Christmas and New Year were a blast, but how can we make this year’s celebrations better for the environment?
Christmas is the season of indulgence, but that’s a lot different to outright destruction. The festivities though have a huge impact upon the environment which many people aren’t aware of. As adverts bombard us with images of things they tell us we need, there’s often little thought to the waste left behind. In 2012, it was found that the equivalent of two million turkeys went to waste and over 300,000 tonnes of card packaging were consumed which was found card to be enough to wrap around Big Ben over a quarter of a million times. In 2011, it was also found that we threw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper and 125,000 tonnes of plastic wrapping.
Wrapping paper is probably the worst offender and something that we can all cut down on. Its title is actually kind of misleading. While it is paper, it’s often blended with plastics and that means many councils can’t accept it to be recycled. The impact of that is a whole load of waste for nothing. Additionally, most cards and wrapping paper do have some form of glitter stuck on them and a lot of scientists want glitter banned as they’re made of microplastics, which are a leading cause of ocean pollution.
“Wrapping paper is probably the worst offender and something that we can all cut down on”
We can take action. For starters, if you want to send cards and wrap presents then at least ensure that they are glitter free. This will go a long way to trying to protect the environment. Question whether you really need to send out a Christmas card at all. If it’s for a long distance friendship then that makes sense, but for someone you see every day? Perhaps just stick to a smaller gift, or design your own Christmas email. There are also brands out there which sell cards which are made from recycled paper, and some even donate a share of their profits to charity. Presents also don’t have to be wrapped but if you do want to wrap them then there are alternatives. There is tissue paper, there is even printing off your own designs and using standard paper or buying brown paper (which looks classic).
A lot of our waste is also down to corporations. We can act positively by reducing demand, so by switching to more sustainable products we are having an impact on what is made. However, we can also be vocal with corporations. If a gift you’ve ordered online comes in a huge box but the product inside is tiny then write to the company and let them know you aren’t satisfied. The same goes for food waste. Some companies across the world have committed to either selling on products beyond their best before date (but not sell-by), to reduce waste, or to give leftovers to charity. Push all UK companies to commit to tackling waste in whatever form they choose. So much of our food goes to waste and it isn’t about people buying too much (although we can all do far more to reduce household waste) but because companies overstock and then throw food out which is perfectly edible. Capitalism is completely inefficient, and it’s jeopardising the health of our planet.
The emphasis has to be on both consumers and those who supply products. Each of us can take steps to protect the health of our planet. Nobody wants to end Christmas by any means, but we should be able to enjoy it in a way that safeguards the environment so that future generations can enjoy it too. Getting presents just to create hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste each year is a capitalism dream but a global nightmare. The planet deserves better and so do we.