Ideas for an Eco-Friendly Christmas 2018
I am writing this post as we draw nearer to the wonderful time of year that is Christmas (just over five weeks away!). Undoubtedly for many people, this is the happiest and most exciting time of year. Time for socialising, catching up with friends and family, enjoying the christmas markets, decorating the house and the many more festive activities that spring up around this time of year. However, I would like to speak about how we can use Christmas as a great opportunity to be more environmentally conscious and more mindful to how this amazing time of year can also have a negative impact on the environment. I am not trying to be a Christmas Scrooge or a killjoy, as I love christmas just as much as the next person, but I do feel that we can all do simple things this christmas that will have a much less negative impact on our environment and planet. And in reality, the majority of them will make no difference to your actual enjoyment of the festive season. If anything, they’ll make it even more enjoyable because you’ll know you’re celebrating the festive season and reducing your impact on the environment at the same time! Here is something to think about to get started – were you aware that over eight million tonnes of plastic is being dumped into the ocean each year? That is the equivalent to a garbage lorry amount every minute!
Who doesn’t love the Winter Wonderland scenes that can occur this time of year?
So, I am going to offer some alternatives to try this year. Myself included! I will also be trying my best to convince my family to join in as well.
Firstly, have a search around for some environmentally friendly presents? There are a number of shops, both online and on the high street that have eco-friendly products on their shelves. After all, isn’t that part of the joy of Christmas? Heading onto the high street and having a search around for interesting, unique and different presents to give? If you really can’t bare heading out onto the high street at Christmas time, then there are a number of online places that offer lovely gift ideas for Christmas. The WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) shop would be a good place to start. There you will find a number of different products from clothing to toys to items made from recycled materials – including plastic, which is a big one for me personally and the main issue I speak about in this post. You could also try ‘The Marine Conservation Society’, who also have a great online shop full of great ideas for Christmas gifts. You can also do a quick google search and find a tonne of other products which might take your fancy. There are a lot of charities that have products in an online store, so if there is a particular cause that is close to your heart, then why not have a look and see. You could also explore the charity shops on the high street for products and gift ideas. I often find all sorts of treasures here! Either way, whether you go via the high street or the internet, there are plenty of environmentally friendly gifts out there. And at the same time, you know that the money you are spending is going towards fantastic causes, and that you are helping support, maintain and promote the protection and sustainability of our planet.
Another alternative would be to give the gift of an experience or membership such as ‘The National Trust’ or ‘English Heritage’. There are a tonne of experiences and visitor attractions available, and in my experience of both giving and receiving these types of gifts, they are actually much more memorable and meaningful than a physical product that will often just sit on your shelf or under your bed for years on end. Theatre tickets? Concert tickets? Dinner in a fancy restaurant? You could also give membership or a donation to a charitable cause. Or sign a friend or family member up for a course, of which there are again many to choose from – maybe you want them to improve their cooking skills so they have no excuse to not invite you around for dinner next year! Or maybe they’ve always wanted to learn a new language so why not sign them up for some classes? There are a whole host of gift ideas out there that are not only great and memorable, but also don’t cause any harm to the planet.
Lastly on gifts, if you have young children in the family, then have a think about what you are buying them for Christmas. The majority of children’s toys are made from plastic. These toys often have tiny little plastic elements to them which are prone to breaking off and these are the bits that typically end up making their way into the oceans and environment. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been produced still exists in some form – only a tiny amount has been incinerated. As an alternative, invest in wooden toys. Not only are these much better environmentally, but they also look a lot nicer! There are plenty of wooden toys and games and gifts out there for children, so ditch the tacky looking plastic and find a more unique and interesting toy!
A gift that I gave my mum in 2017. I bought this from a local independent shop!
Try to avoid buying new decorations like this! There are other more eco-friendly ways to decorate your tree!
