Our A to Z Guide to a Jolly, Sustainable and Stylish Christmas
Christmas consumerism may seem like a merry idea, but it’s the planet that is paying the price
… ARTIFICIAL TREES
Artificial trees are not only made from plastic, they have most likely been shipped great distances too. They may be less messy, but this year, if you need a new tree make the change from an artificial tree with a carbon footprint of more than double the real deal, and splurge out on a real one instead. They may be on the more expensive side, but they’re far kinder to our environment – they help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. If you can, buy one with its roots intact so you can replant it after the festivities. And you’ll be helping your local grower too. Always make sure your real tree can be chipped and shredded after the event (most councils will pick up trees and use the chippings in locals parks). Left to rot, the trees give off harmful greenhouse gases, and a two-metre tree has a 16kg carbon footprint – the equivalent of three return flights to Australia and back. Based in Huddersfield, Forget Me Not children’s hospice will collect your tree for a minimum donation of £10 if you book before 5th January. They’ll even pick up huge trees over 10 feet if you warn them in advance. Check their website for all the postcodes they cover and help support children with life-shortening conditions (as well as the planet) when you dispose of your tree sustainably. forgetmenotchild.co.uk
With new high-tech presents comes the need for batteries to make them work – which not only contain toxic chemicals, but do not biodegrade and are difficult to recycle. Cut back on your batteries this Christmas and invest in rechargeable ones which come with charging ports to fuel them up from your mains supply, so you can use them time and time again. Better still, give battery-free gifts!
Whilst they may be a traditional part of your Christmas table, crackers are filled with cheap plastic gimmicks which, come Boxing Day, end up in the bin. But alternatives are out there. From crackers made using seed paper (that can be planted in your garden) to locally-made crackers filled with chocolate, when they still pack in a snap, joke and a hat it’s worth considering making the switch, and for the creative types there are plenty of DIY cracker kits out there for an eco alternative. Leeds-based Classbento will deliver you a DIY kit and then talk you through how to make them with an interactive, virtual class – just join in from the comfort of your own home. classbento.co.uk
From supporting charities and donating gifts and food to volunteering to help out, there are a multitude of ways to help charities (and help you feel good) at Christmas. Pick up an extra gift to donate to a child who otherwise may not get one. And from Feeding Families and Family Gateway, to Age UK, People’s Kitchen and even Helping Yorkshire Poundies (who organise pet adoption for strays and unwanted animals), each and every charity has need of your help and support – and not just at Christmas time.
… EAT UP
An obscene amount of food goes to waste every Christmas (an estimated 54 million platefuls) as we over-buy food ahead of the big day. While it might be seen as something of a Christmas catastrophe to have too little food on the table, it’s worth planning ahead to avoid having too much – write a list before doing your Christmas shopping, but most importantly, stick to it! Many of us are guilty of panic buying, but few consider the waste it creates. If you still end up with turkey on the table come Boxing Day, you’ll find recipes for turkey leftovers at livingnorth.com. And instead of reaching for the clingfilm, you can keep leftovers fresh with sustainable food wrapping from Bumble Wrap. Handmade from 100 percent cotton and a special wax and oil, the wraps are breathable, washable, compostable – and pretty! bumblewrap.co.uk
… FOOD MILES
Christmas begins in the kitchen, with delicious food for the festive period. But some simple changes to your festive feast could make a big difference to your carbon footprint. Try sourcing your ingredients as locally as you can – local, organic meat is a lot better than going to the supermarket for meat that’s had to travel miles to get there. It’s more important than ever to support all our local producers and growers this year. Visit your local farm shop, your local butcher and greengrocer and if you need inspiration, check out livingnorth.com for all our favourite producers, many of whom are regulars at our fairs.
… GO MEAT FREE
One way of helping the planet is by substituting some, or all, of your intake of meat for plant-based alternatives. Whilst we understand for many that the turkey and pigs in blankets are technically irreplaceable at Christmas, smaller changes still help – perhaps you could choose just one or two meals to go veggie over Christmas (if you don’t want to change your Christmas dinner, think Christmas Eve supper or Boxing Day breakfast).
