Eight Steps You Can Take To Make Your Christmas More Sustainable
Posted by Samantha Nice
Christmas is undeniably a magical time of year yet the festivities and celebrations can sometimes mean over shopping and extra waste. With so many of us seeking ways in which we can all live a little greener, we spoke to sustainability strategist, researcher and advocate, Amy Nguyen to hear her best advice for the small steps we can all easily take to make a big difference this year…
1. Be Mindful Of Your Food Waste
Did you know that if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the USA? Whilst this is a problem throughout the entire year, a shocking amount goes to waste over the festive period due to so many bulk buying, over cooking and binning leftovers. “Where possible, try to plan ahead and resist the temptation to stockpile and cook too much. Look at how many people you’re hosting for and check in with guests to see if there’s anything they don’t like. When it comes to leftovers, save them for the next day, send guests away with them or freeze them for a later date. You can also use sharing apps like OLIO to donate your leftovers to neighbours or members of your local community!” says Amy who is an advocate of repurposing your leftovers into new recipes such as pies, soups and bubble and squeak.
2. Consider Meat-Free Food Options
Recent research from Harvard University shows that a traditional turkey Christmas dinner has more than double the greenhouse gas emissions than a vegan nut roast with plant-based trimmings. “Nobody is saying to ditch your turkey or pigs in blankets, but you could swap one or two of your meat dishes for a less carbon intensive option,” suggests Amy. “Think roasted vegetable wreaths, mushroom wellington or a nut roast.” Imagine the impact if every family in the UK made a small change like this.
3. Try Shopping Local
When it comes to buying gifts, decorations as well as food and drink, there are several reasons shopping locally can be more sustainable. “Not only will you be supporting your local community but shopping locally means you’re likely to be able to get what you need by walking, biking or using public transport,” says Amy. With so many small businesses feeling the effects of the pandemic, you’ll help to give them a boost and encourage your community to stay local. “Make a trip to your local butchers, fishmongers and bakeries or if you need to food shop online, look for sustainable businesses such as Abel & Cole, Riverford and Oddbox,” Amy adds.
4. Monitor Your Energy Usage
With much more time spent in our homes over Christmas hosting friends and families, there’s no denying our energy usage increases. “Simple things such as using a smart meter to track your energy use can really help,” says Amy. “Where possible, try to turn down the heating too. Even if the whole family is home most of the time, putting yours on a timer can make a big difference. Now may also be the time to look into renewable or green energy providers. ” she adds. “When it comes to your Christmas tree lights and decorations, switch yours for LEDs instead of incandescent ones as they’ll use 90% less energy according to People With Energy. For outside lights, try solar-powered ones as these won’t cost you in electricity or CO2. Other things to consider include not overstocking your fridge (try storing drinks outside in your garage or shed) and ensuring your freezer is defrosted since the more ice in your freezer, the more energy it uses.
5. Opt For A Natural Tree
“A 6-foot artificial tree has a carbon footprint which is more than double the amount of a natural tree," says Amy. “When choosing your tree, look for one which is FSC-certified or if not, try to find a locally-sourced or organically-grown option.” Once Christmas is over, there are several ways in which you can dispose of your tree sustainably. GOV UK recommend replanting yours if the roots are still attached and you have garden space but if this isn’t an option, look to see what collection and recycling services are available to you locally. If you’ve chosen an artificial tree, store yours so you can reuse it over and over again.
6. Go For Good Gift Wrap
There are plenty of ways in which you can pick good gift wrap (check out some ideas here) and be that bit more sustainable and it can be one of the simplest ways to do our bit - especially as it’s estimated that the UK uses over 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year according to DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). That's enough to wrap the entire island of Guernsey! “Look for recycled and recyclable paper or even consider using fabric,” says Amy. You’ll be pleased to know that all of our NEOM gift bags, boxes and sleeves are made from responsibly sourced paper and cardboard and are 100% recyclable. It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas but with so much recyclable waste such as paper and boxes around, it’s even more important you’re disposing of yours correctly. You can read more about recycling all of your NEOM goodies here.
7. Give Gifts That Give Back
“Being sustainable at Christmas does by no means eliminate gifts,” says Amy. “If anything, it’s a time to treat yourself and your loved ones to something special. Look for gifts which are from brands or businesses that have good environmental and social values,” she says. Sustainability has and always will be a focus for us at NEOM and we’re always looking at ways in which we can improve. Want to know more? Have a read of this. This year, we’ve also partnered with the Mental Health Foundation to bring to you a Wellbeing Toolkit so you can give a gift with true purpose and meaning. Featuring 12 practical steps we can all easily follow, it’s there for you to give and share so we can make 2022 the year of better wellbeing.
8. Think About Travel
We’re likely to make more trips to see family and friends over the festive period – especially after not being able to last year but take a moment to think about your journey. “Where possible use public transport as this helps to reduce the number of single occupancy cars on the road,” says Amy. “If you’re travelling within the UK, try to avoid inter-country planes and use trains instead,” she adds. “If you are flying overseas, look to fly with responsible airlines. Qantas, KLM and Air Canada now provide direct offsetting services that include re-forestry projects or investment in renewable energy. You can use the booking platform Sky Scanner to discover which flight options are more environmentally sound via their greener choice label,” she adds.