Top tips for an environmentally friendly Christmas


Here at SOUL we value the importance of the environment and looking after it. That’s why we produce products that can be charged using solar energy. For more information about solar energy, check out our blog here.

This blog will share with you some top tips to have an environmentally friendly Christmas.

Something to remember with environmental efforts is that every little really does help. Little changes made by millions of people has huge effects! As for all of the items mentioned in this blog, if you already have these items then it is okay to use them at Christmas time so they don’t go to waste. However, when replacing items or buying new for Christmas, go for the eco option this time!

Please also remember that although recycling is great, it still takes a huge amount of energy to do this. As well as this, many materials can only be recycled effectively a limited number of times. Therefore recycling alone will not get us out of this environmental mess. We must first refuse, reduce, reuse and repurpose before recycling.

AVOID GLITTER AT ALL COSTS!

Avoiding glitter at Christmas is a lot easier than it sounds! By ordering compostable glitter (not just biodegradable glitter) you are reducing plastic consumption. Glitter is just tiny pieces of shiny plastic. Despite being tiny particles glitter still contributes massively to the pollution crisis and ends up in the stomachs of marine animals.

The plastic in glitter takes roughly 1,000 years to completely biodegrade meaning that it stays on this earth far longer than those using it! Furthermore, because glitter is so tiny this means it passes through water filtration and is consumed by marine animals. These animals are then consumed by humans. I know being made of glitter sounds rather fabulous on the surface but, you really are what you eat and plastic shouldn’t be on the menu!

There are plenty of more eco-friendly options out there to choose from. For example, Bioglitter® PURE, is 100% plastic- free and Certified ‘OK Biodegradable WATER’ by TÜV, a world first.

Or alternatively, you could just avoid using glitter all together. After all, it is still Christmas without glitter!

eco glitter is better for the environment than plastic glitter

Wrapping

Did you know that conventional Christmas paper is not even recyclable? Yep, that’s right, not even recyclable because it's made out of plastic! Instead of spending unnecessary money on this wasteful paper, you could make an eco swap to good old-fashioned brown paper! This can be made even more fancy by using stamps and other decorations, such as string ties or petal decorations.

Conversely, you could wrap your gifts in recycled paper or paper saved from old gifts. For the ultimate eco gift wrapping, why not try using compostable blue tack and string to tie up gifts, so it can be collected and used year after year.

brown recylable wrapping paper

 Reusable Santa Sacks

On the other hand, for a totally different approach to wrapping this year you could create your very own reusable Santa sacks!

By using old materials, you can create bag-like parcels tied with string to be used every year. Materials used can be from old clothes you no longer wear, old bed sheets or old cleaning rags. Just about anything will do!

If you don’t have any old materials, you could buy some material from a local second hand shop. If you aren’t the crafting type, then you could buy these bags online or just wrap the gifts with material and tie around the top – no sewing involved!

 using old materials for wrapping gifts is a great eco alternative to nonrecylable paper and also reduces energy used by recyling

Eco Sellotape

Sellotape is also a big part of Christmas wrapping, but this too is plastic! Why not opt for tying up presents with string or rope and reuse it each year. Or you could use eco Sellotape options, such as tape made from recycled paper.

 eco cellotape is far better than plastic cellotape

For more information about how packaging harms the environment you may find this blog useful.

Christmas jumpers

The fashion industry is ridiculously bad for the environment and is considered the second dirtiest industry in the World. This is because of the huge amount of energy and water used to make just one item. Furthermore, items of clothing are one of the largest polluters on the planet (after cigarette butts…)!

This year, why don’t you wear a Christmas jumper from previous years and ask your close ones not to buy you a new one? You can also go second hand and give your old Christmas jumpers to second hand shops to avoid them going directly into landfill without living a longer life. (Old Christmas jumpers could also make the perfect material for a reusable Santa sack!)

 

why christmas jumpers are bad for the environmentLiving Christmas trees

The long-lasting debate between which type of tree is best might be finally answered! There are the real tree houses and plastic tree houses.

