Christmas 2020 – It Doesn’t Need to Cost the Earth
Love it or hate it, Christmas is not something you can avoid, and as much as I love everything involved with Christmas I can’t help but think about the negative impact it has on our planet. The amount of waste and rubbish heading to our landfills at Christmas is eye watering, with it being said that over 125,000 tonnes of plastic food wrapping will be binned and over 200,000 miles worth of wrapping paper will be used. So, I have come up with a few ideas and tips on how to reduce waste and help save our planet this Christmas.
Re-fill shops – Something that is becoming increasingly popular are shops where you take your own storage containers and fill them from their large containers of dry foods. These re-fill shops are amazing, as they get rid of the single use plastic and also allow you to only buy what you need, so reducing food waste as well.
We are very lucky to have a few of these shops in our local area, including:
Re-Stock, in Folkestone
U-Weigh, in Hythe
The Vegan and Eco Store, in Dover
Your Little Green Shop, in Deal
Now, most of these shops only have dry foods so are perfect for you to pick up things like porridge oats for your breakfast on a cold morning, or popcorn to enjoy with your favourite festive films. However, more and more places are beginning to offer wet products. For example, The Little Green Shop also does olive oil refill, which is not something I have seen before!
Butchers – I have only learnt recently that you can take your own storage containers into the butchers. The butcher will put the meat straight into the container, without the excess waste of cling film and plastic bags.
Hot drinks – This is possibly the one that most people know about, reusable coffee cups! Lots of places now actually take some money off your order if you bring in your own, so it’s an easy way to save some pennies too.
Kitchen & Table wear
Christmas is a time full of merriment and celebration, and this often goes hand in hand with drinking! One of the biggest changes we can make with this is using reusable straws. These have become very easy to pick up, as I have managed to find them in places like TK Maxx, ASDA and Boots. As they are reusable there is no waste and most even come with their own cleaning brush, so you can properly clean all the way through.
Kitchen roll is another completely avoidable waste. I have found a great independent business, Beeautiful Wraps in Made in Ashford, which makes reusable kitchen roll. You can get them in different colours and styles or even with poppers, so you can store together and tear them off when you need them. I have tried and tested this product myself and they are great for cleaning all around the house. They also make many other eco-friendly natural alternatives for cling film, tinfoil, cutlery wraps and wipes, all handmade in Kent.
I spoke about reusable food storage containers above, and while anything reusable is great, most of these are plastic….. and obviously we want to avoid plastic as much as possible! There are some great alternatives out there now, with plenty of options for glass food storage being found in almost every supermarket and home department store. The beauty of these is that they can be recycled once they have become unusable.
Christmas crackers are a quintessential Christmas novelty, but they are not a friend to our planet. On estimate, over 40 million Christmas crackers end up in the bin on 25th December. That’s an awful lot of waste for something we enjoy for a few minutes, over one dinner. From 2020, John Lewis and Partners are stopping selling crackers that contain plastic toys and their packaging is fully recyclable, which is amazing news! If you are the crafty type, you can find lots online about how to make your own crackers. However, if crafting isn’t your thing, there are plenty of eco-friendly crackers out there. My personal favourites can be found in WHSmith’s and come with a hat, joke and quiz, perfect for playing together around the table.
Did you know that a lot of the wrapping paper we use is NOT recyclable? Most of them include glitter (which are micro-plastics), are dyed with horrible inks and laminated. Some of the metallic foils do not come with the standard recycle logo, which means it will not be accepted with your recycling. For the past few years, I have been using standard brown postal paper. It is widely available, both online and in shops, and some places sell up to 200m rolls for about £20, which makes this very cost effective. If you want to make the wrapping more festive you could use Christmas stamps with eco-friendly ink, or you can use paper bows and twine instead of the usual, non-recyclable ribbon.
Some big named shops, like Wilko’s and WHSmith, are selling wrapping paper/bags/boxes, which are now 100% recyclable. It is great to see the giants in the stationary world taking a positive step to help us reduce the impact we have on our environment.
Sticky tape is probably the biggest, hidden enemy at Christmas. If it is left on the wrapping paper it makes the paper unrecyclable, thus undoing all you previous eco efforts. It is made up of a type of plastic called polypropylene, which isn’t recycled in the UK, so the ridiculous amount used at Christmas goes straight to landfill. On estimate, the UK uses over SIX MILLION rolls of the sticky stuff every Christmas! AnythingButPlastic are a fab company that sells tape made from recycled paper and natural latex. This makes it 100% biodegradable, and as it has been made from already recycled paper, no extra trees need to be chopped down to make it, yay! The Plastic Free Shop is another great company selling eco packing tape, available in a variety of widths. What makes this one special is that they do not use latex, so if you or the recipient has an allergy to latex, you don’t have to miss out. Again, their tape is biodegradable and made using recycled paper.
If you want to avoid wrapping paper altogether you could use fabric wrapping! There has been a resurgence in the popularity of this method over recent years, and as it can be reused over and over there is no waste. One of the most popular companies for this right now is WragWrap. They recycle plastic bottles into reusable gift wrap. All of their designs are beautiful and reversible, so you have more than one option for each wrapping.
This Christmas I am shopping from more independent companies, and have found Etsy to be an amazing platform that showcases many indie businesses. They have a huge range of cloth wrappings, fabric gift bags and even ethically sourced wrappings! Buying through Etsy helps support someone who makes things from home, or who has a small independent shop. It is important, now more than ever, to find a way to help the little businesses over the festive period, those that have struggled to keep going through the unstable economic situation that COVID has presented us with.
Gifting & Self Care
If, like me, you want to give gifts at Christmas that are both personal and ethical, I have found two amazing sites online. Lola and Wild, and The Kind Store have a huge collection of beauty, food and homeware products that you can curate your own gift boxes with. All you have to do is pick out some goodies, add a personal note and get it sent to that special someone (or yourself)! Both shops use biodegradable packing and tape, and all their products are specially selected for their sustainability and natural ingredients. Of course, there are lots more environmentally conscientious stores online, a simple search for eco-friendly gifts will bring up a whole host of websites for you to choose from.
If you are still a high street shopper, then these are a few things you should consider:
Reusable shopping bags – taking your own reusable bags not only help the environment but also saves you money, nobody wants to spend 10p on a bag that will break easily but take hundreds of years to decompose.
E-Receipts – most till receipts cannot be recycled, choosing to have the receipt sent to your email saves the paper waste and makes sure you have the receipt hand still, should you need to return something.
Shopping locally and independently – No driving into big cities, which saves on CO2 emissions. As mentioned before, it’s more important during these uncertain times to support the smaller, local and independent businesses, many of whom are currently struggling through this global pandemic.
Gift vouchers are another great idea for a Christmas present. Most are made of paper or card, so can be recycled, and there is no plastic wrap or packaging for you to dispose of. You can get these for a variety of places, whether it be for pampering, extreme sports or dining out, there is something for everyone. One of my favourite places to visit for food and drink is Unit 1 in Hythe. It’s a small, independent bar that serves beer that has been brewed on-site, locally sourced Kent cider and has handmade pizzas made every Thursday. This year they have introduced gift vouchers and I’m excited to get some for my friends who enjoy Unit 1 as much as I do.
Everything I have mentioned on here is COVID permitting, please check ahead of time any restrictions that your local shops might have and be mindful and respectful of all the other shoppers.
Thanks for reading and I hope it has given you some new ideas on how to have a happy and sustainable Christmas.