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10 ways to make this festive season as eco-friendly as possible
We all seem to have adopted over-consuming habits during year-end festivities. Between Christmas, New Years, school holidays and family vacations, the human population steadily increases its contribution to pollution, waste, high carbon footprint and total disregard for our precious Mother Earth during this time.
Does this mean that you should give up festivities? Don’t worry – all is not lost! Did you know that there are various things you can do to change the eco-destruction that is tied with the festive season? Here are simple steps to becoming a conscious consumer and planet-friendly human during the festive season. You can still enjoy your celebrations while causing minimal harm to the planet!
Use recycled or recyclable wrapping (or no wrapping at all)
Wrapping paper gets ripped off of the gifts and then thrown out immediately. It becomes a huge problem for landfills that are already jam-packed and overflowing with non-biodegradable or non-recyclable materials. Is it really worth the 5 seconds of delight that comes with ripping open a gift? If you really want an eco-friendly festive season, encourage your friends and family to only use eco-friendly wrapping paper, material to wrap gifts in (which are reusable) OR no wrapping paper at all!
Purchase ethical gifts
It's shocking how many toys and other goodies end up in the trash each year. Many belongings in peoples' homes don't serve a purpose and end up being unwanted clutter. Purchasing ethical gifts means giving someone something that's not easily disposable, has little carbon footprint, is useful to the person and not harmful to the environment. Gifts such as non-GMO sprouting seeds, organic eco-friendly personal care products or organic herbal teas are thoughtful, usefull and cause little harm to the environment!
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Buy from second hand stores
Aah.. pre-loved goodies - hated by some, loved by others! For some, the idea of gifting someone with something second hand might seem insulting and cheap. But the reality is that you can find some amazing treasures, and at a fraction of their original cost! As a bonus, buying from charity stores ensures that your money spent is going towards a good cause, and things that would have otherwise been thrown away into a landfill are now being re-purposed and reused. Just like the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure!
Locally-manufactured items do not have to be shipped across the country or world, thus reducing the amount of pollution needed in order to get them to you. Shopping from small, local businesses also contributes to supporting your community as opposed to encouraging large corporations which are often large contributors to factory emissions and a high carbon footprint! Furthermore, locally-bought gifts are often unique and not mass-produced.
Online shopping makes it easy for customers to browse and order almost any product, minus the travelling and carbon emissions related to visiting malls and physical shops. Studies show that physical shopping costs 24 times MORE carbon emissions than online shopping, on a worldwide scale! Boost your ethical shopping by not only shopping online, but making sure to purchase local, eco-friendly products!
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Avoid using disposable place settings
Christmas lunch and New Year's parties can be stressful for hosts who often have to cater for large groups of family and friends. Many people resort to using disposable paper plates, plastic utensils and paper cups to try cut down on washing and cleaning up after everybody. This may be a convenient way of doing things, but it's definitely not convenient to Mother Earth! Use actual dishes instead, which will make cleaning up more difficult, but it will be far more eco-friendly.
Don't give into the temptation of Christmas crackers
For many Christmas-celebrators, the 25th of December is not complete without laying down Christmas crackers on the lunch table. Yes, it's fun to hear them snapping away, but the contents that come out of the crackers are not delightful at all. Useless, plastic toys that almost instantly find their way into bins. Bits of plastic confetti and other plastic goodies.. These all contribute to the mass problem of landfills and waste. Not only that, but as we all know, plastic takes forever to break down and tends to end up in the sea, polluting the environment and killing bird and marine life.Your 'Christmas spirit' is certainly not more important than the well-being of our planet.
Choose planet-friendly decorations (lights, tinsel etc.)
It's almost impossible to come across Christmas decorations that are not plastic. Why not make your own decorations out of wood and other reusable materials? This is also a fun way to get the whole family involved - the kids are sure to have a ball! It's also important to remember that excessive use of electricity contributes to high carbon footprints. Don't worry, Santa will still be able to locate your house without one million Christmas lights singing and shining the entire night! Consider solar powered festive lights, and decorations that are planet friendly.
Don't use plastic Christmas trees
Artificial Christmas trees are made from plastic and wire. This is why you're able to store them for years and reuse them every year. However, the manufacturing process and discarding of artificial Christmas trees are problematic for the planet.
Rebecca Smithers from www.theguardian.com explains that "it is the manufacture of the plastic, from oil, that creates most – around two-thirds – of their carbon emissions. A further quarter is created by the industrial emissions produced when the tree itself is made. Their carbon footprint is boosted by the trees typically being shipped by container from China before arriving in the shops."
Friends of the Earth is advising consumers who have fake trees to keep using them for as long as possible (and today’s versions will last for years) but to look into more environmentally friendly options when it comes to a replacement.
Lizzie Rivera from www.independent.co.za writes, "A six-foot tree typically takes about nine years to grow, during which time they provide a habitat for wildlife, consume carbon dioxide and create oxygen - so they are generally carbon positive. The issues come with the transportation and then disposal. Around six million trees are sold each year, and if sent to landfill they take years to decompose, releasing methane which is said to have 25 times the potency of carbon dioxide. The good news is they can also be recycled into wood chippings, so check your local council’s website to find out how their free recycling service operates. The most eco-friendly way to get a Christmas tree is to buy – or rent – a potted one that can replanted year after year, as locally as possible to reduce the carbon footprint. You can also buy organic trees to ensure no pesticides have been used in their cultivation."
Many fortunate families love arranging a year-end family trip. Airlines are the busiest during the festive season, as millions of people fly all over the world! Flights are one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, and the spike in travels over the Christmas holidays doesn't do our planet any justice. If you can help it, try travelling on a smaller, more local scale. Who says you have to fly across the globe to enjoy a vacation? The upside is that you'll save yourself a lot of money!
Don't throw away leftovers
If there are leftovers, please don't throw them away. There are various others ways to consciously deal with leftover food, such as giving it away to homeless people, freezing it for future meals, or composting any fresh produce.
What are YOU doing to enjoy a more conscious and planet friendly festive season? We’d love to hear your ideas, so go ahead and leave a comment below!
If you have any questions, please contact our team or leave a comment below for FREE health advice. We always love hearing from you!