmas paper hat and groan-worthy joke. Best of all, they’re mostly recyclable, too.
Top tip: Feeling crafty? Make your own sustainable Christmas crackers using leftover patterned wrapping paper, cardboard tubes from toilet roll, ribbons and whatever gift or joke you want to include inside.
5. Make sure your freezer – not your eyes – are bigger than your belly
The old adage of having eyes bigger than your belly is the perfect way to describe the Christmas food excess. We buy, consume and waste in exorbitant amounts, and can find ourselves facing an overwhelming amount of leftovers come Boxing Day. As a country, we waste 270,000 tonnes of food of perfectly edible over this period.
The best way to manage food waste in your home is to plan ahead. Clear space in your freezer ready to make room for leftovers such as turkey slices that could be used in a pie at a later date, or gravy that’ll be the perfect addition to a January toad in the hole.
Top tip: Be sure to label everything clearly and with the day frozen, as items are best defrosted and eaten within three months of this date.
6. Turn your Christmas tree into something new
There are plenty of different ways you can recycle your tree. Firstly your tree can nourish the rest of your garden ready for spring; just cover your perennials in your garden with branches from your Christmas tree – this may well be the thing that’ll keep your plants alive until Spring.
Alternatively, use the needles as mulch for acidic soil-loving plants such as indoor spider plants or outdoor rhododendrons. You can also chop up the logs and tie them together with string, before placing them somewhere in your garden as a place where wildlife, such as hedgehogs and beetles, can gather.
Top tip: To make Christmas last longer, use pine needles from the tree to make your own potpourri. Combine with festive scents such as a cinnamon stick, orange rind and cloves in a bowl and place in your living room for an enduring Christmassy smell.
7. Give a fake tree a new lease of life
While artificial trees are more environmentally-friendly than cut trees – as long as you use them for ten years or more – disposing of them can be difficult. This is due to the composite nature of the materials used to make them, which means they’re impossible to recycle.
If it’s still in good shape, consider donating it to a charity shop, hospice, or school and allow it to bring joy to other families next year.
Top tip: Has your Christmas tree seen better days? No worries: cut the branches off the main tree and use it to make new decorations for your home. Wrap the branches around a wire ring and add artificial berries, Christmas balls and other festive favourites to make a beautiful Christmas wreath that will last many more years to come.
8. Turn your empties into next year’s gifts
Whether your Christmas tipple of choice is a festive eggnog or a boozy rum-infused hot chocolate, you may find yourself with a few empty bottles by the time January arrives. Glass is easily recycled in your local collection, but a more energy-efficient way is to reuse these yourself.
Get thinking about presents for birthdays and Christmas the following year by crafting your own alcoholic drinks. Recipes for limoncello, strawberry gin and raspberry vodka will take everything from two weeks to a few months to make and can be decanted into your recycled bottles. Finish with a personalised label for a perfect homemade gift.
Top tip: To make sure the bottles are clean and won’t grow anything unpleasant before use, wash them by hand first, before putting them in the oven on a low heat for 15 minutes. Finally, put them through the dishwasher, before leaving them to dry completely.
9. Get a whole new set of decorations for free
Tired of using the same old Christmas decorations each and every year? Rather than throwing the whole lot out, consider swapping your stock with a neighbour or family member for the festive season.
This is one of the most sustainable ways to “recycle” your Christmas decorations, particularly given you can choose whether to keep them or swap them back when you’re done.
Top tip: If you’re not so keen on trading the lot, consider instead making a couple of new decorations that you and another family swap. Salt dough decorations are a Christmas classic, but everything from wood carvings to gingerbread tree decorations are guaranteed to bring festive cheer.
10. Re-gift, don’t buy
It’s hard buying our loved ones presents and sometimes – as that gaudy jumper you got from your mum last year illustrates – we don’t get it right. If you find yourself the recipient of presents that just aren’t to your taste, consider whether you can re-gift them to someone else next year, who may find them more appealing.
Alternatively, investigate charity gift schemes. These are often set up to collect gifts to go to children or elderly folk who may otherwise miss out on a festive present.
Top tip: Consider making a present list for your nearest and dearest for next year. This’ll ensure you don’t end up with any gifts that you won’t use and your delight when you open them will be genuine, too.
Article courtesy of Direct2Florist