Georgina hosts the radio show “Wandsworth Matters” – a talk show focusing on environmental and social issues.
She covers diverse topics from air pollution to Zero Waste with the aim of giving listeners the opportunity to find out about the issues which affect them most.
I was thrilled when she asked me to join her for a show discussing how we could plan a more sustainable Christmas.
We chatted about food, the tree, gifts, wrapping paper and cards.
Here are some of the tips we shared:
According to Love Food Hate Waste, we throw out the equivalent of 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and 74 million mince pies during the festive season in the UK; yet one in nine people in the world do not have enough food to sustain themselves.
The most important aspect of a sustainable Christmas then, is to buy only the food you need.
Buy locally where possible. If you’re planning a traditional Christmas dinner a local butcher can supply you with a turkey and farmers market can supply seasonal vegetables. If you have nothing local to you check out box delivery schemes.
If you’re vegetarian you don’t have to stick to a nut roast; many of which are a bit indigestible! Make the most of the rich array of seasonal vegetables around or go for something completely untraditional as I did one year – by planning an Indian-style buffet!
For Christmas Puddings be aware that many contain palm oil – check that yours is sourced from sustainable palm oil. Or why not make your own? Stir it up Sunday is the last Sunday before advent (22nd November this year) and the traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding, whilst making a wish.
For leftovers, make friends with your freezer or why not plate up a meal and take to an elderly neighbour?
Around 6 million Christmas trees are sold in the UK every year. Gerogina mentioned that one of the sights that saddened her most was seeing dying Christmas trees on the kerbside every January.
I shared one of our family traditions which is to cut a few branches from our magnolia tree. We put them in a bucket and decorate the branches. Later in the year the branches are dried and we use them on our wood burner.
If you’re prepared to turn your artificial Christmas Tree into a heirloom it’s probably better for the environment than buying a real tree every year. Georgina shared that her Mother In Law had a 40 year old tree that was going to be passed down the generations! But if you only keep them for a few years then a real tree is best.
Some companies hire real Christmas trees to their customers. This is a great way to enjoy the best of both worlds.
According to one source, we spend £700 million on unwanted Christmas gifts. Just imagine the positive difference we could make in the world if that money was diverted to those in need.
Yesterday I shared a blog post about zero waste Christmas gifts – you’ll find ideas from experiences to home made to charity donations.
If you want to have a go at making your own things, Pinterest is a great source for inspiration.
Georgina shared that she was once given a toilet for Christmas.. No, she wasn’t having her home remodelled, it was a charitable gift!
We also reminded listeners that supporting WAHM (Work at home mums; you can find lots on Etsy) and British brands is a great way to buy more sustainable gifts.
I used to laugh at my Grandmother who would meticulously unwrap gifts, iron the paper and use it again. Now I realise what a wise woman she was. In the UK we use enough wrapping paper during Christmas to cover the island of Guernsey.
We shared alternative ideas such as furoshiki (the art of wrapping with fabrics, which can then be reused), using a ‘gift’ as wrapping – such as a scarf, tea towel, tin or box and even using newspaper; which can look stunning when done creatively.
If you choose to buy traditional paper, look for recycled brands and steer clear of metalicised products which can’t be recycled.
In 2014, we Brits bought 900 million boxed Christmas cards. I don’t know what that looks like in trees, ink and bleach, do you?
Alternative ideas include e-cards for people who don’t mind not receiving traditional cards, supporting local artists with handmade cards, “Tree Free” cards or making your own.
I shared that I only send to people who receive real meaning and value from a traditional card – such as elderly relatives and friends. While Georgina reminded us to personalise the message inside cards if we’re going to send them, to make them worth sending!
What about you – what are your ideas for a more sustainable and ethical Christmas?
The show was aired at 7pm on Mon 9th November 2015 and will be available as a podcast here by the end of this week.
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