Mrs Green says “Recycle your Christmas!”

Filed in Blog by on December 20, 2010 14 Comments
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Remember to reduce, reuse, recycle

Remember to reduce, reuse, recycle

Morning lovelies, now without meaning to sound like your mother, I need to have a quick chat with you about recycling your Christmas.

My local council tell me that 10 per cent of the year’s total rubbish is produced during the Christmas break, with 30,000 tonnes of waste produced during the festive holiday. More shockingly, over three days of festivities we clock up 5.5 per cent of our total annual carbon footprint.

So my challenge to you is NOT be part of that statistic!

Reduce, reuse, recycle

What could you do to use less, reuse items and recycle more?

Wants and needs

First and foremost ask yourself whether your really need to buy something or you just want it. Last year even we bought too much food and ended up throwing some away.

We fell for a buy one get one free offer on pate and the second batch went green before it was eaten. This year, without being bah humbug about it, I’ve figured that our celebration meal is really a variation on a theme of a Sunday roast and I gave myself a little pat on the back the other day when I ditched the freebie and bought just what we needed. Let’s hope I’ve got it right!

Disposable options

The same goes for gifts and trinkets. If you’re not sure what the recipient of your love and thought wants, why not give experiences, money, vouchers or IOUs instead? Do you need crackers with plastic crap inside them and what about that disposable plastic tablecloth; don’t your loved ones deserve your best linen for their special feast?!

Batteries and wrappings

If you give an electronic gadget this Christmas, give a set of rechargeable batteries and a charger too. Use reusable wrapping paper such as a gift bag that can be reused or why not wrap things up in another present such as a scarf, tin or tea towel?

Kerbside collections

After your stomachs are full, make full use of your kerbside collections for getting rid of the empties; you’ll have no problem with space if you compact your recyclables well. We have tins and glass collected and while we can’t do anything about reducing glass bottle sizes, we make sure we wash and squash our steel and aluminium tins. By doing this we no longer need to put our recycling out once a fortnight, it takes us around 6 weeks to fill the box; so getting your full Christmas quota of beer and larger cans into the recycling box shouldn’t be a problem!

Love your leftovers

Remember to love your leftovers; let’s face it, apart from the odd one or two things, most foods are better eaten a day later anyway. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign has some great ideas for using up food and don’t forget my twelve days of turkey leftover recipes. You’ll find old favourites such as curry and pie and some more unusual recipes such as paella and noodles.


If your eyes were bigger than your bellies then make full use of your freezer. Arctic Aunt is on hand to bust all those freezer myths and reveal the truth about food safety. From Christmas cake to cranberry sauce, nearly all of our uneaten food can be frozen and served up later.

Cards and trees

When twelfth night comes around it’s time to take down the cards and tree. If your tree cannot be re-potted for next year then most councils run a Christmas tree recycling scheme – your tree will be recycled into bark and wood chips for use in the garden. Christmas cards can be recycled with the woodland trust in special bins in TK Maxx, M&S and HomeSense.

What about you – what will you be doing to reduce the amount of waste you create during the festivities?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (14)

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  1. Hazel says:

    I think we do quite well over Christmas, my main issue as ever is the boxes of cheap plastic crap well meaning relatives give the children, or the chocolate variety packs of sweets with stacks of blooming packaging. ( I don’t buy them myself, but I think the Nestle ones have less packaging. I don’t buy Nestle products at all though, plus the Cadbury’s ones are Fair Trade, but then they’re wrapped in so much extra plastic…It’s a tough call!)

    I have to say I love crackers, but had realised a while ago that even the expensive ones (unless you’re talking £150 for Asprey crackers ) have exactly the same useless gifts in, so I’ve been making my own for a couple of years.
    They are pretty homespun, but use up small scraps of (saved) wrapping paper and of course the ever useful loo roll and the snaps came in a paper packet. The hats are saved from work parties (no one wants to mess their hair up!) and the gifts are geared to the recipient- mini hand cream for my gran, flower seeds for my mum, camp blanket badges for DS and his scouting cousins, lip balm for DD1 and SIL, hair slide for DD2 and mini bottles of home made blackberry or apricot whisky for the men!
    They’re not the cheapest, but I’ve included them in the present budget and have bought bits through the year. You could do all lottery tickets or seeds or all homemade gifts, or even sweets or fudge. Anything is better than a flat pink plastic car or more wooden golf tees (when you don’t play golf).