Not only will handmade gifts come without the plastic packaging – of which 125,000 tonnes are thrown away each Christmas – they’ll have added meaning too. From hand-knitted hats to paintings, and homemade jams, chutneys and flavoured gin – a DIY gift is always gratefully received.
Far from being splendid, isolation at Christmas can be harder than at any other time of year. It’s a joyful time for many of us, but for some that just makes it more difficult. Be sure to make an effort to help family, friends and neighbours who you feel might be struggling. Just spending a little time with someone lonely means an awful lot.
… JUST BREATHE
The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, but more than 90 percent of us stress over at least one aspect of Christmas – 68 percent worry about crowds and queues and 37 percent about gaining weight. So, how do you combat stress during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Don’t be afraid to ask for help – sharing the work of preparing for Christmas is a great way of building team spirit. Now’s the time to learn to say no, so whether it’s how many Christmas parties you’ll be attending, or how many gifts you’ll be buying, don’t overcommit yourself and be sure to take time out when you need to.
… KINDNESS CALENDAR
Traditional advent calendars don’t have the most positive impact on our environment. Behind the plastic and packaging of 24 doors you’ll find chocolate, or yet more plastic packaging if you opt for the latest trend in beauty advent calendars. This year consider giving instead of receiving and choose an Acts of Kindness Calendar to fill with your own activities and good deeds. From donating toys, calling an old friend to have a chat, or making and giving a gift, signing up for a charity event or simply sponsoring a stranger who’s doing good, there are so many ways to make the world around you a little better and re-connect with the real meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is synonymous with fairy lights, but they are responsible for consuming vast amounts of energy. If your lights are more than 10 years old make the switch to more efficient LED ones, which use up to 90 percent less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs, and always turn the lights off at night. If you’re using lights outdoors, opt for environmentally-friendly solar-powered lights, which don’t require an electrical power source and use LED bulbs, too.
… MAKE IT LAST
Rather than being tempted by a last-minute panic buy, make every present count. Something potted can be a perfect gift for green-fingered friends and will last for years. That’s a whole lot of joy in one simple present. Of course, we think a subscription to Living North makes a brilliant and lasting gift that just keeps on giving, making every day special, month after month!
… NOTES TO FRIENDS
Still debating your Christmas card list? Over Christmas we still traditionally send one billion cards, and most of them end up in landfill. This Christmas, choose 100 percent recycled or recyclable Christmas cards, banish paper altogether by sending an e-card, or give someone a call if getting in touch with friends and family is important to you over the Christmas period. You’ll find Cards for Good Causes on sale so pick up a pack to give back to one of 250 UK-based, national and local charities. Plantable Christmas cards are a great sustainable alternative to the traditional version too.
From the baubles that hang on your tree to the mistletoe that hangs in the doorway, the majority of Christmas decorations you buy are made from plastic, or are coated in it. For a sustainable twist go au-natural, foraging elements from the outdoors to create your own wreath and decorations, or invest in a wreath made from recycled ornaments such as those from Picture Tales, whose handmade up cycled wreaths contain between 250 and 300 discarded baubles. If you simply can’t resist a new decoration or two, opt for handmade ones using wool, wood, recycled glass, hemp or organic cotton, and spend on meaningful ornaments in classic designs that you know will last as family heirlooms.
… PERSONAL SERVICE
Gifts of service require little use of natural resources and are both personal and memorable. Your time, energy and expertise are all as precious as anything you can put in a box, and are often more welcome than anything that comes in a package. Maybe you could cut your granny’s lawn for a year, or help a sister learn to ride her bike, and cooking and cleaning all come under the same personal service category.
… QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Whilst many have the idea that the bigger the pile of presents the more happiness there will be, it’s worth cutting back on Christmas gifts if you’re looking to be more conscious of your impact on the planet. Splurging on fewer gifts will mean that less end up in landfill, and it’s not just the thought that counts. Research shows that at least one in every nine presents received will be swapped after Christmas because it was something unwanted or not needed.
