Dreaming of a Green Christmas

15th November 2010

How to have a great Christmas without the planet roasting – festive tips from Rhian Jenkins.

For many of us, it can be difficult to stick to our good intentions at this time of year, but if you’re dreaming of a greener Christmas, read on for a guide on how to reduce your environmental impact while still enjoying the festivities and Christmas cheer.

Cards
We send 1 billion Christmas cards every year in the UK. By sending cards to only close friends and family, and delivering by hand where possible, we could reduce the miles travelled by Post Office trains and other delivery vehicles at Christmas. Buy cards from recycled paper printed with vegetable-based inks or send ecards over the internet. If you do opt to send Christmas cards this year, you can help to raise funds to plant thousands of trees by recycling your cards at special Woodland Trust depositories located at retailers such as M&S or TKMaxx throughout January.

Christmas dinner
A typical Christmas dinner can rack up anything between 30,000 and 90,000 food miles in imported ingredients. Much of this is due to the traditional fruit pudding – dates, raisins, citrus fruits and spices all come from afar so if (like me) you’re not overly keen, give it a miss this year and replace it with more local seasonal fare. Buy nuts grown in Europe such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts, rather than Brazil nuts from South America. Another culprit is alcohol, especially imported wine, so why not indulge guilt-free in European organic wine, beer, cider or spirits – apparently organic producers use on average just a quarter of the legal maximum of sulphur dioxide allowed for non-organic wine, which appears to lessen the chances of a hangover! Shop for your Christmas dinner at your local farmers’ market, greengrocer or food co-operative, or join an organic box scheme. If you are willing to go the whole hog, why not ditch turkey? The UN has reported that the meat industry is responsible for more of the world’s greenhouse gases than cars.

Christmas tree
Consumers should buy real Christmas trees instead of artificial ones, according to the Carbon Trust, because the carbon footprint of artificial trees is at least ten times greater. However, when buying real trees, it is important that they are FSC-certified and recycled afterwards – Manchester City Council normally have a free annual collection or various drop-off points for trees after Christmas so they can be chipped and turned into compost. Alternatively, rent a living potted tree from Christmastreeman.co.uk which will be collected and replanted after Christmas or pick up a boxed tree growing kit for only £2.49 from Amazon – this would make a lovely present for a child who could plant the seed and then grow as the tree will over the years.

Presents
Personally speaking, I believe part of the fun is giving presents rather than receiving them. Trying to think of one special gift for a loved one is much better than buying ten impersonal gifts mass-produced in a factory half way round the world. Foodie gifts or books are great things to buy (or make) for personally tailored presents. Pick up a hamper or even a cardboard box and fill it with preserves, cheese, home-made chocolates, cakes and biscuits which you can assemble bit by bit in the run-up to Christmas. Other ideas are experience days, ‘learn a new skill’ courses or charitable gifts. If the recipient is an avid cook, give some herb or chilli plants or a customised seed collection with pretty handmade packets. Wrap any gifts with scarves or put into reusable gift boxes/bags and that’s your Christmas sorted!