Many people have the false idea that a plastic tree is the more environmentally friendly option because it’s reusable. However, this is WRONG! If you already have a plastic tree then it is best to carry on using it year after year so it isn’t wasted. However when it breaks do not replace it with a plastic option!

It takes hundreds and hundreds of years for plastic to decompose, and even then, it only breaks down into smaller pieces of plastic meaning that it never truly decomposes. That means that plastic Christmas trees exists on this earth way longer than we do.

Therefore real trees are the solution! However, the issue with single use real Christmas trees that are cut down is that it leads to a lot of waste! It’s been found that over seven million trees enter landfill in the UK each year after the Christmas season. That's in the UK alone!

To tackle this issue, you can actually rent a living Christmas tree and have someone come and collect it when the festive season is done. This would avoid plastic waste and also cutting down trees.

When looking for a real tree it is suggested to 'make sure it's grown sustainably by looking for either the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or Soil Association logo.' You could even buy a tiny Christmas tree and plant it in your garden after Christmas.

Living Christmas Trees means less deforestation and more toxic CO2 being taken out of the air. Remember, a tree is for life, not just for Christmas!

living christmas trees stop the millions of trees killed and sent to landfill each year

 Decorations

If you’re not already reusing your usual decorations this year, then why not go second hand?  Not only would buying second-hand decorations save you a lot of money, you give them a longer life and they won’t end up in landfill just yet.

Also, by not buying new decorations, you don’t pay for the profit of such companies and put a pressure on them to offer for more environmentally friendly options. Vintage decorations could also add some originality to your tree!

Another great option, especially for those of us with children, would be to make tree decorations out of recyclable or compostable materials. For example, old egg cups could be painted and tied with compostable string or organic cotton thread. Other options include using old paper that has been used on one side and decorating the plain side with drawings or natural materials like cotton, petals etc.

32 eco friendly christmas decorations

 Say good bye to Tinsel

Tinsel is also bad news for the environment I’m afraid. But not to worry, because you can use old materials from bed sheets, clothing or anything else you may find to create a more vintage style decoration to replace it.

Here is a link for easy to follow instructions on how to create party decorations out of old materials, like the image seen below.

replace tinsel with material decorations made from old material

 Rent decorations and other party pieces

This option is not widely known about! Renting your party pieces will save a lot of waste going into landfill and polluting the Earth.

Renting is an extremely eco choice because it means that items are used time and time again by hundreds of people, rather than these people all buying these items themselves for a single us event.

As well as this, if you’re renting reusable plates and cutlery then it may even save you from washing up (a common reason for using single-use plates and cups).

A whole range of party items for renting can be found here, here or here. There are many more websites offering similar services in different locations around the World so be sure to check out the market and go for a local supplier! This will be cheaper and better for the environment in terms of the carbon footprint caused by delivery.

 LED Christmas lights and limiting energy use

One way in which you can have a more environmentally friendly Christmas is to limit how long you leave your Christmas lights on. This can be easily done by avoiding leaving them on for extended periods of time and to only have them on when people are using that room.

This will save a lot of energy and reduce negative environmental effects. Although this seems like a small effect, if this behaviour is practised by a large number of people then it would make a huge difference! You can reduce your energy consumption in Christmas lights both in and outside of the house!

Therefore, this Christmas If you’re buying new lights or replacing bulbs this year, choose LED lights! These are a far more environmentally friendly option due to their more efficient functions and many other reasons. For more information, view this blog. You could also go second hand or buy lights which are specifically designed for energy saving to be more eco!

Albeit beautiful, Christmas lights are only used once a year and result in a lot of plastic and electronical waste ending up in landfill. These products are rarely recycled, always harmful to animals and never biodegrade. Therefore, it might be worth considering if your Christmas lights are really worth the harm done on the environment in the grand scheme of things.

millions of lights end up in landfill and never decompose, polluting the earth

 Make your own Santa Stop Sign

If you have children and you use lights because they guide Santa’s sleigh to your house, then why not opt for a homemade, recyclable sign?

