The festive season is a time for celebration for many people and, almost inevitably, a spot of overindulgence. As a result, we tend to use a lot more energy – and we don’t mean those last-minute trips to the shops – and produce more waste than usual. Here are a few tips to help you do your bit for the environment while having a great time over the festive season.
A wee gift to you.
1. The presents
There are loads of solar-powered toys and cool wind-up gadgets around, so why not think about these as presents for kids - of all ages! Using re-chargeable batteries will help to reduce the number of single use batteries going to landfill and could save you money in the long run. Check out sustainable gift options. Charity shops can be perfect for finding an unusual or individual gift … For those of you living or visiting Edinburgh, you can use the handy Edinburgh charity shop and reuse map. Lucky you :)
Hand-made gifts are personal and show you’ve invested your energy in the giftee – check remadeinedinburgh and other sites for inspiration and techniques.
2. The wrapping
You’ve got the presents, so why not wrap them using reusable paper gift bags or recycled wrapping paper or reusing newspapers and magazines you’ve finished reading? Tie up presents with a bit of funky ribbon, minimalist string or natural raffia – no sticky tape means you can save the paper and use it again.
3. The tree and decorations
Choose a living tree that can be planted out after the festive season and used again. If your tree doesn't have roots, you will be able to recycle it, in most areas, using your kerbside recycling service or you can take it to a Community Recycling Centre. You could also invest in some Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights to decorate your tree and your home. They look great, use less energy than other Christmas lights and appeal to the (possible) tech geek in all of us. They last longer too.
To recycle your trees, check with your local community recycling centre, Council websites or local press about garden waste/green waste containers. Trees will be shredded then composted.
For people in Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Scottish Borders check our Too Good to Waste – the A-Z guide of practical ways to reduce, reuse, repair and recycle. Also check your local council’s website.
Back to the sparkly stuff. You can make decorations from re-used paper for a hand-made traditional feel. A good way to spend a wet or windy afternoon, there's a stack of tutorials online.
4. The cards and gift tags
If you've access to a computer, why not send an electronic card to friends and family? Recycle any cards you receive with your other cardboard through your kerbside recycling scheme, local recycling facility or Community Recycling Centre. Got cards from last year? Give them new life by cutting up into home made gift tags. Don't forget you can donate stamps off cards you get through the post to a number of charities.
5. The grub
Support your local economy by shopping for your festive food at your nearest farmers’ market. Local products tend to have less packaging and are not transported long distances. Try to choose unwrapped fruit and vegetables, to cut down on unnecessary packaging.
Wasting food costs the average UK family with children £550 a year, or £45 a month*. Saving that amount could mean a lot less stress about other bills, or a weekend away.
6. The lunch
Cook with lids on pans and match ring size to saucepan size to save energy. For free energy advice and support call Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282. Don't forget to compost your vegetable peelings and, by next Christmas, you’ll have free nutritious compost – black gold! – to help make your garden grow. Visit our home composting page.
7. The party
Use real plates and napkins, which look pretty, reduce waste and can be reused (avoid the disposable sort). Borrow extra glasses, rather than buying new ones. Pop leftovers in reusable containers, rather than wrapping them in foil or plastic film, and recycle your empty bottles and jars. Wait until you have a full load before using your dish washer: full load, eco cycle and whoever didn’t cook can help clean up!
8. The unwanted gift
Take any unwanted presents to your local charity shop, organise a swap party, sell online or offer up to anyone who’s interested on sites such as Freecycle. If you’re in or near Edinburgh, take a look at Changeworks Edinburgh Charity Shop and Reuse Map or, look up your local charity shops.
9. The sales
If you do go, don't forget to take 'a bag for life' or a reusable bag when you venture out to the shops.
10. The travel
Try to use public transport where possible . Better for the environment, it takes the pressure off finding that elusive parking space and, if you decide to have a wee glass of festive fizz, it’s no problem getting back home. Chin chin!
11. The New Year (it's a new dawn, it's a new day)
If they're your kind of thing, why not make a New Year's resolution to live more sustainably? Or just do it anyway. Whatever you fancy ... cut down on your food waste, start home composting, hop on our bike more, take a reusable bag shopping or start recycling at work.
We wish you and yours all the best for a peaceful festive season.
*Waste & Resources Action Programme 2009