Want to make your Christmas more environmentally friendly?
As the issues of addressing global warming and climate change become ever more urgent, we are all going to need to change our habits, and arguably Christmas is one time when our consumption and consequent production of waste is at its peak.
But most of us would be reluctant to do away with those customs and traditions that make Christmas special.
Central to this in UK homes is the Christmas tree, and here there has for a long time been a debate about whether a real tree or an artificial tree is more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
You would think the answer is obvious, in that we only keep real trees for two or three weeks before getting rid of them, especially if they are cut and have no roots. But against that there is the argument that Christmas trees are specially grown and then replaced by the growers and that every bit of a natural tree is 100% recyclable.
While natural trees can be mulched for landscaping and gardening or turned into woodchips and if bought with roots can be planted in the garden, there is a growing trade in rentable trees that can be returned to the grower after the festive season.
Another option is to get one of the newer designs made of recyclable or degradable materials.
The artificial tree, on the other hand, can be kept and re-used for many years but you would have to re-use it for ten years to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree and then, of course, they are made out of plastics.
Gift wrapping and cards
Gift wrapping paper is often not recyclable because of all the glitter and metallic printing that may have plastic in it. There has been a growing movement in recent years to use plain brown paper instead. If you have some craft skills you could try decorating your packages, perhaps with snowflake designs cut out of white paper or pinecones collected on a walk.
This is one of the biggest sources of waste at Christmas. It is easy to over-cater and end up with too much left over food. But when you are food shopping you can try and choose things that are light on packaging or buy loose items.
With a bit of ingenuity, it is also possible to transform left over food into new, tasty meals. Some can be frozen, some can be transformed into hearty winter soups.
Lighting displays outside home
More and more households have got into the habit of constructing ever more elaborate lighting displays in front gardens, attracting visitors from miles around, albeit they are often used to raise money for a good cause.
But how much do all these displays add to electricity use during the festive season and hence to global warming?
We’re not suggesting removing all the magic from Christmas, just that perhaps we all need to think a bit more about how we go about it.