Christmas is a time of jubilation and indulgence and, in the words of Andy Williams, the most wonderful time of year. It’s hard to improve upon the delights of Christmas, but what if we could make it more sustainable? That way, we could enjoy all its pleasures and be kind to the environment in the process.
Somewhere between the stuffed turkey, sparkling tree and beautifully wrapped presents Christmas has become a particularly wasteful time of the year and it is having a considerable impact on our planet. Last Christmas it was estimated that the UK disposed over five million tonnes of festive waste including food and drink, wrapping paper, trees and unwanted gifts. That’s equivalent to 450,000 double decker buses. The plastic waste alone totalled 114,000 tonnes, equivalent to the weight of over three million Emperor penguins.*
At The Green House Hotel, in Dorset, all decoration and menu suggestions are thought through and their environmental impact fully considered. Hotel manager Oliva O’Sullivan believes that, with a little forward planning, we can all have a more sustainable Christmas without comprising.
Here, Olivia shares her top tips for being making your Christmas more eco-friendly with a few simple changes the whole family will want to get involved in.
The long-standing debate between real and artificial is complex. While it is often argued that cutting down trees destroys wildlife habits and carbon capture, studies have found that artificial trees need to be used more than 20 times to make them sustainable as they take an enormous amount of energy to manufacture and are often made from synthetic materials hard to dispose of. In the seven to 12 years it takes a real tree to grow to optimum Christmas tree height, it can capture up to one tonne of carbon.*
When buying a real tree, consider purchasing a potted tree in a large pot. If looked after well the tree will be usable for at least two or three years before it will need to be re-potted, to extend its life. If you have the space, trees can eventually be replanted to become part of your outdoor landscape as is the case at The Green House Hotel.
Another creative alternative is to take your whole Christmas tree concept outside and decorate a tree for the birds using seed bells, suet and pine cones with peanut butter. This is a great activity for the whole family and offers an important food source for birds during the winter.
If you want to be reassured that your tree has been grown sustainably, look for the FSC-certification logo. If you want a tree that’s certified as organic and pesticide-free, get one that’s approved by the Soil Association.
Of course, if you already have a plastic tree, keep using it and make it last as long as possible but look into environmental options when it comes to replacing it. Pre-loved trees can also be purchased online to pro-long their life and environmental impact.
If it’s time to get rid of your real tree, ensure you look up your council disposal services as many now have mulching services which can re-purpose the trees for landscaping projects.
Homemade crafts and food are lovely and more personal alternatives to shop brought presents, while a day out or an activity is usually more fun and a great way to cut back on cardboard and consumerism. If you are planning on purchasing, there are a wealth of small businesses and independent suppliers making great products from recycled materials. Many of the big-name brands have also introduced a range of gifts that give back, with a percentage either going to charity or given back to communities in need.
If you’re buying for multiple adults consider doing a Secret Santa to save on money as well as waste and when buying for children try to avoid gifts that require batteries as discarded batteries can quickly become an environmental hazard.
When it comes to wrapping the presents, it’s best to opt for decorated parcel paper, recycled wrapping or those made from fibres such as hemp as anything glossy or metallic is hard to recycle.
When unwrapping large gifts, save the paper as it can easily be reused for smaller presents and any creased paper can be ironed flat to be reused time and time and again.
The food is perhaps one of the biggest causes of Christmas waste and potentially one of the simplest changes we can make. At the Green House Hotel’s restaurant, Arbor, all food is sourced from suppliers based within a 50-mile radius of the hotel, ensuring ethical production and reducing the carbon output from farm to plate.
The same can be applied to your festive feast; shop locally from organic suppliers and local businesses and consider packaging when purchasing. While it may be more expensive than your local supermarket, this can make us more mindful about what we really need and reduce the amount of food waste come Boxing Day.
When it comes to leftovers, don’t be lazy. Challenge the family to come up with creative recipes from the remaining ingredients which should easily see you through until the New Year. If you don’t live with a family of foodies, an elderly neighbour or a nearby soup kitchen will always be grateful for extra food.
For those looking for something other than a sandwich to make with your leftover turkey, the Arbor’s award-winning Head Chef Andy Hilton has a heart-warming chowder recipe.
Leftover Christmas Turkey Chowder
2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
2 cups mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, broccoli or sprouts)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups diced cooked turkey
200ml of chicken stock (or if you are feeling adventurous, use the turkey carcass to make your broth)
1/4 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 x garlic cloves minced
1 x pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 slices bacon – cooked and crumbled
Prep 20m: Cook 25m:
TIP! Remember leftovers have been cooked once already so this dish has to be eaten when made and not reheated.