The festive holidays are a time of giving and sharing with those around us, but it can also be a time for caring for the environment by making some sustainability-led decisions. If you consider all the packaging that ends up as waste, the old items that are thrown out when replaced with new gifts, unconsumed food, and the amount of energy used, this time can be very harmful to the planet.
However, there are many eco-friendly ways to gift sustainably and have a greener Christmas by helping to reduce your environmental impact at this time of year.
12 tips for a Sustainable Christmas
Anthesis has recreated the 12 Days of Christmas for fellow eco-advocates with supporting comments from our in-house sustainability experts:
12. Stay away from plastic straws, use metal straws instead
Metal straws are washable and reusable, therefore decreasing the waste in the natural environment and landfill sites, resulting in less chemical pollutants in the soil. “Every year, it is estimated that the UK use 4.7 million straws, while the US population use more than 500 million a day. Unfortunately, these are often littered after use which has devastating environmental impacts,” said Debbie Hitchen, Director at Anthesis Group. “Metal straws can be reused, and they are really convenient to pop in your handbag when you’re out and about.”
“It is estimated that switching glittery wrapping for paper could result in being able to recycle the paper from as many as 1.5 billion Christmas presents and if you reuse your Christmas cards as tags for next year’s presents you could also reduce their environmental impact”
11. Keep leftovers fresh with some colourful beeswax wraps
Opt for eco-friendly beeswax food coverings to keep your leftovers fresh during this festive season. Reusable, water-tight and able to lock in moisture, they are ideal for protecting and covering leftover food. “Due to all of the impacts associated with producing and processing foods, from farm to the Christmas dinner table, it is important not to overstock with provisions and, where possible, to use leftovers from one meal as ingredients for the next,” according to Dr. Julian Parfitt, Technical Director at Anthesis Group
10. Reusable Cleansing Pads: Clean Face, Clean Environment
It is time to swap disposable cotton pads to reusable ones to cleanse, tone and remove makeup. Single-use cotton pads add to landfills and pollute the environment. Reusable face pads are not only better for the environment, but they also sometimes come with added skincare benefits as they can come with exfoliating qualities.
9. Collect your fruit and vegetables in a produce net
When shopping for your festive dinner vegetables, step away from the single-use plastic bags and use your own mesh or net bags to collect your loose produce. Switching to washable, breathable and reusable produce nets will keep your grocery shopping and the planet healthier.
8. Avoid glitter, wrap your gifts in kraft paper
Glittery paper may look nice, but it is a no-no for the environment as it contains microplastics. Always check that the paper you are buying is recyclable. Why not choose kraft wrapping paper instead and some colourful ribbon (kept from a previous present) to ensure that come Christmas Day, you or your loved ones can dispose of as much wrapping paper as possible in a sustainable way.
7. Shopping has just got greener and trendier with jute bags
An estimated one trillion plastic bags a year are used globally each year. “Biodegradable materials are, usually, preferable to plastic materials – jute is one of those biodegradable materials. Amongst other additional qualities like lasting for a long time, being able to carry more by weight and being washable, they are also aesthetically much nicer,” commented Honor Cowen, Principal Consultant & Retail Sector Lead at Anthesis Group.
6. Refillable soap pumps for washing
A wave of companies are now developing innovative refillable concepts to eliminate waste. This means that it is now much easier to refill soap containers rather than replacing them with new products. Honor Cowen said, “Scrap the heavily branded plastic dispensers and find a colourful ceramic or glass version instead. Solid shampoos and conditioners are also entering the market, and they have zero packaging.”
5. Holiday E-Cards vs Physical Cards
The environmental footprint of a card can be broken down into distinct life cycles: paper production, postage, and decomposition. Every year on average, 33% of cards are not recycled and end up on landfill. Consider E-cards instead as they save on deforestation, carbon emissions and waste. “In the age of the mobile phone, funny Christmas themed photos are a great idea – and they keep forever with virtually no impact.” Honor Cowen suggested.
4. Bring your leftovers in with a lunch box
To reduce food waste, consider a new year’s resolution of bringing in a packed lunch to work. Giving lunch boxes as gifts to make it easier for people to transport their lunches to work, or to use at their local takeaway place rather than their single-use plastic alternative.
3. Keep your beverages warm with thermal mugs
As we approach the winter season, refillable thermal mugs are a great way to keep warm beverages from going cold, even when working from home! They are a great present for those who enjoy having a hot drink on the go. Not only are they cost-effective; it is also a good way to reduce your carbon footprint by reducing waste. Debbie Hitchen suggested, “There are now so many choices of reusable cups on the market. Bamboo coffee cups get top marks for their overall life cycle carbon footprint if you use them regularly throughout the year when you’re getting a coffee to go.”
2. Bamboo cutlery sets are great for those who are always on the go
Disposable plastic knives and forks can damage our ecosystem and accumulate large amounts of waste. Switching these out for reusable bamboo alternatives cuts down on plastic pollution. “As a result of impending bans on plastic cutlery in Europe and around the world, there has been an increase in bamboo cutlery in food-to-go facilities this year,” said Debbie Hitchen.
1. Light up the room with a LED star or other decorations
Light up your tree with an energy efficient LED star this year. Amy Dartington, Principal Consultant at Anthesis Group said, “LED lights use a tenth of the energy than traditional bulbs. They are also safer as they don’t get as hot as incandescent lights.” Gift yourself a LED star to brighten up your festive holiday, your tree, and the environment.
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