Secondly, why not think more conscientiously about the single use products we all plough through over the festive period. Obviously, there are the more obvious ones – plastic cups and plastic cutlery, plastic straws and stirrers, and also the big one of plastic food packaging. Around 8.5 billion plastic straws are disposed of every year. However, there are some that people maybe think about less. These include wrapping paper and christmas cards which are often coated in plastic, or contain items such as glitter and other non-recyclable materials. Glitter is a microplastic and therefore as a consequence makes products containing it non-recyclable. Instead, why not use newspapers or old magazines and comics, or plain brown parcel paper, or even paper gifts bags for your gift giving this year? This is actually way more fun, creative and artistic than your standard wrapping paper! Although you still need to think about the tape situation – standard sellotape isn’t recyclable, so instead you’ll need to find an alternative. Get creative with your folding, or use some readily available paper tape or some string. Currently, it is believed that an estimated 200 million sheets of wrapping paper will be dumped this year, which is a crazy amount!
If you’re refreshing your tree this year with some new decorations, have a think about what you are buying as the majority of decorations are made from or contain plastic. Tinsel is a notoriously bad christmas decoration! Now I know people generally re-use tree decorations, my family have for years and years now, but if you are looking for some new additions, why not look around in nature instead? The winter landscape is littered with creative and festive decorations – from pine cones, to holly, to festive looking twigs and the like. These are all things you could use to spruce up your tree, and they’re totally free as well, saving you some extra cash to put towards the food or even the alcohol (which are arguably the two most important elements to any christmas).
Make sure you take reusable bags with you when you go shopping as well, so you’re not ending up with a tonne of additional plastic ones! Another idea, especially concerning food packaging is to take your own containers to the meat and deli counters. This is perfectly acceptable to do. Also, buy loose fruit and vegetable products! Or instead of getting it from the major supermarket, visit a local market stall and grab your produce from there. It will taste significantly better and you’ll be helping to support local farmers in the process! You could also try some home baking – mince pies, cakes, biscuits, dips, sauces etc. I have to admit, I’m not an expert in the kitchen myself, but my family do cook a lot from scratch and I can guarantee that it will taste far better than any shop bought products!
Now, I thought I’d give you a bit of background as to why I’m very passionate about this subject this year.
On 11th March 2018, (one day before my own birthday!) my brother and his wife gave birth to the most adorable and amazing twins! This will be their first christmas (although they’re still too young to really understand whats going on), it will be my families first Christmas with little ones in the family and it is a very exciting time for everyone.
However, by Christmas 2050, with the current predictions, the worlds oceans will have more plastic waste in them than fish! This statistic got me thinking, and I put it into context in terms of my own life and I realised that this means by the time my niece and nephew are around my own age – there will be more plastic waste in the oceans around our world than fish! This is an extremely sad and heart-breaking thought when you stop to think about it! We are destroying the planet at an alarming rate – and it isn’t just the plastic crisis that is an issue, there is the broader issue of climate change as a whole, alongside the humanitarian disasters affecting large parts of the world – whether from war and conflict, or from natural disasters (again, often linked to climate change).
This year, since the birth of my niece and nephew, I have really started thinking about these issues in much more detail, and thinking about what kind of world I want them to grow up in! Currently, it isn’t looking too great for them. A world ravaged by war and hostility towards each other, rapidly increasing pollution levels, and species disappearing off the face of the earth in their tens of thousands each year!! According to research, 9 in 10 seabirds have now ingested plastic. 1 in 3 sea turtles and over half the dolphin and whale population has suffered a similar situation. If you have small children of your own or in your family, ask yourself what kind of world you would like them to grow up in. And then think about how you can do your bit to ensure that there is a safe, diverse and flourishing planet left behind for them to enjoy. You can start this Christmas by trying to do some of the things I have written about. I am by no means an expert and it is only more recently that I have started to really engage in more detail with these issues, and started to think and change the way I shop and consume products and materials, especially when it comes to the issue around single-use plastics. With over one million plastics bottles being sold every minute across the world, now is the time to take action on the single-use plastic crisis. If I can, then you can too! We all can. And lets be honest, it is up to us, living in this current generation to make a change! We all need to start otherwise there simply won’t be anything to leave behind for the children of the future, other than a completely destroyed planet.
I am aware that for many people this is an extremely busy time of year and there are of course many other aspects of life to think about when it comes to the festive period. However, I do really believe that the environment should be an important one to consider. I believe that if we all try to do our bit, then we can collectively make a difference. I will be writing a few more posts over the festive period, each one with different focus covering environmental and humanitarian issues.