In 2019 both the UK and Ireland governments declared climate emergencies – so it’s never been more important for families to make this festive season sustainable. Last Christmas alone our wasted wrapping paper could have stretched around the planet nine times over, so the Live Here Love Here team at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful are calling for families to source eco-friendly alternatives.
Households in Northern Ireland throw away 230,942 tonnes of waste across the festive season* - more than any other time of the year.
Christmas is usually an indulgence of parties, gifts, decorations and lots to eat and drink. Nowadays there are plenty of eco alternatives that will help save our environment whilst letting us enjoy all the things we love about Christmas.
The trick is to start small - we challenge you (and ourselves!) to try just one of our top 10 tips for a sustainable Christmas;
Top Tips for an Eco-Friendly Christmas
1 - With gift wrapping you want to reuse last year’s giftbags and left over paper before buying more. Think alternative materials by wrapping in newspaper or make the wrapping part of the present by using cloth or a scarf. If you have to buy, try recyclable wrapping paper (avoiding glitter as it contains microplastics) and do the ‘scrunch test’. If the paper stays in a ball shape, then it can be placed in the recycling box but if it ‘springs’ back it is most likely metallised plastic film and therefore not currently recyclable.
2 - Reusing an existing artificial tree is better than buying a new real tree each year. If you do buy, get a potted version you can replant after Christmas and enjoy for years to come. Trees can also be considered as presents too - gift a native tree and plant it with friends and family to mark the end/start of a new year.
3 - Make handcrafted decorations – classic styles that will last a lifetime and are fun to create with the kids. (edible decorations can make things more interesting and are easily disposed of!)
4 – If you’re searching for the perfect party outfit try buy and sell clothing apps or visit a local charity or vintage shop plus all major retailers now stock sustainable clothing lines. You could always get into the festive season and throw a clothes swap party with friends.
5 - Think organic for food, try to plan ahead as best as possible to minimise waste and visit local fruit and veg or farm shops for package free goods.
6 – Use LED Christmas lights with timers to save energy.
7 - Ditching the car for a winter walk or sharing a lift with friends avoids unnecessary pollution plus the festive season has extended public transport times so glide or try the train!
8 – 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away each year in the UK - send e-cards instead or make a DIY card for close friends and family that they are likely to keep as a memento (again avoiding glitter). If you need to buy think charity cards that are made of recycled materials.
9 - Create your own advent calendar that will last for generations with wooden boxes or felt pockets and simply restock each year with edible treats.
10 - Gift buying can be one of the most stressful parts of Christmas but there are plenty of options - check if items are environmentally friendly by searching for established logos such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance. Secret Santa is always a good option to keep the number of gifts down or use Secret Santa to regift especially for young children. Consider buying your presents from a charity shop – in doing so you can reduce your packaging, recycle or rehome existing toys and clothes meaning new resources don’t have to be exploited and you have the added benefit of the money being donated to a good cause. Try organic and recyclable clothing and beauty products, solid soap ranges, bamboo products as well as pledging money to charity or using vouchers for experiences to enjoy together.
The key is to try and buy less and when you do buy, be responsible. Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also has a number of eco-friendly projects live over Christmas which encourage time spent together as a family - such as Adopt a Spot and various community litter picks - let’s do our bit this Christmas!