Tuesday, December 9, 2008

let's have a green christmas

How about we take a little time out of our hectic holiday, and make this year a green holiday! Here are some pointers to help us out (and really, we can use all the help we can get!)

"A is for artificial trees These are not necessarily greener - although they last for longer, they are made from plastic, not recycleable or from a renewable source and have probably been shipped great distances. There are also question marks over where they are made and the labour used. Real trees also help to remove carbon from the atmosphere while they are growing (more on real trees below under C).

B is for batteries New gifts at Christmas often mean that households go through a lot of batteries. Batteries contain toxic chemicals, do not biodegrade and are difficult to recycle. As an alternative use rechargeable batteries or try the new AA size USB rechargeable batteries. By opening the cap and plugging into a USB connector, you can recharge them pretty much anywhere.

C is for ...

Candles Paraffin candles are made from petroleum residue and are no good for your health or for the environment. Candles made from soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based wax are more eco-friendly because they biodegrade and are smoke-free.

Cards With an average of 17 cards for every man, woman and child, that's a lot of trees saved. Can you send an e-card instead? Purchase recycled or charity cards or cut up last year's and re-use them?

Compost Compost all your food peelings or get a wormery to help break down the vegetable food waste into rich soil nutrition.

Clothes Over 80,000 tons of old clothes will be thrown away this Christmas. so if you do get a new wardrobe, make sure you donate your old clothes to a local charity shop.

Christmas trees Real trees are the more eco-friendly choice, as long as you consider where and how they have been grown. Make sure you get one from a sustainable source. You could also choose a tree with roots so that it can be replanted. Trees in pots mean that they will stay fresh all the way through Christmas, won't drop needles all over your floor and you can even plant them in the garden in January. Failing that, take the tinsel off and keep them indoors all year round.
Recycle your tree after Christmas. Most end up in the landfill, a wasted opportunity to create biomass that would have provided nutrients for depleted soil. Many local authorities and garden centres will be recycling Christmas trees after the festive period.

D is for ...

Decorations Use recycled decorations - Use CDs and juice cartons to make your tree sparkle. Or decorate your tree with products that are fairly traded and ethically sourced. The WWF has some ideas here. Or get creative and make your own.

Defrost your freezer before Christmas It will work more efficiently and create more space to store leftover food, so that it doesn't go to waste.

E is for eco-bags Use a reusable tote bag instead of all that plastic. (Note: Buy a method all-surface cleaner right now at methodhome.com, and get one free!

F is for food shopping For some horrifying statistics on how much food we throw away, read this story.

By the time the ingredients that make up the average Christmas dinner arrive on our plates, they have travelled a combined distance of 49,000 miles. Buy an organic turkey. Ten million turkeys are eaten every Christmas, so try to make sure it has been reared in humane conditions.

Buy local or buy less. Produce bought locally means you will be supporting small suppliers and the local community, while minimizing your carbon footprint. Shop at a local farmers' market, or try growing some of your own vegetables where possible.

Buy your fruit and vegetables loose and ditch all that wasteful plastic packaging. Make sure the goods that are packaged are made from recycled materials.

Buy drinks in bigger bottles rather than small ones. One large bottle generates less waste than several smaller ones.

Try to avoid serving people with paper or plastic plates and cups if you are entertaining.

Pack all your goods into a re-usable shopping bag or re-use old plastic bags.

Don't forget to put the vegetable peelings from your Christmas dinner in your home compost bin.

K is for keeping your curtains closed This keeps heat in and saves energy and money. And with all those guests to entertain, more heat is going to be generated anyway.

L is for lights Christmas tree lights left on for 10 hours a day over the 12 days of Christmas produce enough CO2 to inflate 12 balloons, so turn them off when they are not needed.

If you want to be more environmentally friendly, try switching to either LED lights, choosing lights that are powered by solar power or rechargeable batteries, or installing an energy-saving bulb to offset the energy usage.

If you haven't already - make it a new year's resolution to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs.

P is for ...

Plastic-free Millions and millions of plastic bags are handed out by supermarkets a year - that's 300 for every man, woman and child - causing nearly 60,000 tons of plastic to go to landfill sites (more on why plastic bags are so bad here).

Now and after Christmas, use a reusable tote or take old plastic bags and reuse them.

With retailers yet to get the message on excessive packaging, try to avoid purchasing products and food that are overpackaged.

Presents Buy local or buy less. Each Christmas, 4,000 tons of products arrive from China. Presents bought locally means you will be supporting small suppliers and the local community, while minimising your carbon footprint.

Buy durable gifts and avoid buying or requesting presents that rely on disposable parts like batteries. Try to look for alternatives, for example, goods that are solar or wind-up powered.

Do you have to buy gifts? Could you buy an "experience" instead? Try cinema tickets, club memberships, gift tokens. Sponsor an animal, buy them some rainforest to protect - but don't give them another unwanted gift which they will simply throw away.

R is for recycle According to Recyclenow.com, (English) households will throw out five sacks of trash per family - over the festive period. Much of this will be waste that could have been recycled.

If you're not doing it already, it's getting harder to have an excuse not to recycle.

T is for ...

Turning off your appliances Turning your appliances off, rather than leaving them on standby. This saves huge amounts of carbon.

Turning down the thermostat. Not only does this save carbon and money, it's a good excuse to resurrect the themed Christmas jumper.

U is for using the right-sized pan Use the right-sized pan for the vegetables you cook, and only boil the kettle with the amount of water you need.

W is for wrapping This constitutes one of the biggest Christmas wastes. Try wrapping your presents in brown or recycled paper, recycled foil or newspaper, and using string or raffia (made from bark which regenerates) to tie it up.

So what will you be doing this Christmas?"

+ Taken from The Guardian.co.uk, by Jessica Aldred


Terra composters said...

I like your point about gift wrapping! My wife and I are taking that one step further and doing the old "close your eyes now open them" Christmas. We don't have kids yet so I can understand where you're coming from though!!!We always complained about the amount of wasted wrapping paper each year - this year we're making change!

danielle said...

great list, and i like the title: green christmas

Anonymous said...

I totally stole this and reposted it over at my blog...with credit of course. :)

Anonymous said...

This is a GREAT post. I might have to link this one up! :)

Nathan Aaron said...

Well, everyone, steal it from me! Cause, uh, I stole it from guardian.co.uk. (which I gave credit to, of course.) So let's all steal for Christmas! Yay! No, wait... something's wrong here...

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