Guest Blog: Ten tips for an eco friendly family Christmas
The other day i read a fabulous, incredibly helpful blog by Kate from It’s Our Planet Too, and she kindly allowed me to publish this on the website, and help spread the word about minimising our impact on the planet this Christmas and for many to come.
Having studied Environmental Science at university, the idea for It’s Our Planet Too came about many years ago. But it wasn’t until Kate became a mum that she began to see first-hand how important it is for our children to understand the impact that we are having on the environment and the importance of taking care of our precious planet.
Here is a selection of the It’s Our Planet Too eco-advent calendar of top tips of how to reduce your environmental footprint this Christmas – for the full list you can follow them on Instagram for a little reminder every day in December.
'The world has become increasingly eco-conscious in recent years, yet Christmas can be a time of consumerism and excess waste.
A 2017 study by The Independent suggested that Brits will bin the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper, 54 million plates of food – and use 189 million batteries. More than 40 million rolls of sticky tape will be stuck and almost 100 million black bags full of packaging from toys and gifts will go in the bin. Wow!
By making small changes over the festive season, you can encourage those around you to become more conscious of their environmental impact… by thinking about the food we eat, the paper we use to wrap, the number of batteries we buy or the tree we decorate.
- Invest in a reusable advent calendar
For many of our kiddies advent calendars signal the start of the festive season and are a big part of the build up to Christmas Day. Being more eco-conscious doesn't mean you have to sacrifice this tradition entirely, but it could mean making a slight change.
Rather than buying a disposable calendar from your local supermarket, why not consider making your own? Or how about purchasing a wooden advent calendar that you can use each year?
Not only is this a handy way to be kinder to the planet, but it lets you personalise the gifts depending on what takes your fancy; sweeties, hair accessories, pens and pencils, pieces of Lego and what about slipping in a few IOUs (particularly useful when you’ve run out of gifts!)
- Send eco-friendly or plantable cards
We’ve just ordered our children’s school Christmas cards… I know in October! Whilst seeing their designs in print is lovely it did strike me as being a little unnecessary.
Research suggests that a quarter of us no longer write Christmas cards, but if you’re keen to continue then there is a way to send seasons greetings without impacting the planet.
Look for cards with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark. This guarantees the paper has been produced sustainably and ethically. The Woodland Trust shop is a great place to start. Just remember to recycle or compost your cards in January or turn them into decorations for next year.
A zero waste alternative is plantable Christmas cards. When the biodegradable paper is planted in a pot of soil, the seeds will grow and eventually the paper will decompose. Check out Greenwich based company, Eco Friendly Cards for some plantable options!
- Switch to LED Christmas Lights
Lights are such an important part of Christmas and are used to decorate our trees and our homes. But did you know that if every UK household swapped their regular Christmas lights for an LED equivalent, we could save more than £11 million and 29,000 tonnes of CO2, over the 12 days of Christmas alone.
LEDs are much more environmentally-friendly than traditional twinkling lights, because they use up to 80% less energy. Ninety-five percent of the energy in LEDs is converted into light and only five percent is wasted as heat and whilst the bulbs might be more expensive they should last significantly longer.
- Shop locally
Why not give your local shops and markets some love this Christmas. It could save you money, travel, stress and give you the warm glow of knowing that you’re helping a small business. You're also likely to seek out special finds you won't get anywhere else.
Remember to look for locally made gifts or those made from recycled materials as they are likely to have a lower carbon footprint too.
Check out Small biz discount section of our list of fantastic independent businesses owned by parents, there are discount codes too!
- Choose the right wrapping paper
It is suggested that we use around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each Christmas – that’s enough to gift wrap the island of Guernsey.
But what many of us don't realise is that gift wrap that contains foil, glitter or plastic can’t be recycled. So before you commit to buying more this year, try the scrunch test… Scrunch up the paper in your hands and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up then it can be recycled but, if it unfolds by its own accord, then it likely contains non-recyclable elements.
The good news is that recyclable wrapping paper is becoming easier to get hold of with many high street names now selling recyclable options as well as independents such as Re-wrapped.
- Buy the right crackers
Christmas crackers can be a huge contributor to waste at Christmas – most can not be recycled and the contents tends to end up in the bin pretty quickly!
There are some great eco-friendly alternatives on the market, keep an eye out for recyclable and plastic-free crackers or why not make your own?
- Give gifts that will last
When your child has spend weeks flicking through the latest toy catalogue and has written a long wish list it can be incredibly hard to stick to good intentions.
When thinking about the gifts you’re going to buy, consider what kind of presents may be more long-lasting than others. Alternatively, you could buy an experience rather than a material thing for Christmas.
Another great way to cut down on waste and unnecessary gifts is to choose one big present instead. Choosing to gift less presents will help ensure people don't end up with lots of little ones they don't need.
Once you have decided what to buy, it’s always worth checking out the third party certification to determine if a product is environmentally-friendly. Look out for respected eco logos, such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Energy Star and Palm Oil Free.
- Buy food from the right places
Buying the ingredients for your meal from local stores and markets will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but will also help you to show your support for local businesses.
As the Soil Association very succinctly states; “The quality of the food we produce has a profound impact on our own health and the health of the planet, so when it comes to eating meat, our philosophy is to eat a little less meat overall, so that the meat you do buy can be higher welfare.”
- Think about your outfit
Environmental charity Hubbub suggests that there are 65 million Christmas jumpers stashed away in wardrobes in the UK from previous years. Not only that, up to 95% of them are made using plastic, as the most common fibre used is acrylic.
If your kiddies have grown out of last years outfit, can you swap with family and friends?
When you’re planning party outfits for your little ones (or yourself), try and resist the temptation to splash out on sequins (they’re made from PVC and there are no biodegradable substitutes) and opt for sustainable materials instead.
- Choose soy candles
Candles are certainly a big part of Christmas and whether you enjoy them as part of advent or simply to make a room feel cosy in the colder months, it's worth thinking about their impact on pollution levels, as well as your health.
Did you know that paraffin candles are made from petroleum residue and are toxic to your health and the environment. Candles made from soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based wax are more eco-friendly because they biodegrade and are smoke-free. Check out small independent business, Miller and Keane who makes luxury hand-poured candles from 100% plant wax.
It’s Our Planet Too is a website aimed at children to raise awareness of the environment, particularly the plight of endangered animals. It’s essentially an education resource, full of fascinating facts, images, fun stuff to download and quotes as well as stories about the animals, written in rhyme and a blog.