5 Top Tips For A More Sustainable Christmas

We’re making a list, and we’re checking it twice. We’re gonna find out who’s naughty or eco.

Christmas is right round the corner and the Peppersmith HQ is giddy with excitement. Before we all get carried away, it’s important to remember that like with any day, Christmas is an opportunity for us to be sustainable. It’s the sad truth that the Christmas time is often the most wasteful time of the year. In the UK alone, we generate about 30% more waste over the holidays.

But don't panic, from choosing better gifts to your Christmas roast, there are plenty of ways you can show your family and the planet a little love and Christmas spirit.

1) DECORATIONS

Christmas decorations are probably one of the worst culprits for waste. But there are steps you can take to make your decorations more sustainable.

You can cut down on all the plastic decorations by foraging for your own. Slip your wellies on and get hunting. Holly, ivy, chestnuts and pine cones are all great options. Next, break out the glitter (careful to make sure it's biodegradable) and string, and you've got yourself some gorgeous and rustic decorations.

If trekking around in the damp and cold isn’t for you, try second-hand or recycled decorations. Many companies like Protect the Planet sell Christmas decorations made from recycled materials which are fairtrade too. You can also try your local charity shops for second-hand decorations.

2) CHRISTMAS TREES

In the UK, up to 8 million Christmas trees are bought and discarded every year. That’s a lot of waste. Popular Christmas trees such as the Nordmann fir and Norway spruce take a longer time to decompose due to their many pine needles, and the carbon footprint generated by a discarded 2-metre-tall real Christmas tree is 16kg of CO2. That means over 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from the 8 million trees that end up dumped in landfills every year. You can reduce the carbon footprint of your tree by disposing of it in ways recommended by The Carbon Trust.

Our friends at Friends of the Earth also advised that if you’re buying a real tree, look for one that's produced locally or at least grown in the UK that’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This way you can reduce emissions from transporting the trees and the FSC also ensures that your tree is coming from woodland that’s managed ethically and in a sustainable manner.

What about fake Christmas trees you ask? While they are more cost effective and appear to be a better alternative, they actually take a lot of energy to produce and are even more difficult to dispose of. The carbon footprints produced by artificial trees are higher than real trees.

According to The Carbon Trust, it’s estimated that a 2-metre-tall fake Christmas tree produces approximately 40kg CO2e, which is more than twice the amount generated by a real tree (16kg CO2). Additionally, if a real Christmas tree is disposed of by bonfire, replanted or chipped, it further reduces its carbon footprint to around 3.5kg CO2e.

This means that to make the fake tree worth it, The Carbon Trust says that you'll need to re-use the fake tree for at least 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than its real counterpart. 

But no Christmas is complete without a tree. So consider these alternative options…

Potted tree

The best option is probably a potted tree with roots. With care, a potted tree can be replanted in your garden after Christmas and re-used for years to come. 

Rent a tree

But what if you don’t have a garden to plant a tree? Luckily, there are companies in the UK who will come by your house to drop your tree off and pick it up at the end of the holidays to be recycled or replanted until next year. How amazing is that?

Decorate your houseplants instead

This year at Peppersmith HQ, we decided not to get a Christmas tree at all.

Instead, we dressed up the office plants in our lights to give the festive feeling. Check out Sasha with our decorated Christmas house plants and giant Peppersmith pack.

Better for the planet, and saves some pennies too.

Disposing of your tree

If none of these options are convenient to you, then it’s important that you take the steps to dispose of your real Christmas tree properly. If you live in rural areas, check with local farmers or allotments as they might dispose of your tree for you on their compost heaps. If you don't have a nearby farmer to help you, or you live in a city, check out this handy tool to see where you can recycle your real tree, or this company who will pick them up afterwards if you buy from them.

3) GIFTING

There are plenty of thoughtful, sustainable gifts that won’t cost you a house. Pick a gift that lasts or has endless use like reusable water bottles or coffee cups. You can also consider second-hand or homemade gifts. It’s difficult to go completely plastic-free with gifts but you can still try to cut down. We also suggest a family Secret Santa, that way everyone only has to buy one present but you still get the joy of sharing. 

And while it’s nice to receive a lovely Christmas card, it’s estimated that nearly a billion Christmas cards end up in the bin each year. That’s the equivalent to 33 million trees. So consider sending an e-card. We love Paperless Post for this.

4) WRAPPING PAPER

This may come as a surprise but did you know that most wrapping paper is actually unrecyclable? This is because they contain dyes, plastic glitter or the sticky tape still stuck to it. If you really have to keep the surprise under wraps for the little ones, opt for plain, recyclable paper, or even newspaper. Very minimalist chic. Peppersmith approved.

5) CHRISTMAS DINNER

Nothing beats Mum’s Christmas roast and getting a bit tipsy on mulled wine, and for many of us, overindulging in food is our favourite part of the Christmas season. However, the amount and type of packaging that these foods use is often given little thought. It is estimated that 10 million turkeys were consumed last Christmas. This also means over 3,000 tonnes of food packaging alone was used in the festive period.

You can do your part by buying your groceries from plastic-free independent shops and buying your turkey from an independent butcher or local farmer. Be sure to check with the suppliers that your turkey is organic and has not been fed on soya pellets. Look for grain fed birds who have had plenty of room to roam. Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bags too.

Apart from packaging waste, don’t forget about food waste. You don't your leftover scraps from Christmas dinner being sent to landfill where it produces methane. How about a leftover turkey curry or Boxing Day stuffing sarnies to keep you going until new years? 

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