With the latest forecasts suggesting that rain and gales are more likely than a white Christmas for most of the UK, why not aim for a green Christmas instead?
Research from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) suggests that households in England will create nearly three quarters of a million tonnes of extra waste at Christmas – an average of five extra black bags per household. Even just removing all of the recyclables in this extra rubbish would save 352,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – equivalent to flying Santa around the world (by plane, not reindeer!) 64,500 times on Christmas Eve.
If you want to ‘green’ your celebrations, the Christmas tree is an apt place to start. If you opt for a real tree, if possible planted in a large pot, then a tree can be reused for several years or even longer if it’s replanted outdoors. If you don’t have the space to replant, recycling is offered by many local authorities and garden centres - Recycle Now has a list of tree recycling points. Sending a tree to landfill costs more than £2.30 per tree, as well as being a missed opportunity to provide nutrients for the soil or create mulch to use as a low-cost landscaping material.
When it comes to decorations, simply switching to LED bulbs can reduce energy consumption by up to 95%. LED decorations use around 0.04 watts each, 10 times less than standard mini tree bulbs and 100 times less than outdoor bulbs. Even better, if one LED burns out, the rest of the string will stay lit – so no more fumbling to find the broken bulb!
Sending and receiving cards offers lots of opportunities for green savings – have a go at making your own, pick designs made from recycled materials or save on paper, energy and fuel by sending e-cards. After Christmas, there are loads of ways to recycle your old cards. The M&S Christmas Card Recycling Scheme has committed to working with the Woodland Trust to plant a tree for every 1,000 cards recycled in store during January. Over the last five years, the scheme has funded 32,000 trees, with this year’s target set at 6 million cards and another 6,000 trees.
A green Christmas needn’t mean missing out on turkey with all the trimmings. The Soil Association estimates that the ingredients for a typical Christmas dinner can contribute 49,000 food miles – the equivalent of two journeys around the world. However, some simple switches can make a massive difference. Opt for an organic turkey if possible, or go for a veggie option. Focus on in-season sprouts and cabbage to reduce food miles. Look into options for local suppliers – the National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association lists lots of markets and farm shops. For other ideas, read The Guardian’s guide to a green Christmas dinner or check out BBC Good Food’s ideas for using up Christmas leftovers.
Finally, even if your green Christmas doesn’t go to plan, there’s always the chance to make an eco New Year’s resolution…
This blog was written by Emma Taylor, Healthy Homes Project Support Officer at Peterborough Environment City Trust.