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How we can avoid the build-up of excessive waste at Christmas

Christmas is starting to creep closer and closer by the day as the holiday season is finally in full swing. During this time of year, lots of us choose to share gifts, indulge in copious amounts of food and alcohol, and invite members of friends and family to our houses for cosy nights in. Unfortunately, what many view as one of the happiest times of year comes with some disastrous consequences for the environment. Often, the Christmas season can encourage negative environmental habits, with many indulging in a culture of excess and wasting large amounts of food, wrapping paper and unwanted presents.

Waste is one of the biggest negative environmental issues surrounding this time of year, coming in several forms, and the most obvious of these, of course, being wrapping paper. However, there are many other ways that most of us probably do not realise.

Christmas is a time to have fun with family and friends, eat good food and share gifts, but the original message … should not be lost in the ritualised consumption

As much as many cherish a big Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, it is common to buy too much and result in waste. It has been reported that the amount of food wasted around Christmas time is equivalent to scraping 4.2 million Christmas dinners in the bin, so maybe this is something to think about when shopping for your turkey. Having all the family around for dinner is great, and as long as you are realistic about how much food is needed, food waste doesn’t need to be a problem.

Why not save the leftover turkey for sandwiches or a turkey curry the next day? Curry or stews can be frozen and kept for a few weeks after, and roast potatoes can be kept for a few days later and eaten cold or hot. Or, if you don’t want the  masses of leftover food that piles up each year, I am sure your local homeless shelter would appreciate the extra. If you are concerned about the environmental impact of eating meat, why not try a nut roast of vegan alternative to turkey this year. The popularity of veganism and vegetarianism is ever-growing, and can be a small way for all of us to reduce our impact on the planet. 

Most people would be familiar with a full house around this time of year as family members come to celebrate the holiday season with their loved ones. Nobody wants a high energy bill, so be cautious not to waste water and electricity whilst family are staying with you. Make sure to turn off Christmas lights and decorations, when they’re not in use, so you’re not wasting electricity, or money!

Many families like to exchange gifts over the Christmas period, which comes with another form of wastage. Unwanted presents often sit under our beds or in the back of wardrobes and this could be easily avoided, by asking for something you would like if you are asked, or even re-gifting. Charity shops and homeless shelters appreciate unwanted toys and gifts, so why not think of an alternative to giving gifts?

TV adverts bombard us with a barrage of gifts and toys that we should be buying this Christmas, encouraging fast, unsustainable consumerism

Of course, Christmas is a time to have fun with family and friends, eat good food and share gifts but the original message, if that’s what you believe in, should not be lost in the ritualised consumption. TV adverts bombard us with a barrage of gifts and toys that we should be buying this Christmas, encouraging fast, unsustainable consumerism. Whilst it is understandable that most people don’t want to buy second-hand products for people, there are ways to be more sustainable. Etsy has many small, independent sellers and vintage clothing is extremely fashionable so would make a great gift for the vintage lover in your life, and antique shops can have no-end of cute and unique gifts for anyone in the family.

A growing trend in gift-giving is the phenomena of experience days. Websites such as buyagift.com, Virgin Experience Days and Prezzybox have endless varieties of experiences, activities and trips to suit people and budgets of all types. There really is nothing like making memories with the people you love, so giving your loved one an experience as a gift can be invaluable.

Although the amount of waste and annual high levels of consumption surrounding this time of year is concerning, there are things we can all do to prevent having such a negative influence on the environment. This doesn’t mean that we can’t all have a happy, fulfilling holiday season. Just be mindful of what you are using and wasting, and most of all have a happy and joyous Christmas.

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