Christmas can be a difficult time to avoid plastic, there are so many temptations and habits that we are used to, but, if you’ve been conscious about your waste and your use of plastic for a while, you will have hopefully been starting to think of ways to keep waste to a minimum at Christmas time too. In case you need some early inspiration on how to have a plastic-free Christmas, have a look at these ideas:
Giving time and thought to your purchases this year can make all the difference when trying to aim for a zero waste or plastic-free Christmas. There are so many great ways you can avoid unnecessary plastic when buying gifts and you can reduce your carbon footprint along the way too. For adults who like toiletries, opt for solid soaps, shampoos and even lotion bars and try to go to markets (restrictions permitting!) where you can buy locally made products, you can complement these with accessories like natural loofah or wooden soap dishes. Alternatively, give an experience gift such as a spa treatment or tickets to the theatre, or even better, make a donation to charity or sponsor something/someone. From donkeys to guide dogs, there are plenty of options for animal-lovers and plenty of humanitarian charities who will benefit from increased donations and sponsorships at this time of year.
Remember the massive bin bag of wrapping paper your household can accumulate just on Christmas day? It is thought that in the UK alone the amount of wrapping paper used (and then thrown away) is enough to wrap around the equator 9 times! (227,000 miles) And that’s just the UK… Add to that the plastic bags that are often used to put the waste in and you start to see how easily this waste can accumulate. When using wrapping paper, the ones that are entirely made from paper (ideally recycled!) and don’t have any additives are best. If you do want to use wrapping paper, then opt for the most natural ones that can be recycled when used and avoid plasticised ribbon or bows too. Another idea is to wrap your presents in used newspaper or magazine pages for a funky twist, and instead of sellotape, use jute string or strips of fabric from old clothes that can be cut into strands. But most of all, ask the recipient of your gift to be thoughtful about how they use the wrapping and ask them to re-use or recycle as best they can.
While the decorations aisles in all the shops can tempt you into upgrading your tree adornments or changing the colour scheme this year, why not opt for wooden, recycled, homemade or even edible tree decorations and handmade paper ones for the ceiling. There are a million posts and videos online to help you get inspiration and if you have children, what better way to get prepared for Christmas by having a craft session together and teaching them why you are making eco-friendly decorations and not buying plastic. Some of our favourite tree decorations are ones we have been given by others who have handmade them – they also make excellent gifts.
If, like me, you have a son who loves Lego, it can be really difficult to avoid plastic when children are young. Coupled with electronic devices and games and even many board games and craft kits coming with plastic pieces or wrapped in plastic. It seems like an impossible feat to achieve a plastic-free Christmas for little ones. However, you could aim to get a lot of gifts like these second-hand. Many items like Lego and board games can be bought on local ‘for sale’ online groups or via Ebay or other online second-hand sites. If everyone did this more then the demand -> production -> waste would all reduce. And for more eco-alternatives for Christmas you could consider getting wooden toys, books (second hand even better) or fabric toys well as those which use solar power or are made from recycled materials.
This is another area where it can seem tricky to avoid plastic and too much waste in general. I read recently that each year in the UK 17.2 million sprouts are thrown away – begs the question as to why on earth people buy them in the first place. And this is not to mention the turkeys and waste from mince pie packets etc… So let’s stop and have a think about the quantities we’re buying as well as the packaging our food is coming in. It’s becoming more and more well known that the meat industry has a huge impact on our environment. If you or your family are not ready to ditch the meat from your dinner table, then at the very least try to source your meat from local farms and producers who will have a minimal impact on the environment and who have reared their animals in the best possible way. Avoid supermarket and factory farmed meat.
When it comes to the vegetables and trimmings, don’t overdo it on the sprouts (no one really likes them anyway!) and visit your greengrocer or local market to ensure you can buy the veg loose and not wrapped in unnecessary plastic. Try to also get locally-grown produce and support your local organic farms where possible. If you’re buying sauces and condiments – get glass jars that can easily be reused or recycled and if you have the time to make things from scratch, you’re much more likely to reduce the packaging waste so often found on sweet treats. Is it really necessary to buy those huge tubs of individually wrapped chocolates? They used to come in tins but seem now to be in plastic tubs – so opt for Fairtrade chocolate alternatives that are wrapped in paper or foil which you can easily break into chunks and serve in a re-used tin or wooden tray.