The festive season is almost here - it's time to celebrate along with those we love, and have a well deserved break. It can also be the perfect time to adopt new habits, to reduce our consumption and help the planet and people around us. If each person takes a small step into having a more sustainable festive period, we can celebrate with even lighter hearts as we have taken steps to reduce the impact of our behaviours. From reducing your food waste and wrapping your gifts in a sustainable way, to donating clothes and toys and your time to a local project, there are many changes you can adopt to make a difference. Let's start this journey together!
We'll be posting tips here every Monday on the lead up to Christmas, so come back next week to find out about more changes you can make to reduce the environmental impact of your Christmas and New Year.
Reduce food waste and reuse your leftovers!
In the UK, around 4.2 million Christmas dinners are wasted each year. Most of this waste ends up in landfill sites which are harmful to the environment, causing pollution and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmopshere. Here are a few things you can do to stop the waste piling up from the dinner table:
- Don't fall into the multi-buy trap - Supermarkets love to try and trick us into spending more money and buying more than we need, especially at Christmas. You walk into a shop and you are bombarded with 'DEALS!' 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free!' and 'Get 2 For The Price of 1'. It is everywhere, and it often seems like buying that second packet makes it better value. But ultimately, we are spending more money and buying more than we intended to. This is bad for our bank balance and for the environment. If we all make a conscious effort to just buy what we need, we could drastically reduce the amount of food we waste at Christmas.
- Plan how to use your leftovers - If you think you are going to end up with leftovers after Christmas dinner, get creative with your leftover ingredients. For example, leftover turkey meat can be used for turkey curries, fajitas or omlettes, all of which are tasty and easy to make.
- Freezers are our friends - If getting creative with leftovers seems like too big an ask right about Christmas, chop your vegetables up and freeze them! Any uncooked meat can also be frozen, so if you're not going to eat it all, don't cook it all.
- Loose veg is best! Buying your vegetables loose and not in plastic packaging means you get the exact amount you need, save money, reduce single use plastic in your kitchen and food waste - win win!
- Are you storing your food correctly? Food can go bad much faster than it should if it's not stored correctly. It's worth checking if your fridge is cold enough, food is wrapped (either in recyclable foil, containers or reusable wraps) and stored in the ideal part of your fridge.
- Learn how to cook zero waste! Too often we throw away vegetable peelings that we don't need for that specific recipe. But, these items that would normally be considered waste can be kept and used to make more delicious means. For tips, tricks and ideas on how to do this, watch our Zero Waste Cooking Series on Youtube.
- Eating veggie at Christmas doesn't have to mean a nutroast - We've prepared a simple and easy to use online recipe book full of exciting vegetarian, vegan and zero-waste Christmas dinner alternatives.
- Share, share and share some more! Christmas is a time for giving - and this can apply to our food as well. If you find yourself in a situation where food is going to be wasted, don't just automatically put it in the bin. You may have some neighbours who are in need - receiving some extra food or a plate of roast dinner could mean the world to somebody. This is an amazing way to to spread kindness and help the environment. There is even an app available called OLIO, which you can download to your phone to find local people and organisations donating and accepting food. Alterantively, food banks are always in need of donations, especially over the holidays, so why not donate to them and help those in need. They can't always accept fresh food, but any spare tins or packets ca have a huge impact.
Change up how you buy your holiday outfits!
The holiday season can be an expensive time of year, from presents to parties and everything in between. Too many of us have the habit of buying a new outfit, wearing it once, putting it back in the wardrobe and never wearing it again. This is an expensive habit that funds the fast fashion industry and allows it to keep growing. This industry is responsible for 10% of the entire planet's carbon emissions. UK families also increase their spending on fast fashion by a whopping 43% at Christmas time!
However, there are many ways that we can stop buying into the fast fashion industry, and still look great at Christmas and New Year:
- REUSE: We need to ask ourselves before we buy new clothes "do I really need this?". Just because we've worn an outfit before, doesn't mean you can't wear it again. Pair it with a different pair of shoes, a different jacket, etc. Making clothes that we already own work will help the environment, and save us money.
- CHARITY SHOPS: There will undoubtedly be times where we do need new clothes, and we can still achieve this in sustainable ways. Charity shops can hide hidden jewels. If you just take the time to look, you can find the most amazing clothes, usually for a fraction of the price. Not to mention the benefit it has on the environment, and the charity you're buying from!
