Presents, food and parties are synonymous with the Christmas spirit and no-one wants to be a kill-joy. Happiness at Christmas comes from doing what you think is the right thing. Yes—the surprise of Christmas morning with children is lovely, as is finding the perfect gift for a loved one. But when this becomes an obligation, not a joy, when funds are tight and when we consider the impact on the planet of the millions of unwanted gifts it’s time to review what sort of Christmas we want. We want everyone to enjoy the holiday season and there are lots of way to get that holiday glow without stressing yourself, others and the planet.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Generally speaking a real tree has a much lower carbon footprint than a faux one, but you may have had a fake tree that you bring out year on year, in which case keep bringing it out! If you really want to buy a new a fake tree, look for one manufactured in the UK, and bear in mind that you would need to use it for at least 10 years to make it a good low carbon choice. It is also worth bearing in mind that fake trees are often made from small pieces of PVC, which isn’t usually recyclable. If you want a real tree then get it locally and dispose of it properly in the New Year – in fact this is where most of the environmental impact comes from. Better still, buy a native tree in a pot that you can decorate for Christmas and then either plant out yourself or give to someone else with a garden for them to plant. Whatever you decide about the Christmas tree, feel good about it by spending an extra £5 to PLANT A TREE with WLT. More information »
CHRISTMAS CARDS: THE RULES
We all have friends who have email overload or don’t use computers so eCards aren’t for them. It is rather special these days to get a card or letter through the post and a message across the miles, and months is a lovely way to keep in touch. If you are sending cards, always choose a charity of your choice so you know that you are supporting a cause you believe in at the same time.
WLT’s Christmas cards have been printed by Kingfisher Press, a Carbon Balanced printer, and the sales of these cards support WLT’s conservation projects so have a positive impact on the environment. Reuse the Christmas cards you receive (as tags or postcards) and then recycle them.
GIVING IS FUN
But it isn’t much fun stressing about present-buying. We all fall into the trap of spending time and money on pretty useless gadgets, inappropriate bobble hats, loo books, which will simply gather dust and end up at a Spring car-boot sale. Yes, it is the thought that counts but it’s very short-lived. Think about gifts that support the charities close to your, or your gift recipient’s, heart. Think about wildlife – birdfeeders, even for flat-dwellers bring hours of enjoyment for birds and people and there are very few people who wouldn’t love a bird or bat box. Getting creative with your presents (and the way you wrap them) is a great family project and other great gifts can be a course, activity experience or a hamper of organic certified food.
And an acre of threatened habitat or Plant a Tree with WLT is a gift that lasts forever and the world’s wildlife will say Thank you too.
Think about the food you eat
To keep your carbon footprint down this Christmas isn’t as hard as it might seem. When planning and shopping keep in mind animal welfare and airmiles. That’s a good start. By buying locally sourced meat you can be assured that the animal you’re eating has had a happy life and you can enjoy it with a clear conscience. If you are buying from a supermarket look for labels identifying high welfare and sustainability standards. And it’s just as important to think about the vegetable you buy too. Think twice before buying asparagus from Peru and beans from Kenya, and don’t take for granted local bounty like beetroot and butternut squash.
Another rule is to cut the carbon cost and money, is to only buy what you need. The amount of food wasted over Christmas and New Year is a shocking statistic.
CHRISTMAS DAY – a walk outside is a must
Get out into the countryside and look out for wildlife. There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of mindfulness these days. Being in the present can be difficult – we are often steeped in memories of Christmases past and the next meal to be prepared – but a walk (and it can be quite short) is an amazing opportunity to be in the present and look at what’s going on around you. Before you leave for your walk make sure all lights and appliances are switched off, which brings us to:
It goes without saying that we use more energy over Christmas – cooking and heating consumption sky rockets. You want the house to be warm and you don’t want to worry about the oven being hot. But a few golden rules will help reduce your footprint:
Keep an eye on appliances and make sure they’re switched off when you aren’t using them.
Christmas lights: switch off Christmas lights every night and when you’re out of the house and buy LED lights which save energy and last much longer.
Or even switch off the lights! Candlelight is festive and flattering! Put tea lights in jam jars, bring in some foliage from outside and your guests will love it!
Think again about games. It’s too easy to slump on the sofa watching TV. Getting set up for a game can take a bit of initial effort but well worth it. Switch off the TV and get people organised – you won’t regret it. Everyone of all ages can get involved and a Christmas game can often be the highlight of the holiday!
Usually travel makes up for a large part of Christmas carbon footprints (on par with food emissions), but sometimes you need to visit people in far flung places. If it’s your only option then offset your emissions through WLT’s Carbon Balanced programme. The average family car travels 608 miles over Christmas, so using an average car calculation from DEFRA, this would equate to around 0.18 tonnes CO₂e which would cost £3 to offset.
THINKING AHEAD TO 2020: make a resolution
By this we mean a resolution you WANT to keep.
Pledge to raise funds for WLT through an activity you really enjoy. Whether it’s walking with the dog, cycling short or long distances, cutting out alcohol or meat for a month you can usually get someone to sponsor you. And if you’re short of ideas have a look on the WLT website.
Or phone +44 (0) 1986 874422