My favourite time of year is approaching, walking through the snow looking at Christmas lights, snuggling on the sofa watching festive films, and most importantly, spending time with loved ones. But how do you manage to pull off a brilliant Christmas during the current climate emergency?
The biggest worry for me during the festive season is how much of my waste is non recyclable. In the UK alone we create 30% more waste than usual during the festive period. (https://www.phswastekit.co.uk/blog/posts/20-11-2018/how-much-waste-does-the-festive-season-create)
Did you know that traditional wrapping paper is not recyclable! Most of the jaunty present wraps you see are covered in a thin layer of plastic meaning that they will remain on earth for hundreds of years. For the past two years I have wrapped my gifts in brown parcel paper, finished with a string bow with either a pine cone or spring of holly, you can even add a candy cane. This paper is often made from sustainable sources and can be recycled year after year.
Another big waste generator are single use Christmas trees. In a flat you may only be sharing with these people for one year and if you all pay in for a Christmas tree you may be left out in the cold, and so will your tree if you decide to chuck it. There are many alternatives for Christmas trees, especially if you are limited on space. This brilliant photo tree is a space saving idea that could be great in your flat.
In my first year I brought my family’s small Christmas tree that was usually used in the porch. This was useful for me as I still got to have my Christmas with a taste of home. Ask around for any unused decorations or second hand trees to make your home as festive as you can without getting lots of single use decorations. It can be tempting to go wild on the decorations, tinsel everywhere, hundreds of little lights, a santa stop here sign, but consider making your own and doing sensible swaps.
Swap tinsel for pom poms.
Pom poms are so easy to make and don’t take long at all. You can make a batch just watching the telly. Here is an easy set of instructions: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-Pom-Poms/
Swap to charity shop finds.
Hunting through charity shops for quirky one of pieces is a practice to get used to. A large flannel shirt can be made into bunting, festive baubles are often many for £1 and can be used year after year, and people often donate unwanted gifts meaning you can pick up bargains for friends and family too!
Swap store bought for handmade
Everyone loves to rock a wreath at Christmas but why not make your own using pinecones and sprigs from your local area.
Swap lights for greenery
I am a lover of fairy lights, but often in student accomodation they are not allowed. Of course they also use up lots of electricity. In this new age of climate concern it can be a worry to keep your electricity usage down. In direct contrast to the little bulbs, using greenery can be a pretty alternative. Pine and cedar branches draped where your lights would have been offers a delicate and classy effect. My favourite trick for bringing the outdoors in is to use pine cones. They can be painted or left natural and strung up to create a garland.
Air fresheners can be bad for the environment as they inject harmful pollutants into the air. A festive smelling home is always nice to wake up to but you don’t know exactly what is in your air. You can make a spiced orange garland that smells amazing by simply thinkly slicing an orange and baking at 200′ for 2.5 hours then threading onto a length of twine. It lasts for up to a month and gives a cirtusy scent to your home.
Being environmentally conscious doesn’t just span to gifts and decorations. A report by Unilever said that each year in the UK the equivalent of four million Christmas dinners are wasted – the equivalent to two million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and five million Christmas puddings. (https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/christmas/christmas-food-waste-how-cut-down-181492) Which I’m sure you’ll agree is a ridiculous amount. If you are heading home for Christmas it is important to use up everything in your fridge before you leave. Similarly if you’re having a house Christmas dinner don’t leave it to the very last day, use any leftover meat for a Christmas curry, fry your veggies with bacon, take the pigs in blankets to your lecture and munch during the last week of term (probably not but you see my point). Food waste is disappointing at the best of times but especially at christmas.
There are many ways to keep waste down at Christmas and to have a brilliant time while respecting the environment.