    Food waste is always my biggest challenge, mostly due to good intentions but lack of time or procrastination. I think the trick is to do something else with it ASAP- make and freeze mini turkey pies (very popular in lunchboxes, especially with a pastry initial on top!) or eat roasted vegetable soup on Boxing Day. This year, I will use it all!

  2. Chris says:

    I agree. I have ditched crackers this year and instead bought everyone a keyring from the fairtrade shop so they have a ‘useful’ gift. In fact all our presents are useful. My mother-in-law prefers a food hamper, my parents are getting a cheese board and cheeses plus their favourite drinks etc. My husband gave me my shopping trolley early for my market shopping!
    As for food any left over turkey will be served with the Boxing Day buffet and any veggies reheated as well. I will be baking everyones favourite cakes rather than buying loads of sweets.
    For shopping Farmers Market tomorrow and butchers and favourite veg stall on Christmas Eve!

  3. Julie Day says:

    I try to recycle as much wrapping paper as I can, taking off the tape first. I do buy crackers though and recycle the hats and anything else inside it as well as the box. Our tree is artificial so we reuse it year after year. We have bought too much food but should eat it. We have put spare foods in our extra freezer and when that is empty defrost it then turn it off. Any shiny wrappers I keep for the PCF and card etc will be recycled. Cards – we do recycle at one of the stores boxes for the Woodland Trust in the new year. I do make sure that we recycle and reuse as much as possible, esp the gift bags. We do that for birthdays too, swap bags and end up using them each year.

  4. Katy says:

    I agree with Hazel, crackers always seem a little bit sad and pointless with the cheap plastic toys in them. I usually try and at least save the decorations from them if they are any good – the other year I gathered a number of sprigs of “frosted berry” beads on florists’ wire that look great attached to a plain brown-paper-and-string luggage label as a gift tag.

    It’s difficult when you are always a guest for Christmas (with us, other relatives don’t or can’t travel for some reason), but through gentle suggestions and offers to help you can gradually make a difference. It’s too late this year but I think next year it will be “oh I’ve always fancied making my own crackers, is it OK if I bring some?” – and I’ll work on finding small gifts that people actually want. I love the idea of mini hand creams etc. – a new work colleague has passed on her recipe for home made hand cream too!

    It’s not perfect in every situation, but for many presents and recipients, you can use cloth for wrapping by following online how-to’s for Furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloths). You might even be able to find offcuts that are big enough, at fabric shops/stalls.

    The other thing I am seeing more of, that I really like, is reusable advent calendars – some sort of wall hanging with pockets, or something with drawers/doors in it, that you can put whatever you like in as a picture, present or treat. Less waste, nicer treats, and a brilliant family heirloom in the making.

    I love the idea that as new generations start to have a Christmas of their own, they will bring in their own traditions – and I hope that there will be a good number of “greener” ones. I can’t wait to start mine in a few years’ time!

    Merry Christmas everyone 🙂

  5. LJayne says:

    I do what I can although I’ve got 3 small children and it’s a fine balance between not affecting them. We do try and teach them as much green as possible but they are also small children. Bought Cadburys tree decs today which were in the worst packaging 🙁 It would have been fine to put the foil wrapped decs into a cardboard box. Shall be writing a letter after Christmas!

    Food waste is minimal but what we do have goes to the worms 🙂 I even managed to buy some foil – which we recycle – made out of 100% recycled aluminium today. Well done Bacofoil and just in a cardboard box over the tube. All our wrapping paper is recyclable and our cards will be reused/recycled. I wish I could get my MIL to use non-shiny paper when wrapping our presents but I’ll try and use it for craft.

