With Christmas just gone and being just back at work, I thought it would be nice to reflect on few facts on the festive season.
Having recently moved in our first flat with my husband meant that I would have to take charge of the “Christmas Spirit” on behalf of our newly established household. I think I never had given second thoughts about where did my parents sourced the tree we had every year at home or how much wrapping paper we have been using, how much food would be consumed/wasted or where it was sourced and even less thought about why do we buy so many presents and items especially to make the holiday special. I suppose this year because I had to take care of it as being “a grown up” (only just), all these questions came into my mind. Obviously thinking about Green and Sustainability, I thought it could be quite interesting to research online what kind of tips and info I could find around the topic and to be honest I saw quite a few. I will of course not mention everything here but I thought it could be quite interesting to think about few facts around Christmas on how I could make better choices for myself and maybe influence few of my friends and family to think a bit more about sustainability when it comes to Christmas. I was looking at few incremental steps that would not affect so much the “festive mood” but could be making a small difference in making a greener experience.
I also thought that I could ask around my close ones if they had any tips. My original thoughts were that if I asked my friends and family about a “sustainable or green Christmas” they would all dismiss my question and just tell me “what got into you to ask about this?” but I was actually quite nicely surprised by the numbers of tips and ideas they had to share with me.
Thinking about this it actually reminds me few quite sweet memories I have of my late grandmother. I remember that for any Christmas, Birthdays and any celebrations really, my grandma used to always say “don’t rip off the wrapping paper” and she used to fold it nicely and re-use it for wrapping gifts another time or just use it to do some crafts if we needed to do anything for school. Back then I remembered making fun of her and saying to her “why do you want to keep used wrapping paper when it is so cheap to buy?” She always used to reply “why throwing something when it is still usable?”At the time recycling wasn’t such an everyday word. She experienced growing up in France during the war time which meant that she would make sure to save everything and not to waste. She was obviously very right about the statement, she made me realise so many things that people used to do in these days, maybe not with a “green conscious mind” but just because necessities and items were scarce but they should be durable and fixable. She also always used to tell us that we were spoilt with all the toys and gifts we received (even though she was happy for us), she always reminded us how lucky we were as when she was little she only received an orange and “passed down” gift from her elder sister (who grew out of the toys/clothes) which meant so much to her.
According to the The Guardian, Christmas is a very wasteful time of the year: “The UK produces nearly 300m tonnes of waste each year. It's estimated that every Christmas tree bought in the UK this year put end to end, would be the equivalent of a return trip to New York City. Combine that with the 4,500 tonnes of tin foil, the 13,350 tonnes of glass and enough wrapping paper to go round the equator nine times, and we're talking about a huge amount of rubbish – and that doesn't even touch on the gifts and gadgets that are chucked away because they're broken, old or ugly.”
This sums up what is the “dark side” of Christmas and how the holiday could impact on the environment more than usual.
When thinking about Christmas trees with the “real vs fake” tree dilemma, a lot of articles praised the real tree. It seems that even though the fake tree can be used every year, it would only have a “near zero impact” if it is used 20 years minimum. The real tree tends to be specifically grown for the purpose of the season, it can be easily found locally (as opposed to a plastic tree made in China) and it can be chipped after use at many tree recycled centres. Even though it would have an environmental impact it would be less than a fake tree. According to The Forestry Commission “real trees use about 10 times fewer materials and five times less energy than artificial trees”. The better option would be to opt for a pot-grown tree that can be kept in its pot in the garden and grown this way for other years without being re-planted.
When it comes to Christmas cards, decorations or gifts, the new trend is for people to start making their own by using a bit of craft skills involving children and family, re-using, re-conditioning or customising some already owned items. I know that some of my friends often ask relatives to donate to charities and send e-cards instead of buying and sending Christmas card to them. Others when it comes to gift don’t hesitate to visit vintage and second hand shop in order to find items that are rare or again could be re-conditioned/customised which of course if bought from a charity shop will serve a double purpose. It has become more common and acceptable for people to be given made or second hand gifts that are perfectly fine. It will not only save money but also make re-use of an existing item. They will of course be unique and a lot of thought and effort would have been put into them, to make them even more special.
I suppose in summary the tips that my grandma gave us years ago about not to waste, not to buy too much and recycle when possible are really important to remember, and are indeed very valid and current. It is obviously important to understand the impact that a holiday could have on the environment in general and it can be somehow an eye opener to see that not many people give it a second thought but luckily others are starting to play their part. Even though this blog was done in a light manner, it is not to say that it is a current issue that can be addressed partially by the households celebrating Christmas or any other celebrations throughout the year.
Looking at different articles, blogs or websites the phrase “don’t waste, don’t buy if not needed and recycle” relates to a lot of tips that were given on how to make it a more sustainable Christmas and make the experience still enjoyable for everyone.
Author: Soizic Tsin (CUE)