… RENT YOUR OUTFIT
Renting rather than buying your Christmas outfit(s) is the most sustainable way of looking good over the whole festive period. Textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined, and fast fashion accounts for eight percent of all carbon emissions, and yet tonnes of unwanted clothes (three out of five fast fashion items) are sent to landfill, and unsold items are burnt by the manufacturers. It would take one individual a staggering 13 years to drink the same amount of water as it takes to manufacture one pair of jeans, and the washing, solvents and dyes used in manufacturing clothes are responsible for one-fifth of industrial water pollution. The argument for renting fashion is certainly a strong one and companies such as locally-based hirestreet-uk.com are leading the way. When you can rent a dress, wear as many times as you like over your choice of rental period (which over Christmas can be as long as 30 days) and return it hassle free, all without adding to the pressure on the planet. That has to be a super-sustainable way to stay stylish.
… SHOP LOCAL
With a ridiculous 4,000+ tonnes of products still arriving from China for Christmas (despite the container and lorry driver shortages) now surely is the time to focus on shopping locally. Presents bought locally means support for small shops and suppliers, and a stronger, more sustainable local economy, all while minimising your carbon footprint. A win win all round.
Although we have been warned there maybe a shortage of turkeys this year, we expect to consume around 10 million turkeys, with an estimated 3,000 tonnes of turkey packaging involved. This year, please don’t go to the supermarket. There are lots of local farmers who produce turkeys and will supply direct, or you can pre-order from your local butcher or favourite farm shop. It will be cleaned and trussed – but not covered in plastic!
… UP-CYCLE EVERYTHING
Brown furniture may be out but brown furniture painted is very much in. Scour your local antique and junk shops for pieces to up-cycle, and by buying antique jewellery you are saving the planet from a whole heap of harm. Cyanide is used to extract gold worldwide, and the contaminated waste is stored in ponds which often leak, contaminating local ground and drinking water supplies. Over 75 percent of newly-mined gold goes to fashion jewellery and it takes 30 tonnes of ore to produce a single gold ring, yet many jewellers will happily recast old gold into new designs.
If you’ve got the time, then give an extra helping hand as a volunteer this December to a local charity or community project. Giving just a little means an awful lot and from buying fair trade to donating old coats, hats and scarves to the local shelter, or collecting blankets for the homeless as the weather gets colder, this Christmas make a difference just by getting involved in your local community.
… WRAP IT UP
On average we use about 228,000 miles of wrapping paper in the UK at Christmas – enough to wrap the entire island of Guernsey – and it is estimated that we throw out 108 million rolls of wrapping paper after the big day. While many of us make the effort to recycle it, if it contains dye, foil, plastic, or you forget to remove your left-over sticky tape, then it won’t end up where you might want. Why not ditch the paper for fabric? It’s a great way to add a unique twist to your gift and the fabric can be used again and again. Sheffield-based Wrapped By Alice produce eco-friendly wrapping paper, gift tags and boxes which are all 100 percent recyclable so you can wrap without worrying about the environment. wrappedbyalice.com
Making sustainable switches this Christmas doesn’t mean banning festive fun all together. There’s no need to feel you have to go the extreme – a few (or multiple) small changes when combined can make all the difference in reducing our environmental footprint during the festive break.
… YEAR LONG
Christmas comes and goes quickly, but making conscious choices to live more sustainably doesn’t have to. Try taking some of the sustainable switches you’ve made throughout the festive season and applying them to your daily routine for the rest of the year. We’ve got lots of great go-greener ideas at livingnorth.com
… ZERO WASTE
Cutting out waste during Christmas is no mean feat, but it can certainly be done. On average each household’s waste increases by 30 percent over the festive period. We throw out 300,000 tonnes of packaging, 108 million rolls of wrapping paper, 500 tonnes of discarded lights, and an incredible 100 million black bin liners full of rubbish. Whilst we all are looking forward to the celebrations – following our A to Z and making just a few small changes will help save our precious planet.