Rather than letting the festive season empty our pockets, we want to explore new ways to bring out the Christmas spirit. When we look at things from a climate friendly perspective, we can illuminate the path towards a smaller carbon footprint and hopefully less expense too. We hope that this year you will be inspired to help reduce waste and explore greener options with help from our blog.
The Heart of Giving
In a culture that’s grown accustomed to gifts, wrapping paper and expectations it can be a challenge to break our consumer-led approach to Christmas. It seems that the adaptation of the Three Wise Men’s gifts to Jesus has escalated over time. Indeed, it might take courage to put aside expectations – our own and others – but this Christmas could be the first to change some of the gifts on your list.
According to the PHS Wastekit:
“Each year, the UK spends a combined total of around £700 million on unwanted presents! 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each year.”
So, instead of buying ‘things’, how about creating a homemade, personalised gift card for activities you can do together with your gift recipient? Spending time and doing something together can have a far-reaching positive health impact. As data published by the Mental Health Foundation showed, high rates of loneliness in Scotland are impacting people’s mental health. Time is one of our most valuable assets, would it be possible to give more time and fewer things?
For an elderly friend, family member or neighbour, a gift card that offers a helping hand with tasks such as DIY or trips to a hairdresser, café or the park benefit both body and mind, and last long after Christmas. If you opt for something physical to open, how about items that can be upcycled and repaired which could be useful for someone else? As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Organisations like Repair Café Glasgow, can help with that.
Wrapping with Care
While supermarkets have meters of shelves with wrapping paper months before Christmas, nature can also help provide a range of pine cones, mosses and colourful fallen leaves. Pressing autumn leaves between thick books makes red and yellow decorative items to add onto recycled wrapping paper from previous gifts, magazine and newspaper sheets, or whatever else your imagination leads you to use for gift wrapping.
This article discussing an often over-looked part of Christmas tells us:
“plastic packaging sent to landfill equates to 114,000 tonnes (the weight of 650,000 reindeer). And a typical UK household generates three and a half black bags of festive packaging each Christmas.”
Likewise, nature’s elements can become decoration for the dinner table and name cards can be made from more scrap paper or recycled materials. Did you know that what’s sent to landfill creates more methane and carbon dioxide released into the air, and that will cause the temperature to rise? It would make good sense to decrease this tendency and at the same time save money and lower pressure on the Earth’s resources.
Tree of Life
Usually between six and eight million real Christmas trees are sent to landfill every year in the UK. An artificial 2m high tree is estimated to have a carbon footprint of 40 kg CO2 and can typically not be recycled.
It’s easy to find online debates on what is best: artificial or real pine trees for Christmas? But there are also other alternatives. One relatively new idea is to rent a tree in a pot which will be picked up after Christmas and will be kept alive long after the festive season.
Other examples of alternatives to Christmas trees could be the decoration of a house plant. Driftwood can be used to create an artistic Christmas tree – if you search online you will find these are already on the market, but it could also inspire you to collect and create your own. Even going completely treeless is an option. Instead why not take a Christmas walk with friends and family in a park or forest and enjoy the free-living samples around us which provide oxygen to breathe and receive CO2 from the air?
The Cycle of Energy
Christmas is a time to look out for one another, and ourselves. But, it is also known as a time where it’s possible to experience stress and mental burnout. Last Christmas, The Scottish Government published support on Mental health over the festive season, including contact details for free help.
The Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care, Kevin Stewart, said:
“I urge anyone who is feeling low or anxious to reach out to Breathing Space, the Samaritans or NHS 24 Mental Health Hub. I am also asking if you know of somebody who will be on their own over the festive period to check in on them. Often that one act can make a huge difference to a person’s mental wellbeing.”
Not only energy on a personal level, but also the energy we consume from the Earth’s resources are at stake. According to Commercial Waste, seven million tonnes of food go to the bin each Christmas in the UK.
What more can we do to help after Christmas?
At GCVS, our climate change coordinators run workshops which support organisations to take climate friendly action. Whether acting on behalf of an organisation or at home, we recommend to have these key themes in mind when aiming to save energy and resources:
- Energy usage for community facilities or to deliver local services
- Travel and transport
- Food and water
- Consumption and waste
Share your story with us
Do you have any stories and experience on how people in your community create an environmentally and wallet friendly Christmas? Feel free to send it to us to share it in our network for inspiration firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more news from our climate team here>>