How to have a more environmentally-friendly Christmas

The festive season is beloved by many of us, and with good reason, but it’s also typically a time where we consume more - and not just that second helping of Christmas dinner.

There are estimates that we throw away roughly a billion Christmas cards which could be recycled, and we use enough wrapping paper to go around the equator nine times over, with around 220,000 miles of it ending up in the bin.

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Ultimately, Christmas is a time for thinking of others, and what better way to think of other people than by doing your bit for the environment and making 2020 an even greener Christmas than usual?

Cards and wrapping paper

Perhaps the least eco-friendly aspect of Christmas time is the miles and miles of wrapping paper we use and the mountain of Christmas cards that get sent all over the country.

It’s easy enough to pick recyclable paper to wrap up the presents we buy for others, but we don’t get to choose what presents we receive come wrapped in, and it can be difficult to know whether it's recyclable or not.

The easiest way to tell is to scrunch the wrapping paper up in your hand then let it go. If it unfurls on its own, it probably contains non-recyclable elements, but if it stays scrunched, it's likely safe to recycle.

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One environmentally friendly alternative to traditional Christmas cards is an e-card, though they’re not for everyone. Hand-delivering physical cards to anyone nearby rather than sending them all in the post will also reduce your Christmas carbon footprint.

If you are sending cards, try to opt for those made from recycled paper or other sustainable options, and try to avoid ones with glitter as it is a real pain to recycle.

And when it comes to the cards you receive, don’t be so quick to throw them out. The designs on the cover of cards can - with just a touch of Christmas magic - be turned into next year’s present labels, or even decorations for your tree.

Trees, decorations and crackers

Nothing says Christmas like a real tree, all decorated with lights, and an angel or star put on top. Millions of trees are bought to put up in people’s homes every year, but too many of them get thrown away.

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As a solution to this, more and more garden centres now offer tree rental services, even adding in a delivery and collection service to make things as easy as possible.

Whether you’re renting or set on buying your own real tree, make sure to pick one that’s been grown sustainably, by looking for the FSC-certification logo. And make sure to recycle it, in line with your local authority’s guidelines.

Buying a new artificial tree, even one that will last quite a long time, isn’t the most eco-friendly option, as they require lots of energy and resources to manufacture. However, if you’ve already got one at home, using that for as long as you can is your best option.

Decorations can cause difficulty for the environmentally-minded, as they’re often made from plastic and other materials that are ecologically costly to produce, as well as being hard to recycle.

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You can help the environment by using things you’ve already got, maybe even being creative and making some of your own decorations, rather than going out and buying new ones - especially if you’re only going to use them for this year.

Food and drink

Though it might be a controversial topic to broach around the dinner table, experts have said that the single-biggest positive impact an individual can have on the environment is by cutting out meat from their diet, or at least cutting down considerably.

There are an increasing number of tasty vegetarian and vegan alternatives for Christmas dinner, as well as all the trimmings - plus, what could taste better than knowing you’re helping fight climate change?

Still, there’s something to be said for the traditional Christmas dinner, with turkey, goose fat roasted potatoes and pigs in blankets. Buying free-range and shopping local really does make a difference, both in terms of supporting local farmers and substantially reducing your carbon footprint.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, The Scotsman

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