Dreaming of a green Christmas

04 December 2008

Some practical tips to go green at Christmas

Dreaming of a green Christmas

With more and more of us keeping a closer eye than ever on our finances, green energy uk founder Doug Stewart believes that we will put even greater thought and imagination into our Christmas preparations this year. From making our own cards to buying the Christmas shopping, Doug believes that doing things differently will not only save us money; a more cost-cutting approach will also have a positive environmental impact.

Season’s greetings

Lets face it - do we need to send around 744 million Christmas cards a year, the equivalent of 248,000 trees? So what choices do we have without being accused of Humbug? Something you can do is to make your seasonal greetings personal and friendlier by speaking to your friends, family and colleagues and wishing them a Merry Christmas instead of handing out cards, and ask them not to send you one. If you do receive cards, recycle or reuse them. It’s fun for kids to make their own cards using recycled materials, and you can use last year’s cards for inspiration and additional materials. Old cards also make good gift tags.

The Christmas food shop

Shopping for Christmas is stressful enough without being made to feel guilty about the environmental impact of it all. However, it is estimated that each Christmas we waste a third of the food we buy. Simple planning could help reduce this waste and save money. Make a list of everything you are going to need and stick to it. If you’ve covered everything, you won’t have to keep going to the shops over the festive period. You can take advantage of buy-one-get-one-free offers, but consider if you really need the item in the first place - don’t just be lured by what looks like a good deal. Check your loyalty cards for any money-off opportunities, and remember to take your own reusable shopping bags with you – the amount of plastic wasted over Christmas stands at a colossal 125,000 tonnes! You can re-use large carriers or invest in sturdy bags made from jute, a natural and biodegradable product. Most supermarkets now sell these.

Where you can, avoid purchasing products that have needless packaging, especially products where the packaging can’t be recycled. Buy loose fruit and veg, and if you order online, some supermarkets give you the option of having your shopping delivered without plastic bags. Try to buy local and organic whenever possible, especially meat and produce. Farmers’ markets are an excellent way of doing this and are a fun, festive day out for the family. Find your nearest at www.farmersmarkets.net If once your cooking is done you are feeling adventurous, turn your veg peelings into compost - who knows, next year’s Christmas dinner could be coming from vegetables you have grown yourself.

The Christmas presents shop

Again, look for gifts that come with little or no packaging, or gifts with packaging that can be put straight in the recycling bin. If you buy anything that needs batteries, then buy rechargeable batteries – ordinary batteries are very wasteful and you’ll save a fortune by avoiding these. Another practical method for green shopping is looking for Christmas presents in vintage clothing shops and at antique markets. This has a number of benefits in that you are cutting out the packaging altogether, doing a bit of recycling at the same time, and buying someone in your life a unique gift. Planning your shopping expedition is key again – getting everything done in a day or two is a lot better than several trips back and forth. And remember to bring your own bags! If you need to wrap presents, try using recycled wrapping paper. To avoid products all together, experiences such as theatre or concert tickets or a stay at a local spa are other good gift ideas that cut down on Christmas waste, and they have the additional bonus of giving people something to look forward to later in the year. You could avoid the shopping trip altogether by buying everything online. This can make it easier to stick to a budget and you can use price comparison websites to find the best deal. You can also earn significant cash back on your purchases if you register with a reputable cash back website such as quidco.com or topcashback.co.uk and click from their site to the retailer you want to buy from.

Up goes the tree

Real trees do look fantastic, but try to avoid buying one that has been cut at the base as it is effectively dying. Instead, choose a tree that has roots so you can keep it alive and use it every year. Many local authorities now dispose of trees and turn them into wood chippings, so if your tree dies, contact your local authority to see if they will dispose of it for you in a green way. The other alternative is to use an artificial tree that you can bring out year after year, therefore minimising your environmental impact. Let the children go to town on Christmas decorations by making their own. Old newspapers, bits of plastic and bits of junk can be transformed by bright young minds into brilliant Christmas decorations.

On goes the kettle

No doubt over Christmas you will have plenty of visitors, so the chance for waste increases. So if you boil your kettle to make a round of drinks, make the drinks as soon as the kettle is boiled - to boil the kettle again is an enormous waste of power and your money. Also, think before you fill the kettle - only use the amount you need or you will be wasting electricity.

Other energy saving tips for the home

There are also ways you can save money and energy in the home over Christmas time too. Christmas lights do not use a great amount of power, but it is important to remember to turn them off. You could use a timer switch so you know they are definitely going to go off every night, which is particularly useful for outside lights that can sometimes be forgotten and left on until the next day. If you haven’t done so already, switch to energy-saving light bulbs - these last twelve times longer than regular light bulbs. A whopping £80 million could be saved if every home in the UK had just one room with an energy saving light bulb. These bulbs have come down in price substantially in the past couple of years, and many of the supermarkets are doing deals such as three bulbs for £1, so now is a good time to stock up.

Turn your electrical equipment off. Do not leave the TV on standby or over-charge your mobile phone (If you get a new phone for Christmas, make sure you recycle your old phone – many charities and environmental organisations take old mobiles). By turning off, you will save more power and money. Fridges can also be expensive to run, so make sure your freezer is well stocked, as a full freezer uses much less power. If you are cooking lots over Christmas, an ideal way to stock up your freezer is by creating meals to freeze, ready for a day when you don’t feel like cooking. You can also save energy in the home by making sure your windows and doors are draft-proof; an act that will keep you and your guests warmer in winter and help reduce your heating costs.

So there you are; no massive changes in behaviour; no major sacrifices and no hair shirts either. Doing one or all, it will still make a difference. Above all though, enjoy a well-earned holiday. Merry Christmas.