How to have a green Christmas—without losing any sparkle

There are lots of easy and cheap ways to reduce your Christmas carbon footprint. And none of them mean you need to become Scrooge or turn all the lights off, and Jamie Oliver would still be impressed by your Christmas dinner!

Below is some useful information from Thame Green Living on how to make your Christmas greener—and to help you win the Thame Town Council’s “I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas” quiz.

1. Buying new Christmas lights? Get LEDs.

When it comes to eco-friendly Christmas decorations, LEDs are far better than traditional incandescent lights. LEDs use up to 80% less energy—that could save 29,000 tonnes of CO2 over the Christmas period, and save more than £11 million pounds in energy costs!

Look for LED Christmas lights to use indoors and solar-powered lights to use outdoors, and put both sets on a timer. You’ll not only make environmental savings but your energy bills will be reduced too.

2. Don’t overbuy food

According to Love Food Hate Waste, 270,000 tonnes of Christmas food is thrown away every year in the UK—including 74 million mince pies, 2 million turkeys and 5 million Christmas puddings.

As a nation, we consume a staggering 80% more food over the Christmas season than during the rest of the year, and spend on average £174 per household on food for just one day. Our Christmas traditions in the UK include consuming 10 million turkeys, 370 million mince pies and 205 million glasses of champagne. In fact our excessive eating habits during Christmas cause the same carbon footprint as a single car travelling 6000 times around the globe.

So when you’re doing your Christmas shop, take a list and stick to it. Don’t let the supermarket displays convince you that you need that extra bag of nuts or box of chocolates—no-one will miss out if you don’t have them.

As well as buying less food in the first place, look out for Christmas recipes that use up leftovers, either to consume in the days after Christmas or put in the freezer for later. Or make use of local Facebook groups or the Olio App to share spare food with those in your local community.

For more tips, check out Zara Canfield’s tips for tackling food waste at Christmas.

3. Reduce your packaging!

During Christmas, as a nation we get through:

  • 4,500 tonnes of tin foil
  • 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging
  • 227,000 miles of wrapping paper

As well as the substantial financial cost, there’s a huge amount of CO2 used in the production of all that packaging. For example, for every 1kg of wrapping paper, 3.5kg of CO2 is emitted in its production.

To minimise your impact, buy gifts that include less packaging, shop at local zero waste stores (such as Wholefoods Pantry and Renewed Eco Shop), look for reusable alternatives to foil and cling film, and be creative with your gift wrapping. Re-use wrapping paper whenever you can. But if you are buying new, use standard printed paper that can be recycled, and avoid paper with glitter or plastic coatings.

Check out these beautiful, thrifty and planet-friendly alternative wrapping ideas.

4. Re-think Christmas cards

If all the Christmas cards we sent each other were placed in line, they would go round the world 500 times.

We’re not suggesting you don’t send any cards, but perhaps think about who would really appreciate receiving a physical card—and who would be happy with an e-card instead?

For those Christmas cards you do buy, ensure that they’re made of card from a sustainable source—such as those produced by the Woodland Trust, and look to buy directly from a charity shop, so that a percentage of the purchase goes to the charity. And just like with wrapping paper, avoid cards with glitter, so that they can be recycled.

After Christmas, re-use the cards you receive as gift tags for next year’s presents. If arts and crafts aren’t your thing, just recycling our cards would save enough energy to light up 340 Blackpool illuminations. Cards can be put in your Green Bin (Oxfordshire).

And if you want to find out where everything else can be recycled head to ‘Binzone’, the App from South Oxfordshire District Council where you can find out if/where to recycle everything else this Christmas.

5. Count the cost of your travel

Sometimes there is no avoiding travelling by car—but with a combined 6 billion miles being travelled around the UK over the festive period, how many of these could be substituted with lower-carbon (and substantially cheaper) transport?

While you have time off, with less pressure to get to work and school, could some of these journeys be done on foot or by bike? How about going by public transport or hiring an electric car for your journey rather than using your own petrol-guzzling vehicle?With high petrol prices currently, it’s likely to be better for your wallet and the planet.

And when Christmas is over, look out for the Electric Vehicle (EV) Hire Club which is coming to Thame in the new year.

6. Buy quality, sustainable presents

By March, it’s estimated that 41% of the toys given as Christmas presents will have either broken or be ignored. Most of these will end up straight in landfill. As well as the environmental impact, it’s a huge financial waste, with an enormous £4 billion spent on unwanted gifts a year.

So whoever you’re buying gifts for this Christmas, think first whether the gift is really necessary, and then if it is, ensure that the item you buy is of lasting quality, and made sustainably.

Our local charity shops are a great place to start, or for parents and grandparents, homemade presents are always a hit. There are also a growing number of ethical stores, both local and online, to source presents from – and the brilliant shops in Thame High Street are a great place to start.

But if you’re stuck for physical gift ideas, why not give an experience as an alternative? Not only does this cut your packaging to zero, you’ll be giving a memory for life.

7. Measure your Christmas carbon footprint

Over three days of Christmas festivities our personal carbon footprints are, on average, seven times greater than normal. Those three days account for 5.5% of the UK’s total annual carbon footprint.

So, as you plan your fabulous Christmas festivities, make conscious choices about the products that you buy, steering towards more environmentally friendly Christmas traditions. Tools such as Giki Zero can help you track your own carbon footprint.

8. Choose your Christmas tree wisely

Is it better for the environment to buy a real tree or artificial one?

Artificial trees have a carbon footprint equivalent to around 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions. As artificial Christmas trees are generally made of plastic and are aren’t biodegradable, at the end of their life they are sent to landfill or are incinerated. In addition, as artificial trees are most usually produced in South Korea, Taiwan or China, they are shipped thousands of miles to get to your home, with the corresponding transport carbon impact. If you already have an artificial tree, the best thing to do is look after it so that you can use it year after year after year.

Real Christmas trees are grown over a period of seven to ten years and have the immediate benefit of being biodegradable. Look for locally grown, FSC certified trees, which benefit from lower transport carbon and can also benefit the environment by helping to protect and stabilise the soil. Best of all, buy or rent a tree in a pot so that it can be used again and again each year.

You can find more information in this article from the Guardian.

9. Take the quiz!

Now that you know a little more about enjoying an environmentally friendly Christmas, why not take the Thame Town Council ‘Im Dreaming of a Green Christmas’ Quiz for the chance to earn some eco-friendly goodies.

Merry Christmas, from everyone at Thame Green Living!