For the countdown to Christmas find below 24 ethical tips and eco ideas to ensure you ‘offset’ your increase in consumption and do your bit during the festive season…
Support your local businesses, especially those that are trying to be ethical. This year, order an organic or free-range turkey from a local farm. Buy fruit and vegetables from a local box scheme. These options reduce transportation miles and support your local economy. Contact the Soil Association (www.soilassociation.org
) for their “Organic Christmas List” of suppliers.
The cost of this year’s unwanted novelty Christmas items and other presents will reach an estimated £1.3bn! Rather than spend on those unwanted presents, think about giving an imaginative and worthwhile gift
instead. Give someone you love tickets to a local concert, salsa class or cinema show. At least you will know your gift will be used and hopefully enjoyed too!
Which Christmas tree option will you go for? This year, why not plant your own Christmas tree in your garden
! Decorate it with LED lights and decorations – at least this way you won’t have annoying pine needles to pick off the carpet! However, if you really want a fresh tree in your home, why not opt for a potted tree which can be replanted at the end of the festive season? If planted well after Christmas, your tree should grow and thrive outside and it will always be a lovely memento of Christmas day.
Make your own decorations. If you have left over wallpaper
, wrapping paper
or even magazines, use the paper to create paper chains to decorate the house! Simply cut the paper into equal strips (approximately 15cm x 4cm) and glue the two ends together. Next, loop another strip through the paper loop and again glue the ends. Keep doing this until you have the right length of paper chain.
Use ethically sourced or natural materials for decorations. Next time you go on a walk, look out for fallen branches, hedges or holly bushes. Cut off small sections of the bushes (always ask the owner first) and decorate around your home. Ethically sourced decorations
beat chemical-based plastic decorations any day!
Find out what matters to your friends and family and make a donation to an organisation that would be meaningful to them. Many non-profit organizations rely heavily on holiday gifts
of money, stock, and personal property, even insurance to continue their work. Websites we like here: www.oxfam.co.uk
For decorating presents, try to buy recycled wrapping paper or re-use left over paper from previous years. Alternatively, why not wrap with magazine pages or newspaper. It has been calculated in the US that if every family reused just 2 feet of festive ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
This year send Christmas cards made from recycled card to friends, family and loved ones. Remember to recycle the cards when finished – your local council should be able to tell you of local card collection schemes or alternatively add the card to your recycling bin.
Use your own bags for your Christmas shopping… Around 125,000 tonnes of non biodegradable plastic packaging are thrown away each Christmas. 8 billion plastic bags are used every year in the UK alone, and the UK supermarkets failed to meet their plastic bag reduction targets. So don’t forget to take your own bags with you when you go shopping and avoid presents with too much packaging.
We can all do our bit to reduce energy wastage this Christmas. Switching off the television, video or DVD, and digibox rather than leaving them on standby would shave more than GBP3.5 million off UK electricity bills in the Christmas week.
Indoor strings of Christmas lights don’t use a lot of energy. Swap your ordinary light bulbs for energy saving ones. They use a fraction of the energy and last on average 12 times longer. If every UK household installed just one energy saving bulb, over £80 million per year in electricity charges would be saved. Oh, and don’t forget to turn off your fairy lights each night!
Why not save on waste and money and send an online e-card instead? There are many sites available which offer free e-cards. Best of all, they can’t get dumped in a landfill after the festive period! Visit www.hallmark.com
Try to look for gifts which are either fair-trade or made from recycled or sustainable materials. The choice of desirable fair-trade, recycled and sustainable items available to buy is expanding rapidly. Be safe in the knowledge that, not only has your purchase not been detrimental to the environment, but has also directly benefited the local communities.
If you receive a present you don’t feel you’ll ever use, why not donate it present to a charity shop or swap it for something you do want on www.freecycle.org
Christmas dinner is a meal that has the rare honour of being based on seasonal produce – an unusual thing in this age of un-seasonal, year-round supermarket food. Use produce such as sprouts, chestnuts, parsnips and red cabbage which are in season over the Christmas period; that’s precisely the reason why they are traditionally eaten at this time of year. You should enjoy your Christmas food more if you know it hasn’t had to be flown halfway round the world to reach your table!
If you’re having a party, avoid serving food and drink on disposable plates and cups – they will just add to our growing mountain of waste. Borrow extra crockery from friends and neighbours. Also, many wine shops and supermarkets lend boxes of wine glasses if you’re buying supplies from them.
Retain paper shopping bags after shopping trips, and decorate with bows and ribbons. Personalise with name tags and favourite coloured ribbon – you will be surprised how stylish they can look!
In the UK we buy 7.5m Christmas trees every year. Therefore, recycling fresh trees after Christmas can make a huge difference in reducing holiday waste. Instead of taking up space in the landfill, trees can be ground into wood chips, which can be used to mulch gardens or parks or to prevent erosion at a local watershed. Call your local council to find out about your regional Christmas tree recycling scheme.
Candle decorations are lovely at this time of the year and can brighten any home. Candles not only provide a much softer and attractive light, but they also save on energy. . . Isolate and enhance the flame by standing large pillar candles in recycled glass bowls. See www.biomelifestyle.com
for candles and recycled glass holders.
Recycle your old Christmas cards from past years and create beautiful, hand-made Christmas gift
tags. Give your children old Christmas cards, ribbon, old buttons, glue, a hole-punch and children’s scissors. Spend time together cutting up the old Christmas cards to use the images on the front of the cards, stick on buttons and ribbon to create lovely, homemade tags to attach to all your presents.
This Christmas, why not volunteer? It may seem a cliché, but you really can make a difference. And there’s nothing that gets to the heart of the matter, taking care of each other, than reaching out and making somebody’s holiday a little more like it should be. Organisations we like and who definitely need your help include Crisis
If you are buying electrical or electronic presents, buy rechargeable batteries to go with them. Or even better, look out for gifts which are energy efficient, such as wind-up
or solar powered electrical goods
How clued up are you on your natural environment? It can be great fun to test your knowledge and go on a nature-spotting session. There are all sorts of things you can look out for and try name – trees, birds, animals, insects, mushrooms. For more information on what to search for and when, either buy a good guidebook or go to www.whentowatchwildlife.org