We love Christmas. We love the food, and the wine, and the terrible music and the family all squeezed into one place. It’s brill. What we don’t love, is the rapidly increasing waste culture that surrounds the festive season. It is estimated that over the Christmas holiday the UK produces 30% more waste than usual. The figures are staggering (check out this article for more terrifying statistics), and often times it is too easy as individuals to feel hopelessly overwhelmed by the seemingly insurmountable task of reducing global waste. However, here at Bristle we believe that small steps lead to big change.
We have put together a few simple things that you can do this Christmas to limit your waste and reduce the impact on our environment. Phase these alternatives into your life, and you’ll be making a small but significant difference. You never know, you may even influence a few people along the way.
227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away every Christmas – most of which could have been recycled.
It’s easy to find out if your wrapping paper can be recycled, simply carry out the ‘Scrunch Test’. If it scrunches easily into a ball then bingo, chances are you can pop it in your recycling. If it doesn’t, and it springs back out when you try to scrunch it, then it is probably laminated or metallic and that bad boy needs to go straight in the bin. Now you know, bare this in mind whenever you are buying wrapping paper in the first place! Or better yet, get imaginative and use old newspaper, reusable cloth or old brown paper (Lush have some nice little reusable gift wraps available if you’re in the market).
A few other key culprits that make wrapping paper impossible to recycle are sticky tape and glitter. Make sure you remove the tape from your wrapping paper before you put it in the recycle bin, and as a general rule, avoid anything with glitter on it. The stuff is terrible. Millions of tiny pieces of plastic that will never be recycled and will inevitably end up floating around in our oceans, screwing with the fishes and dolphins.
To double check your local council rules on recycling wrapping paper check out this handy guide from Recycle Now.
We get it, you’ve got every single auntie, cousin and great grandma coming to yours for Christmas dinner, and everyone is expecting a Tudor-esque banquet. The pressure is on to outdo last year. But do you really need all those thousands of potatoes, and 5 different types of meat?
It is estimated that 4.2 million christmas dinners went to waste last year. That’s around 263,000 turkeys. This year, take an extra moment to consider how much food you actually need. Be realistic. It’ll make your life easier, and will help to limit the excessive Christmas food wastage. If there are left-overs, be creative, don’t just chuck it away! Bubble squeak is an absolute winner. Meats can be used for lunches for weeks afterwards. Make pickles, and chutneys. Or turkey curries, pies and pasties that can be frozen and kept for a time when you aren’t in a turkey-induced food coma. Jamie’s got some great recipes for Chrimbo leftovers here.
Food packaging is another bane of any pro-active waste-avoiders daily routine. From vacuum-packed brussel sprouts, to potatoes with their own little plastic trays inside a plastic bag; it seems food producers are obsessed with smashing single use plastic into our faces at any opportunity. One of the easiest ways to cut out the wasteful packaging from your Chrimbo meal is to simply buy loose veggies rather than the plastic-wrapped alternatives. Food markets and farm shops are great for packaging free produce, but if you’re not lucky enough to have this option, most major supermarket chains will have a less-packaged option. Just simply a case of making educated choices.
Companies like Oddbox do a mint job of delivering the discarded ‘ugly’ fruit and veg straight to your door (with minimal packaging). A massive winner in our books – saves the food going to waste and reduces plastic!
Get yourself a real Christmas Tree from a local, sustainable supplier. They are an easy, all natural solution to a silly plastic tradition and can easily be composted after the holidays. Or even better, there are several tree farms that will take your real tree back off of you after the festive season, replant it, and keep it safe and alive for you until you need it back next Christmas!
Please make sure you do actually compost your tree! Hundreds of thousands of trees are thrown out every year rather than properly disposed of – completely defeating the point.
If you already have a plastic tree, it’s probably made from PVC which cannot be recycled, so you may as well make as much use out of it as you can! Reuse it for as long as possible – plastic was designed to last forever, and it sure does like to hang around! When are ready to swap and go au natural, take your plastic tree along to your local recycling centre – they might be able to help dispose of it responsibly.
At its worst, Christmas is an unstoppable consumerist juggernaut encouraging people to spend beyond their means, and consume in gross excess. Take a stand against the commercial giants trying to convince you how much you NEED their product, and just keep it simple. A single, well thought out gift, is worth a thousand pieces of disposable crap.
With the rise of awesome independent, grass roots companies it is now easier than ever before to buy sustainably and responsibly. To buy things designed to last. To give gifts with real thought behind them. Pebble Magazine regularly feature amazing, ethical brands and are a great resource for gifts that will last well beyond the fairy lights and mince pies.
So there you have it – just a few suggestions of how you can cut down on waste in your home this Christmas. Got any other ideas? share them with us by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or drop us a line on Facebook. We’ll be back next week with ways to reduce the plastic devil in your bathroom.