15 things you can do to have a Christmas that is better for the planet

Salisbury Market

I’m not going to do Blogmas this year, but I do have some Christmas content planned, and this is the first in my series of festive posts.

I’m not going to suggest things that are a good idea, but that I have no intention of doing myself. That seems a bit hypocritical, and I want to be real!

I think hand-made gifts are fab, but my craft skills are rubbish! I enjoy shopping, and we will have meat on our table this Christmas. But here are some things I do, or that I’ll be doing this year to make Christmas less of a strain on the planet.

1. Think how much food you really need

It’s easy to get carried away buying food, and nobody wants guests to go hungry. But if you end up throwing half of it in the bin, you’re wasting money and you’re also wasting the food. Buy a bit extra if you want to, but especially when you’ve got things with a short use-by date, think about what you and your guests are really likely to eat.

Following on from this idea, if there are things that nobody likes, don’t buy them just because of tradition. We don’t like Brussel sprouts or Christmas pudding, so I won’t be buying either of them!

2. Defrost your freezer before Christmas

If your freezer is full of ice, it will take more energy heat and you will have less room for food. Defrosting it before you buy your Christmas food means that you’ll fit more in there!

3. Be creative with left-overs

Don’t just throw food away because you have some left over. Think of other things you can make such as turkey curry, or home-made soups with left-over vegetables. If you didn’t eat all the fruit you bought, make some smoothies. If nobody finished the cheese board, cheese and crackers makes a good snack on its own.

4. Don’t leave lights on all the time

If there’s nobody there to enjoy them, you’re wasting electricity. Lights left on overnight when you’ve gone to bed are a fire hazard and outside lights can be confusing for wildlife.

5. Consider giving someone an experience or doing an activity with them

If you think your gift might end up at the back of a drawer, never to be seen again, maybe you can give someone an experience. This could be connected to their hobby, something new to learn, a new experience that you think they would enjoy, or something that they can do together with you. In our busy lives, sometimes gifts that involve spending time together are the most meaningful because you make memories together as well.

6. Use recycled or recyclable wrapping paper

Shiny paper with glitter can’t be recycled and it has to go straight in the bin after it’s been ripped off. Nothing with cellotape on it can go in the recycling. If you don’t use half a roll of cellotape, it’s easy enough to pull it off and then, as long as the paper is recyclable, it can go in the recycling. Just make sure you’ve removed any ribbons or other things that can’t be recycled.

Some people are now avoiding using cellotape altogether.

7. Consider using things other than wrapping paper

There are lots of options. Last year I bought a material sack for some of my gifts. This can be used for storing things or reused the following year. The same applies to gift boxes – I have a stack of them from 2 years ago that are now used for other things.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ll still be wrapping presents, but I am going to make better choices with wrapping paper this year.

8. Try to buy locally from small businesses

I love Christmas markets, and they are ideal for this. Not only do you have the benefit of finding some unique gifts that you won’t see in stores, but you can also support smaller local businesses at the same time.

Again, I have bought and shipped presents, especially when buying specific things like books, but I get some gifts from the Christmas market too.

9. Rent a Christmas tree

I didn’t even know this was a thing, but apparently there are garden centres that let you rent a Christmas tree and return it in January. The tree comes with a root and is growing in a pot, so after Christmas it can be returned outside.

There is an ongoing debate about plastic or real trees – plastic is bad for the environment, but killing loads of trees and not replanting them isn’t great either. We have had the same plastic one for the last five years and it will be good for many more, but if you want a real tree, renting one that can go outside again in January seems like a good idea to me – and I love that smell of real trees!

10. Grow your own Christmas tree

My Granddad used to do this. We brought the tree inside in its big ceramic pot, and after Christmas it was replanted in the garden. All was good – until the day the dog got tangled in the wire for the lights and pulled the whole thing over, covering the carpet with soil. The dog and the tree were unharmed, but my Nan was clearing it up for ages! But anyway, the idea of a tree that isn’t just chopped down for Christmas has always appealed to me more, providing you have space for it in the garden.

11. Recycle your tree

IF you are going to get a real tree that has been cut down, many councils offer recycling schemes so for unwanted trees. Just make sure you take off any tinsel or sparkly things before putting it out for recycling.

12. As well as the reindeer, think of feeding the birds

I was always convinced that we should put dog biscuits out for the reindeer. Maybe that was my not so subtle way of saying I knew what really happened to the food for Father Christmas and Rudolph!

The reindeer might not enjoy your tasty treats, but the birds will, so at this time of year when it’s harder for them to find food, why not put something out for the birds as well?

13. Take re-usable bags when you go Christmas shopping

For reasons mainly to do with accessibility, I do most of my shopping online. Yes, there is more packaging this way, though all the cardboard goes in the recycling or is used for disguising the shapes of awkward gifts. If I’m doing an order from a particular shop, I try to get everything that I want from that shop in one go. It cuts down the postage costs, but it also usually generates less packaging.

But, if you are going to the high street or Christmas market for your shopping, remember to take a bag for life with you. It’s not just that those 5p charges mount up, but one shopping trip can generate a lot of unwanted carrier bags.

14. Think about whether you want to send Christmas cards

I haven’t sent Christmas cards for years now. It’s nice to receive them, especially from people far away who you don’t see all the time, but it can get a bit much if you send them to all of your colleagues/customers/local friends.

If you are going to buy cards, can you find some out of recycled paper? Can you do some good at the same time by supporting a charity? Can you get them with no glitter or sparkly things so that they can be recycled if the recipient doesn’t want to keep them?

I have cards from when I was about 5 years old, and generally keep them if someone has gone to the trouble of making one or getting one Brailled. But you can’t keep them all.

Some people suggest e-cards, but if I’m not familiar with the site, I am dubious about clicking the links – there have been cases of emails posing to be e-cards that really unleash a virus or download spyware as soon as you click the link. So I don’t recommend sending e-cards – but how about just sending a personal message to people on one of the hundreds of channels we now have available, or making time to meet around Christmas time?

After all, good things come out of spontaneous Christmas meet-ups! I should know – the fact that a group of our friends couldn’t find a suitable date was how I ended up suggesting S and I meet up on our own nearly five years ago! He invited me to dinner and things went from there!

15. Recycle Christmas cards

If you have cards that you aren’t going to keep, look at which ones are recyclable and pop them in the recycling.

Another way of doing this is something my Nan used to do – if you find some with nice pictures, cut the picture out, use it as a gift tag next year, and recycle the rest.

There are plenty of other things that you can do. I specifically haven’t mentioned some of them because I don’t plan to do them, but I think every little helps, and if we all do even a few of these things, it can make a big difference.

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Author: englishwithkirsty

I have two blogs. Unseen Beauty is my personal blog. English with Kirsty is my business blog for people who are interested in languages or learning English.

2 thoughts on “15 things you can do to have a Christmas that is better for the planet”

  1. I’m pretty good with some things (not leaving all the lights on, not too buying food that then goes to waste, using up leftovers when possible) but other things could use a little work. Thanks for the freezer reminder – I’ve got it on my to do list to go through the chest freezer, organise things by use-by date and give it a good defrosting! Great tips and suggestions, Kirsty 😊

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