There are plenty of reasons for making you Christmas as Green as possible: With the recent high-magnitude storms and extreme weather battering many parts of our little planet you might agree that we’re damaging our climate – and it really is time to change our habits. Or with energy prices going up way-beyond inflation and pressure on the cost of living you might just have decided that it is finally time to look at ways of cutting your bills. Whatever your motivation, here are 10 simple things that you can do to make yours the greenest Christmas ever.
1 – Homemade cards, or even better – no made cards
Christmas kicks off with the ritual of sending 10’s if not 100’s of cards to friends, family and acquaintances. That’s an expensive and resource intensive business. There’s all the energy and material that’s already gone into manufacturing and transporting commercially bought cards – just so you can buy them in supermarkets and shops. One thing you could do is make your own, either from last year’s cards or raw materials from a craft shop. Of course, it takes more time, but you’ll be giving a much more personalised card and can be selective with the materials you use.
Even better though, you could do away with the cards altogether. There are plenty of online e-card services and even smartphone apps for the purpose. You can design your own on screen – and then send it to all your contacts. It’s not just about cutting resources though, if you send 100 physical cards via second class mail (50p stamp) you’d be spending £50 just on postage. Go all e-card and you can put that £50 towards something else this Christmas.
2 – Wrap presents in brown parcel paper
The choice of brightly coloured christmas wrapping paper is vast. It all costs, and if it has been produced using sustainable pulp and vegetable oil based inks it tends to attract a premium price. If it hasn’t, it won’t be great for the environment.
As the greenest wrapping paper is rarely the cheapest wrapping paper, one solution is to go retro. It’s a tad Dickension, but using brown paper to wrap the gifts going under your tree is both green (there’s less energy and potentially environment damaging inks used in the production process) and (dressed with an assortment of curled metallic ribbons) they really are austeriously elegant.
3 – Switch off Christmas lights when you’re not in the room (or in bed asleep)
Christmas lights make the yuletide season twinkle and add atmosphere to the occasion. Once you’ve got past the annual ritual of the ‘test switch on’ out of the way that is. You know, the moment when, inevitably, they don’t work and you have the needle-in-a-haystack joy of finding the blown bulb, The other thing they add to energy bills. For a greener Christmas with less sting in the tail of your next energy bill, switch them off when you’re not in the room and especially during the night when no-one (except the big guy in the red suit) is around to see them.
Christmas lights are not something you buy every year. Which explains why so many of us annually wheel out sets that are nearly as old, if not older, than we are. Older lighting will use the conventional filament bulbs of the day. The past 5 years have seen an LED lo-energy lighting revolution that means more lumen for your ‘leccy. If you’re in the market for new Crimbo lights then LED is the way to go. If you’re installing outdoor lights then solar LED lighting (that charges up in the daylight hours) is an even more cost effective way to go.
4 – Buy a smaller turkey
Turkey sandwiches, Turkey and Ham pie, Turkey curry, Turkey fricassee,… They’re just a handful of the takes-on-turkey that we normally end up eating between Christmas and New Year. There’s something about excess at Christmas that compels us to buy a much larger bird than we really need. Buying appropriately means getting to grips with your food waste – which is ideal for cutting back on that other festive conundrum: ‘what-to-conjure-up-from-leftovers’. Plus – buying a smaller Turkey will cost you less, but it will also mean a shorter cooking time, ideal for saving yet more on that ‘leccy.
5 – Buy a real tree, with roots.
You might think plastic reusable trees ware the way to go environmentally. You don’t have to chuck it out every year right? Well, in reality, real trees can see you in credit on your carbon count. Plastic trees use energy and hydrocarbon resources in their production. Real trees use water, nutrients from the soil and carbon dioxide to grow. It’s not hard to see then that a real tree has done a lot less to the planet on its way to your living room. Better than that though, it makes most sense to leave a tree to grow, rather than cut it down whilst it is still small. So one thing to try is a tree with roots. Provided you’ve got somewhere to plant it for the other 11 months of the year and some semblance of green fingers.
The austere (and – more importantly – safe if you’ve got young children) solution is a cardboard tree like this one.
6 – Batteries, CHEEEAAAARGE!
Probably the season’s most irritating statement: Batteries not included also presents an opportunity. Even when they are in the box they tend to be cheap Chinese power packs that don’t last five minutes and need careful disposal. Disposable one use batteries take up valuable resources, are hard to recycle and are generally bad for the environment. Rechargables – by nature of the fact that they can be reused – have less of an impact. And these days, if you buy the right type. they’ll even hold a charge when they are not in use, so you won’t come to find them flat in the drawer and your little one disappointed.
7 – Even better: wind-up chargers or a portable solar panel.
Charging batteries via the mains inevitably means you’re tapping into the national grid, which is mostly powered by non-renewable fuels. But there are alternatives. Wind-up chargers and portable solar panels are (with the exception of the modicum extra CO2 you exhale) completely carbon neutral. So, if you’re expecting to get an electronic gadgets from your other half or Mum and Dad this Christmas, perhaps ask somebody else for a solar charger. Check out the solio range. Some of it is very clever – because they have on board batteries that spend their time charging up in daylight – and then pass the charge on to your device(s) when you plug them in.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Christmas generates a lot of waste. Think of how full your bins are after boxing day… Think of how your street looks on bin day. Now times that by the 24.3 million households here in the UK. It’s a lot of waste.
The good news is that recycling rates have rocketed in the UK in the past decade (thanks mostly to insistent Local Council’s Recycling Schemes) – but there’s still loads more that could be done with a little more effort. Take the time to make sure you reduce where you can, reuse what you can (ice cream containers can make useful freezer containers for example) and recycle anything left (all those glass bottles that were full of Christmas cheer for example).
Change your lightbulbs to Energy Efficient ones, or go all candle…
Being home over the Christmas break means more lights on that usual. If you’ve got halogen spotlights you’d be surprised just how much energy they can use. 3 x 50w bars of 4 lights in a kitchen is almost equivalent to 1/2 a kettle being on all the time. LED bulbs aren’t as cheap as their filament counterparts – but they’re coming down in price and are usually guaranteed for 5 years. They’re a nicer, more natural light too.
Another alternative is to go candle – and add a bit of atmosphere to your Christmas lunch.
Take a Boxing Day walk
It’s so easy to sit around, watch TV and eat all day, or to get lost in time with 10 solid hours playing Call of Duty on the new XBox One or Playstation 4. But there’s nothing more refreshing on Boxing Day than to walk off Christmas Day excesses with a family ramble. Fresh air and a decent chinwag can do wonders for your wellbeing and it’s greener than staying in – because the only fuel you’ll be burning is all that Christmas food and drink from the day before.
And finally… It’s not really a Green tip, but it is a part of the recipe for a great Christmas Day. We all know that when it’s time for unwrapping presents it works best if the gifts are a surprise. With cupboard and storage space being what it is in London, it can be tricky to keep presents safe, sound and away from prying eyes.
A storage locker with us is the perfect answer – your gifts can be kept secret until the big day.
Just don’t forget to collect them by 3pm on Christmas Eve.