How To Be More Sustainable This Christmas

A christmas tree in snow, with a title "how to be more sustainable this Christmas"

We strive to be as sustainable as possible whilst delivering our projects, but everyone’s efforts shouldn’t stop at work. 

Although Christmas is a wonderful time of year for many, sadly it is entwined with unsustainable behaviours. An abundance of food is the norm and plastic wrapping invades living rooms across the country.

With the festive season on the horizon, our Environmental & Sustainability team took particular attention to our traditions for this time of year. 

Don’t misinterpret this; it’s not your fault. We simply follow the traditions that have been passed down the generations, back from a time when climate change simply didn’t exist in the consciousness of the world. 

We can do better, though. Our sustainability team has given us a fantastic set of tips on how we all can make small changes to our Christmas traditions, which collectively can make a huge difference.

The Christmas Dinner

Every culture does it differently, but everyone draws similarities by operating a huge feast for the day.

Christmas turkey
Photo by Becky Fantham on Unsplash

Shop local and seasonal

Every village, town and high street has groceries, butchers, fishmongers and/or a farm shop that is locally sourced. A lot of farm shops create Christmas boxes with the perfect amount for a set amount of people, cutting down on excess waste.

Cut back on food waste

Every year roughly 5 million puddings and 2 million turkeys (100,000 tonnes) go to waste each Christmas.

We all love the Boxing day leftovers, but let’s be honest, it’s never all eaten up. Why not use your leftovers wisely and make a proper meal with them?

Still have some leftovers after Boxing day? Don’t bin it, food waste it. If you don’t have a compost/food waste bin, make a quick trip to the local waste disposal centre. It doesn’t take long and it makes a massive difference. Just be careful not to put meat in a compost bin, unless you want a rodent party at your property.

You could go one further and go fully vegetarian or vegan this Christmas? The rearing of animals creates far more detriment to our environment than growing vegetables. Plus, it’s cheaper and there are so many good alternatives available. 

If you must eat meat this Christmas, go for turkey, gammon or chicken as opposed to beef and lamb. 

Graph demonstrating the most impactful meats to the environment.
Source: Science Direct

O' Christmas Tree

Getting the tree up is the kickstart event to the festive period for many. Whether plastic or real, nothing beats getting cosy one evening and getting that tree up.

stephen-paterson-HtXsIzno5_I-unsplash
A Christmas tree in it's natural habitat. Photo by Stephen Paterson on Unsplash

Buying a real tree

If shopping for a real tree this year, find one that’s grown using fewer pesticides, grown in the UK or FSC certified. Your safest bet is going to your local tree farm or garden centre rather than supermarkets.

For those in London here’s a guide on your local tree farms, with a section that highlights tree rentals too! 

Did you know Christmas trees take around 10-12 years to grow?

That’s over a decade of capturing carbon from the atmosphere and providing a habitat for wildlife. So to then chuck it in the bin after Christmas makes it an incredibly unsustainable affair. 

A lot of councils offer Christmas tree pickups or drop-offs, where they are used for woodchip or burnt. Alternatively, if you have garden space, why not plant a tree in the garden so you can use it next year?

The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo
This is the FSC logo to look out for

Real vs plastic tree

If you use a plastic tree, make sure you keep that for at least 10 years. 

The carbon footprint of a real tree is around 3.5kgCO2 if burnt or used as a woodchip after use. That figure increases over 4 times to 16kgCO2 if left to decompose in a tip.

A plastic tree has a carbon footprint of 40kgCO2.

Taking into account a 10-year life span of a plastic tree this will mean 40kgCO2 over 10 years. If you use a real tree every year for 10 years but either burn or the tree is used for woodchip then this will equal 35kgco2 over the timespan, creating a lower carbon footprint. Just binning a real tree every year would create a much higher footprint at around 160kgc02.

Though it may sound counterproductive to plant a tree, cut it, and burn it, this is still carbon neutral. Carbon captured in its growth (around -20kg) is released (around +20kg) in its death, equalling 0. When shopping at a reputable tree farm, once a tree is cut a new one is usually planted immediately after. 

Wrapping presents

Wrapping up presents for family & friends this year? Why not use a gift bag instead? Save yourself the hours spent wrapping, and whoever receives the gift bag can use it the next year!

Christmas gift bags
Did you say no wrapping? Gift bag your presents this year for an easier and more sustainable December. Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

If you are adamant to use wrapping paper, use FSC-approved paper. M&S and Sainsburys have a good selection of this, just keep an eye out for the logo! 

Try to avoid using tape with your FSC wrapping paper. String is a great alternative, and there are zero-plastic tapes available too.

When disposing of your paper make sure you take any tape off, as these will make the paper unrecyclable. 

Plant based sellotape, it does exist!

Crackers can also be FSC certified, or you can purchase DIY reusable crackers instead.

When it comes to an advent calendar, reusable ones are a great shout. You can fill them with whatever you want and they can look fantastic in comparison to plastic/cardboard ones from a supermarket. 

Decorations

Christmas lights on a house
Lets hope this house turns their lights off when they go to bed. Photo by Juliana Malta on Unsplash

Some households will properly go to town with their decorations both inside and out. If you happen to use lights to illuminate your Christmas, make sure you switch off your lights when you go to bed. 

Have a go at making a wreath with foliage from your garden or local park – a great activity with the kids!

Gifts

Christmas presents
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

When purchasing gifts, take particular attention to the packaging. Gifts with little or no packaging are an obvious winner, but if it is packaged up in plastic make sure it’s recyclable. 

Gifts that use batteries can leak chemicals when disposed of, so try to avoid them or make sure you buy a quality product that won’t get chucked away!

Silly gifts in general are worth a laugh on the day, but what do you do with them after? So many gifts are never used again, so be mindful of what you buy. Ask yourself if that person will use this gift. More importantly, just avoid plastic!

Cards

Christmas cards
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

With over a billion Christmas cards thrown away each year, why don’t you send a virtual card? Moonpig offers a service, you can stick to emails, or why not send a personalised video to your family & friends for an extra personal touch?

You can get plantable Christmas cards too!

If you receive cards, save them for next year when you can use the card as gift tags. 

Have yourself an eco-friendly Christmas

If everyone was to make one of the above changes this Christmas, we would all be making a huge difference. Something as simple as using a gift bag, which is actually easier than wrapping presents anyway. The world is changing, so why not adjust our traditions to enable us to keep enjoying them? Let’s set a good example this Christmas.