- OUR SWAP SHOPS: We have Swap Shops set up on all our campuses, which are essentially just places where you can donate your old clothes, books and accessories to, and where you can pick up new items that have been donated by other people in the College community! Everything is completely free to take, so come along and check out our stock.
- ONLINE MARKETS: If you don't have the time to look through charity shops, there are still ways to find what you need online, while being sustainable. Websites such as Depop and Vinted can be downloaded as an app for your phone. From there, you can search for exactly what you want, which will again be cheaper than buying brand new! You can also sell your own old clothes on these sites - if you have clothes you've worn and won't ever wear again, sell them on, make money and let someone else get to use them.
Overall, there are many options that allow us to help the environment, while still looking and feeling great. If we all made a consiouc effort to reduce our consumption of fast fashion, we could lead more sustainable lives and have a positivie impact on the planet.
There are so many ways to make the decorations you use over the festive season more sustainable. For a start, avoid buying new decorations wherever possible, and instead use or repurpose ones you already have. If you're wanting something different to what you used last year, you could use materials you have around the house to make your own decorations! Hare are some great examples of things you can make yourself to give a festive makeover to your house.
If you are going to be buying new decorations, try to choose ones made out of more natural materials wherever possible (e.g. wood, paper or pottery) opposed to plastics. For example, you can get wreaths that are made out of wood and other natural materials like holly leaves and pinecones, rather than synthetic ones that have plastic elements.
Next up, Christmas trees! Real Christmas trees are much more sustainable than artificial alternatives. In fact, one study concluded you'd have to use your fake tree for 20 years for it to be more environmentally friendly - so if you have a fake tree already, make sure to keep using it for as long as possible! If you're buying a real tree, do your best to get it from a local supplier and dispose of it responsibly through free kerbside pickups to be recycled into compost (collection dates vary by street).
And finally, the lights for your tree and around the house - LED lights use 95% less energy than regular bulbs, so make sure to get LED lighting this festive period. Not only do they use less energy, they will then cost you less money too!
There are so many ways to make the gifts you give your loved ones more sustainable! Check out the Ethical Hierarchy of Gift purchasing, along with our tips to go with it:
If those don't suit you, or you're looking for something to be able to physically give them, why not upcycle something that one of you already has, or make something out of items that you already own. Not only is this reuse of items great for the planet, but it also allows you the chance to give a unique gift that they couldn't get anywhere else!
Not convinced by that? Next one to consider is getting a second hand item - these can be purchased at charity shops, through apps such as Depop or Vinted, or even through our very own Swap Shops. All of these options allow items that are still in good condition to be used a second chance to be enjoyed by others once you no longer want or need it anymore.
If you don't already have items that could be used to make your own gift, you could still make something to give as a gift (doing your best to buy as few pieces as possible, and instead repurposing items you have already). A great option for this would be festive baking, or making a hamper of items such as homemade soaps or candles.
When buying a new item feels like the only option, you can first look to buy from somewhere that has ethical sourcing for their products, or zero waste options to usual items. A simple Google search can help you work out which brands are better and worse for the environment, to make this decision making process a little easier for you.
And last up is buying new items, which we hope will be a last resort! Make sure that any new items you're purchasing are ones that someone really wants and will definitely get good use out of, rather than something that will sit around unused. A particular focus on buying items should be on the amount of plastic they use, and if they require batteries to operate - try your best to avoid both when possible.
Once it comes to wrapping your gift, have a think about if you need to wrap it at all. Instead of producing unnecessary rubbish, why not use a beautiful repurposed box, or a nice scarf to keep the gift together? Here's a handy step-by-step guide on how to make a gift bag using newspapers.
Or if you don't have an item like this lying around already, prioritise recylable wrapping papers or brown paper instead. You can decorate brown paper with doodles to make it more fetive, or leave plain for a rustic style. If in doubt about whether your wrapping paper is recyclable or not, do the scrunch test! If you scrunch wrapping paper into a ball and it stays ball-shaped, you can recyle it. If it starts to unravel itself from the ball it isn't recylable, so try your best to reuse the paper for a gift you are giving rather than throwing it in the bin.
Another simple way of saving yourself from buying gift tags is to make your own by cutting up old Christmas cards.