How to enjoy a more sustainable Christmas

Global warming and plastic pollution are important issues all year round, but they can often be exacerbated during the festive season by the increased intake of gifts, packaging and, of course, food. In fact, according to research by Biffa, the UK creates 30% more waste than usual at Christmas time!
At Team AoC, our mission is to make a difference across the world, and we believe that sustainable, recyclable products and packaging are key in helping the environment and the creatures that live within it. So this year, why not consider your festive buying habits? This is the perfect opportunity to start afresh – it will not only be good for the environment, but you might also discover some fun new traditions, too – a family Christmas-card-making session, anyone?!
Below are some top tips for a more sustainable Christmas, covering everything from tinsel to turkey…

Cards and crackers
Earlier this month, we wrote about our top tips for a meaningful Christmas, and one of them was to go homemade! Making your own cards not only reduces waste, but they are also far more thoughtful. And make sure you recycle the cards that you receive – each year, we throw away 1 billion cards in the UK! You could even cut them up and use them as gift tags or for making your own cards next year…
What’s more – the novelty gifts inside Christmas crackers are often discarded long before you take down your decorations – so why not make your crackers more meaningful by making your own (from recycled material, naturally!) or by buying ones that just contain jokes and hats.

Why not ditch the plastic decorations this year? The Marine Conservation Society suggests: “The winter landscape is filled with reds and greens, so get out there for some natural decorations rather than buying new ones. Sprigs of holly and fir, twigs and branches, mistletoe and pine cones make beautiful additions to your home at Christmas.”
If you already have some tinsel, then try to reuse it as much as possible, as it can’t be recycled. If you can’t get enough of those sparkly streamers, then why not opt for a local supplier to reduce the carbon footprint? Most tinsel is made aboard – but did you know that our *favourite* stockist, The John Lewis Partnership, make theirs in Wales?

The London Cleaning System says that a whopping 300,000 tonnes of card packaging is used at Christmas – that’s enough to cover Big Ben 260,000 times! You can avoid adding to this (in the most-part) by opting for alternative gifts. In our last blog, we wrote about making charitable donations as gifts, but you could also avoid packaging by choosing ‘experience’ presents, such as meals, theatre tickets or day trips, or by giving homemade or home-baked goods.
For those ‘material’ gifts, we recommend buying local to reduce the amount of transportation and therefore carbon footprint (not to mention supporting local enterprises!). What’s more – the Carbon Trust says that items that don’t consume electricity, such as toys and books, tend to have a lower carbon footprint than those that do.
And when you’re shopping, don’t forget your reusable bags! You could even take our Advent of Change tote bag along… Find it here

Wrapping paper
Every Christmas we throw away 226,800 miles of wrapping paper in Britain – 226,800 miles!! According to DEFRA, if we all recycled just half the 8,000 tonnes produced, we’d save 25,000 trees. So this year, choose recyclable wrapping paper (usually paper that isn’t shiny or glitter-covered). You could also consider using alternative materials – the Guardian suggests: “An increasingly popular and Instagrammable is wrapping with brightly coloured fabric – based on the traditional Japanese art of furoshiki.”

Did you know that 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million Brussel sprouts are thrown away every Christmas? To tackle this issue, try to plan ahead to reduce the amount of potential excess, and you could also invest in a compost bin to throw away any food waste. Support supermarkets and local enterprises that are making efforts to go plastic free – for example, Iceland has scrapped 97% of the plastic packaging from their Christmas range, with 18 products that are completely plastic-free.
And finally, consider those less fortunate if you do realise you have gone a bit OTT in the food-buying department! Over 90% of the food distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network is donated by the public, the charity says: “Your food donations are absolutely vital to our ability to give everyone referred to us a balanced and nutritious three-day supply of food. Without your goodwill, our food banks would really struggle to operate.”
We are proud to say that our charity advent calendars are fully recyclable, and the packaging is biodegradable. Do you have any top tips for a more sustainable Christmas? We’d love to here them! Share them with us on social media using #AdventOfChange.

Sources: true
Photo: Challengers charity