As the winter nights are drawing in and the heating is turned up, Christmas cards are written, fairy lights are switched on, and shoppers descend upon town centres around the country…the festive season is most definitely here. However, what is the effect of the increasingly commercialised Christmas season on our environment? The endless heating, driving, tree chopping and cooking that surround us all during the holiday season are having an increasingly detrimental effect.
Few things sights are better than waking up on Christmas morning and seeing carefully wrapped presents scattered under the tree, yet our environment and atmosphere are paying a price for the presents we choose for each other. Though battery-powered toys might bring squeals of delight to children, they make environmentalists squeal for different reasons. The market for electronic devices has quickly expanded in recent years, increased by the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies. Such toys have large carbon footprints due to both the level of energy necessary to produce the hardware, including batteries, and to the energy they use when being played with.
Then there’s the issue of paper greeting cards, lots of ‘em. Approximately sixty per cent of cards are sent at Christmas. In Britain alone, this equates to roughly 1.7 billion Christmas cards being sent each year. At least two hundred thousand trees will be chopped down to feed this trade. When print and transport resources are also considered, the environmental impact is significant. The majority of these cards will be thrown away shortly after Christmas, increasing the amount of waste.
However, there are ways in which we can all make our holiday season a little greener. The expansion of the e card industry is the obvious solution to the environmental dilemma of paper Christmas cards. Whilst e cards used to be tasteless and badly made, companies such as Katie’s Cards are now creating high-quality, funny e cards for a reasonable price. With young people and adults alike communicating increasingly in electronic formats - over text, email and through social networking sites, for example - a transition from printed to electronic cards seems to be a natural development.
Additionally, by sending e cards at Christmas you can decrease your carbon footprint by skipping the car journey needed to buy and deliver the cards, consequently avoiding C02 from being needlessly tossed out into the atmosphere. Furthermore, sending Ecards is cost effective; most E card sites allow you to pay a reasonable one-off sign-up fee that gives you unlimited access to their E cards over the space of a year. This trend is growing quickly, and a third of UK computer users now send electronic cards at Christmas.
There are also plenty of ways in which you can make your Christmas celebrations a little greener this year. Why not make some of your presents at home this year? This both saves you money and means you can avoid navigating the busy, icy roads during the Christmas shopping rush. Stewing fruit to make homemade jams and preserves and storing them in recycled jam jars or whipping up some festive chocolate truffles make great gifts and are also handy to have in stock when the inevitable surprise Christmas visitors arrive on the doorstep.
Food undoubtedly plays a central role in Christmas celebrations and buying seasonal, locally produced food both supports the economy and also decreases the number of ‘food miles’ your meals accumulate. Seasonal winter foods include leeks, potatoes, apples, goose, duck and, the festive favourite, brussel sprouts.
When it comes to the Christmas tree, it is actually more eco-friendly to buy a real one, rather than a synthetic one. If you choose the ‘real’ option, it is important to buy your tree from a sustainable planter and also to recycle your tree when the festive frolics are over. The majority of local councils will offer a Christmas tree recycling service where they can make woodchips from the trees and can use them to mulch public parks.
So, to wrap up (sorry, festive pun), whilst we may be praying for a white Christmas this year, there are many ways in which you can make your Christmas a little greener. Most of these ideas will save you a few pennies too…which means you can stock up on extra mince pies and mulled wine to see you through the frosty winter months.