The food, the presents, the thousands of Christmas trees, have all made this holiday one of the most consumerist festivals in the world. Yet with the issue of climate change becoming ever more-prominent, many are questioning how sustainable these practices are.
But, with the detrimental impact Christmas has on the environment, you can reject the different festive practices that are harming our planet, and turn towards more sustainable ones in an attempt to have a green Christmas.
It can often feel like that without actively choosing to have a second-rate Christmas, it’s quite hard to do your bit, especially if you live in an urban area. While you can buy or make presents which are a little more thoughtful and a little less plastic, you’re still confined to what you can buy in shops or online. Christmas trees, which are almost everyone’s Christmas must-have, are a similar story. If you are planning on getting a new Christmas tree, opting for a freshly cut one over a plastic one is definitely more eco-friendly (plastic trees have a carbon footprint equivalent to 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions) so long as it comes from a sustainable source. Buying trees from growers who are registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association is a good place to look as they are grown under conditions which follow the guidelines for sustainable cultivation.
Buying trees from growers who are registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association is a good place to look as they are grown under conditions which follow the guidelines for sustainable cultivation
Plastic pollution is another issue that exposes the dark side to Christmas. Business Leader has reported that the UK uses over 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging for gifts alone, which ultimately end up in our oceans, and that’s excluding plastic found in Christmas crackers, stockings and decorations. It should also be noted that the UK produces 30% more of waste during the holidays, with an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper being used as well as 1 billion Christmas cards, all of which will ultimately end up in the bin. There is no denying that the consumerism of Christmas has created an environment of wastefulness through an excess of unwanted presents, decorations and several other un-recyclable items.
In regard to other household decorations, awareness over what you are buying and where it comes from is extremely important. For example, adornments like tinsel and baubles are not recyclable, so making sure you put them to use for several years instead of regularly updating your Christmas decorations will help you reduce waste. Additionally, making sure you buy decorations that are locally sourced is a much better alternative, as it limits the impact long haul transportation has on the environment.
Wrapping paper and Christmas crackers can also have a destructive impact on the environment. Switching to salvageable materials, such as newspaper, brown paper and string instead of shiny wrapping paper, which cannot be recycled, is a way in which we can play our part in reducing waste. Although regarded a Christmas tradition, plastic toys found in Christmas crackers only add to the growing issue of plastic pollution, so exploring ways to make your own festive cracker, or ditching them altogether, is a simple way through which we can protect our oceans.
Yet away from the vast consumerism of large towns and cities, there is an emerging pathway to a more sustainable Christmas which at the same time places money back into the local community. Buying presents made by local craftsmen and women helps to ensure the product is good quality and produced sustainably, which in turn helps to support things like markets, something vital in regenerating and maintaining Britain’s market towns.
Buying presents made by local craftsmen and women helps to ensure the product is good quality and produced sustainably
And what about the food? Food wastage is a huge issue, and cutting down on this would make an important difference. On top of this, the food consumed and in particular meat is often bought cheaply from supermarkets, meaning it’s likely to have been produced unsustainably. Christmas dinners contribute massively to the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. According to a study carried out by the University of Manchester, the UK’s excessive eating habits at Christmas time produce the same carbon footprint as a car travelling 6000 times around the globe would. It’s not to say that traditional Christmas food is dense in animal products, and the meat and dairy industries produce over 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to The Guardian.
Many, especially those living in rural areas, buy their meat from local producers and either grow their own vegetables or buy them at local markets. Buying British meat and vegetables helps to reduce food-miles, while at the same time support British farmers who find it ever harder to compete in a globalised world.
My own experience of Christmas, living on a small farm in rural Devon, is testament to this. At Christmas time my food is one of the focal points, yet almost all of it comes from my local area and none of it is wasted. For many years, I reared my own turkeys, which gave my family a sustainably raised, good quality turkey for our Christmas dinner while allowing me to pay for my presents through the money I earned selling the others.
For many years, I reared my own turkeys, which gave my family a sustainably raised, good quality turkey for our Christmas dinner
Doing this as young as twelve helped me to develop a healthy understanding of where my food comes from and the importance of raising animals responsibly and kindly. On top of this, every year we have gammon, which is sourced from local farms, as well as a beef joint from our friends who live two miles away. Most of the vegetables are also sources locally, with everything coming from the UK.
With the impact the meat and dairy industries have on the environment, switching to a vegan Christmas dinner is an effective way of reducing carbon emissions. A study published in the Journal of Science indicates that avoiding meat and dairy is the “single biggest way” to reduce your carbon footprint. With the rising popularity of veganism, there are several alternatives to meat available, which you can use as a substitute for your turkey and gammon. If you’re not ready to say goodbye to your traditional Christmas dinner, consciousness over what you are eating is already a good enough effort in striving for a greener Christmas. For example, the Carbon Trust states that turkey reduces less carbon emissions than beef, and even consuming locally sourced products is a more sustainable attempt at a Christmas meal.
And, whilst ditching the turkey is a step too fat for many, it’s still fairly easy to buy UK produce regardless of where in the country you live; look out for the “Red Tractor” logo which means the product is assured to be from a British farm and produced sustainably. This Christmas, there’s no excuse not to buy British.