Believe it or not Christmas is nearly upon us. Whether you celebrate it or not, and no matter how you personally choose to mark it, there is no doubt that it is the main focus for retailers at this time of the year.
The shops are packed with Christmas based “essentials” (and have been since October), must-buy present lists generate media coverage and the majority of the country goes into meltdown in the search for the perfect Christmas gift, or just the Christmas gift that will do.
Of course, in among all this rampant consumerism (retail sales are expected to jump 2.5% this year to £42.2 billion), there is waste.
From supposedly comedy Christmas jumpers, that are worn once to the office party, to the plastic wrapping on cracker box and the paper plates and cups that are discarded almost as soon as they have been used - waste is everywhere this Christmas.
In fact - over Christmas each household will chuck out an extra five bags of waste alone, and we will throw out 83 square kilometers of wrapping paper alone! That’s enough to cover Guernsey!
Now of course, one easy way to avoid all of this is to lock yourselves indoors and pretend the whole thing isn’t happening. However, the reality of the situation is that, for the majority of us that do choose to celebrate, we are expected to give some form of gift and (probably) want to get involved with the eating, drinking and other festivities.
Dreaming of a green(er) Christmas…
This might be the trickiest one.
De-materialising gift giving!
The easiest answer to cutting down on present waste this Christmas is to have a chat with your friends and family.
Let them know that you are trying to cut down on unnecessary waste this year but that doesn’t mean that they won’t get a gift!
Could you donate the amount you intended to spend on them to a charity or cause they support? Or offer them a skill/service unique to you that they are in-need of, such as doing some DIY around the home, teaching them a language or sport that you know? Or even offer to cook the Christmas dinner
Do it yourself
If that is unlikely to wash, perhaps you can create something yourself. Making a present yourself generates far less waste, especially in terms of plastics, compared to buying it from the shops (nevermind cutting down on the carbon emissions associated with shipping it to the store!).
While this approach requires a certain degree of thinking ahead (it might be a little too late to start brewing up bottles of homemade wine or knitting 10 jumpers) people are also likely to appreciate edible gifts such as cakes or biscuits. Can you sew, knit or otherwise create something?
Everyone has a talent of some sort, even if you’re not the creative type there is probably something that you can make that will make someone happy. As people are fond of saying; it’s the thought that counts!
We appreciate that everyone is busy, and while back in August the idea of producing batches of jam for the extended family seemed like a great idea if the appeal is considerably less now it may be wise to adjust your plans! If the offer of de-materialising the gift has not been well received and you just don’t have time to cook, knit or otherwise create something then… choose wisely.
It is easy to get caught up in the madness, panic and end-up buying lots of gifts for people that have been chosen at the last minute with little or no thought.
Think about what people want, are there young children you need to buy for who want toys? Are there any environmentally friendly options out there that might make a great gift?
Choose products that will last, give thought to purchases and where possible try to choose those that are environmentally friendly.
De-cluttering is in vogue. Ironically, there are now more books on minimalism than anyone would ever really need. Why not tap into this trend?
That book you bought and never read - do you know anyone who would enjoy it? What about those jumpers that you got two of a few years previously? Can you re-gift those to someone?
Remember that stat about wrapping paper? Enough to cover Guernsey every single year. Think about how you present your gifts? Rather than wrapping paper do you have any paper bags lying about? You know, the kind they give you in upmarket clothing stores or at certain grocers, why not decorate these in a festive fashion and re-use them year after year in place of wrapping paper?
Top tips for low waste presents
This one is a tricky one. There is an argument here about eating vegan, seasonally and hyper-local at Christmas, a lot less impact on the environment than the traditional meat heavy fare.
However, this blog is not the time or place to go into this debate! Rather, let’s focus on what we can do to cut down the one third of purchased food that is thrown out without being eaten over Christmas. If that stat isn’t scary enough think that 230,000 tonnes of food will be thrown away this festive period, including 9,300 tonnes of Brussels sprouts!
We’re all guilty of overdoing it at this time of year, but a little prior planning can help cut down on food waste.
Think about what it is that you actually need to buy. It is all too easy to wander into the supermarket and come out clutching handfuls of produce you never thought that you wanted (upselling is their business model after all!).
Make a list, then sleep on it, look at it again and see what you can cut down on (do you really need to provide 20 ‘pigs in blankets’ per person?). Once you’ve finalised your list take it with you and stick rigidly to it.
Think about your leftovers
There will always be leftovers, but a bit of prior planning can see these turned from waste into delicious meals. If possible, create space in your freezer for these leftovers and you could be feeding yourself far into January.
Consider your cooking methods
Did you know that, every Christmas the UK throws out an estimated 4,500 tonnes of tin foil. This is enough to cover around 1500 square miles – an area twice the size of London?
Plan your cooking well in advance, or maybe even consider switching over to a renewable energy provider such as Good Energy.
Top tips for cutting down on food waste this Christmas
A zero or low-waste Christmas should be fun, treat it as a game or as a challenge, keep an eye out for part-two of this blog where we will be looking at how we can cut down on the waste from Christmas cards, crackers and trees this holiday season!