You can all make a sign post together as a family. Not only will this reduce wasted energy output and reduce one set of Christmas lights that eventually end in landfill, it will also help create sentimental memories. The sign can be used year after year, and when it finally needs to be replaced, you can just recycle it and make a new one! It’s that easy.

To make your sign, you can save and collect recyclable materials in the proceeding weeks to Christmas and buy pens and other craft materials from second hand shops. You could even use this year’s Christmas packaging to create next year’s stop sign!

 make your own recylable santa stop sign

Avoid plastic filled crackers

The Christmas cracker. Now, although we do all love a Christmas cracker, the environment certainly does not. Although they seem like a lot of festive fun, crackers are single use and end up in landfill.

Another big issue with crackers is that they’re filled with plastic junk that, quite frankly, no one uses! Recent studies highlight that 154,000,000 pieces of rubbish will end up in landfill from Christmas crackers used in the UK alone.

Why not opt for an eco-version which is filled with compostable gifts, or just cut them out together of your Christmas all together!

Two companies taking the lead in reducing the plastic in their crackers are John Lewis and Waitrose. However, these changes won’t be implemented until 2020.

A good alternative is to buy eco crackers made from recyclable materials such as cardboard, rather than crackers which are made out of non-recyclable cardboard or plastic wrapped paper. Always check the box!

Did you know you can also get reusable Christmas crackers? This is a great way to have a more sustainable Christmas! Each year you can refill your cracker with whatever eco gift you wish, instead of plastic trash no one actually uses.

You can also write your own jokes and reuse hats year after year, to avoid more waste! This way you still get all of the fun of a Christmas cracker without harming the Earth for the sake of 5 minutes of fun.

reusable christmas crackers

 Balloons

Balloons are also a big part of Christmas decorations, but did you know you can get compostable balloons?

Balloons made from completely NATURAL latex are compostable, meaning that in the right conditions, they can break down and cause no harm to environment. Once you’re done with them, burry them in some soil or put them in with your food compost. Please be aware that non-natural, plastic latex is not biodegradable or compostable and is the most commonly found in the stomachs of dead animals.

It is important not to confuse compostable balloons with biodegradable balloons, because biodegradable balloons are still made from plastic. These balloons decompose into smaller pieces of plastic over hundreds of years (if they're not ingested first) and have extremely harmful effects on the environment.

The best way to tell is to make sure you’re buying natural latex balloons that use natural dyes. You can buy these types of products from a number of online retailers such as Little Cherry.

Visit this page for more information about the negative effects of balloons on the environment and wildlife.

balloons ingested by wilflife awful plastic for the environment

 Gifts

Buying good gifts can be both a stressful and exiting experience. There are literally millions of gifts to choose from so making an environmentally friendly choice is really easy! A top tip is to avoid buying plastic bits and bobs that really have no use.

Plastic waste is especially high in children’s toys. Year after year they beg for the latest plastic item and have no interest for it the year after. To avoid this, you can go second hand! Children will not know whether a gift is second hand and it can save you a lot of money. Local charity shops have literally hundreds of toys to choose from.

You could also opt for more sustainable material toys, such as untreated wooden toys, which are completely compostable or you can buy metal toys etc that can be recyled. Children’s gifts like colouring in books are also a good option because they are recyclable too.

Another great way to avoid waste this Christmas is to buy things people actually want! Although it’s nice to have a surprise for your presents, it’s nicer not to produce pollution waste and waste money on gifts people won’t use. A great way to do this is to create a Christmas list online, perhaps on a google sheets document. This way, everyone gets what they actually need and the amount of waste is reduced.

Adopt an animal in need

The ultimate environmentally friendly gift would be to adopt someone an animal in need! For more information, visit the WWF site or take a look online for ways you can support other at risk animals.

snow leapord most endangered animals at risk of extinction

 

For more tips on having an environmentally friendly Christmas, you can view Friends of the Earth’s 21 top tips here.

Author: Rosalind Rose