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Hazel: Hi Hazel; I hear you on the things well meaning people buy; it *is* tough sometimes! Great that you make your own crackers; I made ours last year too and they were great; really well received. Using the freezer quickly is a great way to reduce food waste – good luck with that this year!

    @Chris: Sounds like you have everything well prepared Chris; enjoy your weekend!

    @Julie Day: Great reuse with the wrapping paper, Julie; apparently we get through enough wrapping paper to cover the island of Guernsey each year; good to know you are not contributing to that 😉

    @Katy: Love the sound of your frosted berry wrapping; I bet it looks lovely. We’ve used furoshiki in the past and it can look stunning; it’s a lot of fun to do as well. In our crackers I put something hand written about the recipient – we all spent a moment reading them out before we ate and it was a very special part of our day where I had a wonderful excuse to tell people I loved how much they meant to me 🙂

    @LJayne: Hi Lesley; I agree, even with a ‘not so small’ child there is a lot of compromising to be done. THanks for the heads up on the foil 🙂

  7. I have bought only three gifts this Christmas – one I wrapped in paper that I have had for 4 years because I keep recycling the same Christmas bags year in year out and haven’t need to use any wrapping. The other went in a pretty decorated box that is also a recycle effort from years gone by. The third was a box of chocolates that I didn’t bother to wrap at all as they were just to share with my ex-work mates.
    I am giving my children money and my husband and I aren’t exchanging gifts.
    We are getting together with eight other family members so only one meal needs to be cooked which will save on electricity. I have made the pudding ahead of time and only need to heat it on the day.
    I made my own Christmas cards by recycling last years cards and by using up some of the over-abundance of craft supplies I am trying to reduce.
    I have done nothing else this year, no decorating, no frantic trips to the shopping centre, and especially no stressing. I could easily make a habit of this.

  8. Alyson says:

    We stopped buying chocolates for the children a few years ago because they got so many. They still get given some as presents from other people so they’re not missing out. Another thing was food. Always bought too much for something that only lasts a couple of days. Shops are only closed for a day or two.My husband has told the younger children that there will be no stocking fillers, this year, due to the lack of money and they accepted this very well, the little darlings. I, too, have used furoshiki. I think its great fun. I bought scarves from charity shops and I get them back because presents were only bought for close family members. Everyone has agreed there are too many of us and, so, too expensive.Children only, no adults. We’ve done this present business now for about 8 years now and of course the roll on effect is less wrapping, less wastage,less rubbish. Decorations and artificial tree have made their appearance for the last 12 years that hubby and I have been together. My parents-in-law have used the same tree they bought over 50 years ago…

  9. mieke says:

    Although we don’t celebrate christmas with crackers and christmas turkey, we do have decorations(for trees) and cards.
    This year I made my decorations out of tetrapacks, eggboxes, buiscuitboxes, some left over string, glitters and vilt. Very nice christmas balls and snowmans came out of it.
    I constructed a chair, for my carton made christmas tree, out of pumpkin pits and leftover beads.

    My christmas cards were made from smal A5 sized folders I found at a paper recycling bin. There from a local photographer, used for putting pictures in.
    I send everyone his/her own card back. Inserting them into the folder and glueing it shut.with maybe some added prints.

    Hope you all have a lovely christmas.

  10. mieke says:

    That christmas Chain not Chair!

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Colleen ( Sounds like a wonderful celebration you have planned, Colleen. We celebrate Solistice, had a magical time and now I don’t have to stress with everyone else planning for Christmas 😉

    @Alyson: Hi Alyson, good point about the chocolates and treats; other people buy them, so we don’t need to! Well done on the stocking fillers; glad that was accepted well. Enjoy your day!

    @mieke: Hi Mieke, Sounds like some lovely ideas! I’d love to see some photos, you sound very creative and resourceful.

  12. mieke says:

    I am glad to sent some photo’s but don’t know how?

  13. Penny Thompson says:

    I love this site have learned a lot in the last six months but can you tell me of any way to remove sweat stains from clothes the eco friendly way

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @Penny Thompson: Hi Penny; glad you are enjoying the site. I can’t speak from experience on this but I’d try borax or hydrogen peroxide…

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