Christmas is a time of mass consumption and produces a lot of waste. We’re getting close to the big day so chances are you’ve already done most of your shopping, and hit up the eco-friendly Christmas gift guides if you’re that way inclined. You’ve bought your wrapping paper, your Christmas tree and decorations are up, I’m not going to undo all your hard work by telling you to go buy eco-friendly versions of everything.
What’s done is done, so let’s focus on Christmas day itself and what little things you can do to make a big impact.
London Cleaning Systems have produced the below infographic which highlights just how excessive Christmas waste can be. In fact, the UK produces up to 30% more waste at Christmas than at other times of year. Holy moly!
So without spending Christmas in the dark, and foraging for your Christmas dinner, what can a busy family do to have an eco-friendly Christmas day?
1) Recycle wrapping paper – if you can
Did you know that a lot of the wrapping paper we use at Christmas can be recycled, but some can’t, e.g. the foil / metallic / glitter varieties. Some local councils don’t collect any wrapping paper for recycling because of the amount of sticky tape and embellishments.
Do a quick check to see if your local council recycles wrapping paper before you take the time to separate it out. Find your local council here, or use this tool from Recycle Now.
Remove any sticky tape and ribbons/bows etc. which make it difficult to recycle (why not get the kids to have a contest to see who can sort their pile fastest?!)
Do the scrunch test to see if it can be recycled – scrunch it into a ball, if it stays scrunched, it can be recycled. Watch this super quick video from Recycle Now to see the difference:
2) Separate plastic and cardboard packaging
This should be a pretty easy one if you’re used to recycling at home. You know those packets that have a cardboard backing and a plastic bit stuck to the front to display the contents (think toothbrush packets)? Well both parts of that can be recycled IF you separate them.
However, the thin, more filmy plastic stuck to cardboard (think cardboard sandwich packets) can’t be recycled. Peel this plastic off the cardboard, recycle the cardboard and put the plastic in the rubbish bin.
As with wrapping paper, remove any sticky tape from cardboard before you put it in your recycling bin.
3) Make sure family and guests know what, where and how to recycle
Different councils recycle in different ways. Where I live, we have one general waste wheelie bin, one wheelie bin for recyclable plastic, metal and glass, a food waste bin, plus a box for recyclable cardboard and paper. Where I work, they separate their recycling down even further and put out about 4 different bags plus 2 wheelie bins each week!
I’m not saying which is better, I’m just saying it works differently in different places, so make sure guests from out of town have a heads up on what to throw away where to save you having to sort it all yourself, or it going to landfill unnecessarily.
Stick a list on each bin of what is and isn’t allowed – or get the kids to write it and illustrate it so they can learn too and have fun in the process.
4) Get creative with food waste
Most of us throw our vegetable peelings straight into the food waste, and it’s tempting after a big meal to just throw the leftovers in there too – which is the best place to put them if that is what you’re going to do. But there are lots of things you can do with food waste to save throwing it away.
You can store many vegetable peelings in a freezer bag in the freezer and use them to make stock when you’ve got a decent stash. Check out this post from the Garden of Eating about which veggies are best for stock and how to make it.
Save Christmas dinner leftovers for a festive sandwich filling, or mash it all up with some potato and fry up some bubble and squeak for boxing day breakfast. If you’ve got a blender, mix it with some stock and whizz up into a warming soup for lunch the next day.
Love Food Hate Waste are running a campaign this Christmas to reduce the number of birds thrown away uneaten. (The figure currently stands at a whopping 86 million birds annually!) Check out the Give a Cluck About Food Waste campaign here for tips on storing your Christmas poultry and leftovers safely.
5) Turn it off
Lights are a big part of Christmas, as is watching lots of Christmas movies and maybe even the Queen! We charge our brand new devices alongside the old ones and boil the kettle for copious cups of tea before falling asleep in a post-dinner haze with lights glaring and TV blaring.
It’s a time of mass electricity consumption.
Try to be mindful of how much electricity you’re using and take small steps to reduce the amount.
Turn off lights when you leave a room empty.
Turn off the TV when everyone gathers for Christmas dinner.
Turn sockets off at the wall when phones and devices are fully charged.
Turn off Christmas lights if you go out or before you go to bed.
You could even encourage a family board game to give the electricity-heavy activities a rest, or find time to read a book.
Get the family involved too – kids are great at telling you when you’ve forgotten something, aren’t they?! They could be excellent electricity champions and tell everyone, totally shamelessly, when they’ve forgotten to turn off the lights 🙂
6) Replace your toothbrush
Here’s a friendly reminder, because if you’re anything like me, you’re still using the same old toothbrush as you were at least 6 months ago, if not the same one as last Christmas.
I seriously need to replace mine as the bristles are starting to fall out, but it’s been distressing me that I can’t recycle my toothbrush. I’ve therefore been looking at more eco-friendly options.
I bought my lovely mother in law a bamboo toothbrush for her birthday this year (I know, it was a bit weird for a birthday gift, but she loved it as she’s trying to cut down on plastic) and she’s really loved it. I’m going to give them a go, and what better time to start a new, eco-friendly habit than at Christmas time when we’re all in a sharing and caring mood!
Bamboo grows very quickly, so it is a more sustainable resource than harder woods. It is also biodegradable… you know, because it’s made from a plant… so there’s no more toothbrush guilt when it comes to throwing one away!
This pack of 12 from Amazon is a year’s worth of toothbrushes for 3 people for under £10. Plus they have rainbow bristles, so I’m sold! There are lots of other options available with non-rainbow bristles if that’s not your bag 🙂
(Affiliate link – if you buy these via my blog, I’ll get a small commission but you won’t pay any more than you would going direct)
I hope that’s given you a few ideas to be getting on with. There are plenty of other ways to have an eco-friendly Christmas day. Do you do anything to reduce your environmental impact, either at Christmas or in your day to day life? Or do you think it’s too much hassle? What other ideas can you think of to reduce your environmental impact? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!