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E-Conscious Festive Tips & Tricks: Christmas Edition

Christmas is just around the corner, and with it comes a tidal wave of waste, be it food, packaging, gifts and trees, all of which are disposed of one way or another. Now you might think I am coming across all Scrooge-esque, but in fact, I am here to tell you about some simple, e-conscious tips and tricks you can adopt this (and every) festive season to reduce your waste. Stay tuned!

Image: Holly (llex aquifolium) in my garden covered in snow.

First of all, one of the traps I think we are all guilty of, is quantity. Often, we think that one gift is simply not enough to portray our gratitude and affection for one another, so we increase the number of gifts we give, losing sight of the quality of the gift(s). My advice would be to invest in one or two good quality gifts for your friends, family and/or significant other. Not only does this really make you think about what gift to get but also reduces waste and saves some valuable pennies in the process. You can always gift experiences as well, which often go down a treat! (Of course, the meaning of Christmas doesn't centrally revolve around gift-giving but if you partake in present-swapping then here are some helpful tips).

This brings me nicely onto my second tip – gifting second-hand or re-gifting. Now, if you have NEVER re-gifted a gift you have been given for a special occasion at least once in your life, then I simply don’t believe you. And let’s be honest, there’s absolutely no shame in it. I would much prefer to re-gift a gift I am not going to use or wear, to someone who is much more likely to use and enjoy, than throw it away and vice-versa. Of course, you can also donate items to charity or sell them, they are yours to do as you please. I am merely recommending that you repurpose them and don’t just throw them away, because at the end of the day, it’s the taxpayer who ultimately pays for landfill. My advice would be that you re-gift items with the right intentions i.e. to make someone smile and reduce waste. Saving money is always a plus, but it should never be the one and only reason to re-gift. (Also, just a friendly heads up, maybe don’t re-gift the item to the same person who gifted it you to…? Just a thought).

So now you’ve picked your quality item(s) or chosen your re-gifted/second-hand item, you need to wrap it, right? And we know everybody loves a well wrapped present? There is something oddly satisfying about the aesthetics of patterned paper or big bows on presents that excites us. But the harsh reality of it is, it all ends up in landfill. Well, fear not! You can achieve a sleek, e-conscious look with recyclable and natural materials. Brown paper is probably the best go-to for wrapping gifts sustainably. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘oh, that’s so boring’ but in actual fact, eco-friendly wrapping and décor can be just as aesthetically pleasing, and more importantly, it's better for the environment! So ditch the big, synthetic bows and swap them for natural, dried orange slices and homemade cinnamon sticks, or sprigs of pine. Promisingly, over 24% of people searched the internet far and wide for sustainable gift wrapping this year in the run up to Christmas. People are finally catching on, and believe me, it is a trend we should all be jumping on and sticking to. This way you can put all of your brown paper in your white hessian recycling sack, ready for local collection after Christmas. Remember to try and remove any sellotape still attached to the paper, or better still, try not to use any in the first place (Top tip: origami can come in really handy!)

If brown paper is a little too dull for you then why don’t you try fabric drawstring bags: these are perfect pouches for your presents and can be reused time and time again as dustbags, for storage or for clothes etc. A great place to start looking for these is on Etsy, where small, eco-business owners are setting the standard for sustainable gift-giving. Another way to present your presents (hehe) is in recycled gift bags from previous years. Honestly, if anyone truly knows me, then they know that I always re-use gifts bags I have previously been given. I am the equivalent of a plastic bag hoarder, only with gift bags! You name an occasion and I have a gift bag for you in any shape, size or colour you need! I just rip off the tags and attach my own tags made from recycled Christmas and birthday cards. I’m winning, I tell you, winning.

Image: Gifts wrapped in 100% recyclable materials... And they still look cute!

So, you’ve wrapped your presents in brown paper and attached your dried fruit, what’s next? Well, what are you putting your presents under? Yes, a tree! Interestingly, 74% of people prefer artificial trees to real trees, and I can see the appeal as it is more cost-effective in the long-term and reduces your annual waste. Between 6 and 8 million Christmas trees are purchased annually, the majority of which, end up in landfill. So, if you do opt for a lovely, natural tree, then please do consider recycling or replanting your tree after the festive season. Recycled trees are shredded and turned into wood chippings for local parks and play areas. If roots are still attached to your tree then you can replant and nurture it for future use. Replanting trees also attracts wildlife to your garden, increasing local biodiversity, as they act as shelter and a food source for all kinds of minibeasts and small birds. This also reduces your carbon footprint, which in any case, is always a bonus.

Okay, so you’re picturesque eco-Christmas living room is finally falling into place. But what about decorations for your tree? I’d always promote reusing the decorations you have rather than buying new ones. The average person spends £155.42 per year on Christmas trees and decorations, which, let’s be honest, could be better spent elsewhere. Especially if you have selected an artificial tree… you should definitely be reusing it!! As for your decorations, I can appreciate that people often jump on trends and like to change up their Christmas aesthetics, but it is in fact a really wasteful habit to get into. Synthetic baubles are not recyclable and don't biodegrade, and instead will have to be burned or buried, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. So instead, why not forage for your tree decorations instead? I can’t actually tell you the number of pine cones and sprigs of holly on my tree, because it’s almost embarrassing, but these are few of many natural decorations you can find outside in your garden or local park. These decorations are perfect because they can be returned to the environment and break down naturally into the soil. However, I can understand that ‘au naturel’ is not everyone’s vibe, so simply reusing your baubles each year can minimise waste and is good value for money.

But what about food, I hear you say? My final tip would be to cook and bake your own festive treats whenever possible. This tip kind of reminds me of Shrove Tuesday, or pancake day, where Christians used up their remaining animal products, i.e., butter, milk and eggs, before Lent. I tend to bake mixed spice biscuits every year but I never buy new ingredients, I always use up products I already have. It is a nice festive treat and minimises the need for buying (often overpriced) Christmas treats. (Having said that, I am a sucker for a milk choc lebkuchen or five). Included in the festive food genrek is your Christmas dinner, which is arguably the best part of Christmas (obviously not before spending time with loved ones!) and you can consider swapping out certain foods for plant-based alternatives. This is not my area of expertise but I am always keen to learn about and try vegetarian and vegan alternatives, and what better way to get everyone involved than trying out new tasty food!

Image: Festive mixed spice biscuits. Mmmmm!

So that wraps up (see what I did there) my short and sweet e-conscious festive guide. I hope that you can adopt some of these tips and tricks in one way or another, helping to reduce waste over the festive period!

Merry Christmas Everyone x


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