By Alice Healy, first year English Literature and History
The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year. It is filled with family, friends and (most importantly) amazing food. Yet, it can easily become overwhelmingly consumeristic and wasteful. Unfortunately, this festive time is one of the most taxing for our environment, given the excess amount of food, unrecyclable wrapping paper and cards, Christmas tree incineration and tons of plastic packaging. It seems an almost insurmountable task to create an entirely eco-friendly holiday season, but there are some easy swaps to make our white Christmases a little greener.
Be Aware of Plastic
Plastic packaging and single use plastics are huge issues at all times of the year, and thankfully people are becoming increasingly conscious of the huge effect plastic is having on our natural world. Opting for gifts from zero- or low-waste conscious websites, or even buying second hand from charity shops, can significantly reduce the amount of plastic we use in the holiday period. Buying from smaller businesses not only supports local economies but also often reduces the amount of plastic we accumulate within the holiday season. Avoiding the purchase of new decorations every year also helps, as often they are either made entirely from plastic or are covered in glitter, which is actually a microplastic.
Avoid Food Waste
Food is an immensely important component to the holidays, yet so much of it is wasted. Eating vegan and vegetarian food is the easiest way to reduce our environmental impact during this period, but making sure food waste is minimal also definitely helps. The equivalent of 4 million Christmas dinners are wasted yearly, amounting to around £64 million of wasted food per year. Using leftovers to create even more delicious meals, or even freezing surplus food, are great ways of reducing the amount of food that ends up in landfill over the holiday period.
Choose Eco-Friendly Wrapping
It’s hard to resist the lure of glittering, metallic wrapping paper; it looks great, and adds the final special touch to a gift. However, glitter can cause immense ecological damage to wildlife – particularly to marine animals. While a little glitter on wrapping paper will look appealing under the tree, it looks much less appealing in a marine animal’s body. Foil wrapping paper is not only harder to reuse than normal paper wrapping, but it is also extremely difficult to recycle, meaning it often ends up in landfill. Alternatives to generic wrapping paper include using brown paper, old newspapers, or fabric wrap. Using a second-hand scarf to wrap a gift not only looks great, but also provides an additional present for your friend or family member!
The rush to find a perfect gift is a predicament most of us have experienced. Perhaps, instead of feeling stressed and rushed within this period, acknowledge that celebrating Christmas does not equate to buying the ultimate present. In fact, some of the best gifts can be experiences. Spending time with friends and family will mean much more than a randomly selected last-minute giftset. If you do want something a little more traditional, asking what your friends and family will find useful is a perfect way to be certain the gift will be used. We’ve been conditioned to think regifting is somehow negative, but if you know the recipient will love a regifted item then there is absolutely no issue. Reducing the vicious cycle of mindless consumerism is especially important at a time of year when it is intensely encouraged.
Creating an eco-friendly Christmas doesn’t have to be all or nothing
Making simple swaps to greener alternatives is an easy way to support the natural world during the holidays. Creating an eco-friendly Christmas doesn’t have to be all or nothing, as adopting any kind of environmentally beneficial change is a huge step in a more conscious direction. It’s not just easy to enjoy the holiday season whilst considering our blue planet, but it’s increasingly essential to do so.