As part of plans to help Stevenage get to net zero emissions by 2030, Stevenage Borough Council is asking residents to put the environment at the forefront of their shopping and catering plans to enjoy a green Christmas.
Christmas is a time when we consume a huge amount of food, packaging and gifts; the message is that we can still delight in the season by giving more thought and planning to reduce our impact on the planet. By considering this, we can make a significant impact on reducing our emissions this year and in each Christmas to come.
Lighting and energy use can be costly and lead to higher emissions so switch to LED Christmas lights – which typically use between 25-80 per cent less energy than traditional bulbs. Turn them off at bedtime to reduce emissions further.
Choose recyclable cards, wrapping paper and gift bags – cards, bags and paper often use glitter and are plastic based, which means they cannot be recycled. Use recycled, craft or brown wrapping paper to ensure it can be recycled. Save gift bags, bottle bags, ribbons and bows for use throughout the year. More sustainable, recyclable and reusable options are available for traditional items such as Advent calendars and home decorations; why not make it a craft activity and involve the family. One fun option is to make a foraged door wreath.
Make your own Christmas crackers – Get creative and make your own (Blue Peter-style, loo rolls and tissue paper). You can then fill them with what you want and avoid all those disposable plastic toys that come with mass-produced crackers.
An important step is to buy and plastic free local products; why not start by buying your food from your local farmers market where you can be confident that the produce has been sourced with the minimum of food miles and will benefit Hertfordshire. Remember to take your reusable bags when you go shopping to reduce plastic use.
When it comes to avoiding food waste a good idea is to make a meal plan for Christmas – decide what meals and treats you are going to cook, write a list of the ingredients you need and then keep to that list when shopping. This will help to avoid buying extra food which may get wasted at home.
Make the most of your leftovers to save food from going to waste by trying some low waste recipes. Freezing is also a great way to avoid waste and keep food for another day over the season.
When it comes to getting a Christmas tree, consider what is the most sustainable tree for you. Artificial trees have a much higher carbon footprint than real trees, but if you keep an artificial tree for 10 years, its carbon footprint would be less in the long-term.
If you go for a real tree, rentable ones are available which are already grown and potted for you to take home before returning after the festive period. If you choose a traditional cut tree, try to get one which is local and sustainably grown and dispose of it correctly after Christmas, via a tree collection or your garden waste bin if allowed by your district council. Choose Forest Stewardship Council-approved trees to improve your environmental impact. It may also be possible to plant it in your garden and use it next year!
Travel also makes up for a large part of Christmas carbon footprints (on par with food emissions), so a good one to reduce where possible. Walk to the pub, to church or your relatives if possible and avoid flying if you can take public transport.
Over 81 million gifts worth £42 million are discarded in Britain every year; many will have been shipped or flown thousands of miles, so buy presents thoughtfully and try to ensure they will be well received. Give a gift they really want; why not gift an experience like a day out, or consider a voucher for a local day out, restaurant or event. If you do end up with an unwanted gift, why not find someone who does want it on Ebay, Freegle or Depop.
Another great option is to give a bicycle as a gift to a member of your family that they can use to travel sustainably after Christmas; Stevenage is a great place to cycle with 28 miles of fully segregated cycleways. Cycling also improves fitness and wellbeing as well as cutting carbon emissions. You might also consider something else sustainable; Perhaps something for the garden to encourage home grown vegetables or more wildlife.
The Hertfordshire WasteAware Shop Local page offers a selection of local fairs and fetes along with an alternative gift list to ensure you can find something special, unique and often local.
Councillor John Gardner, Executive member for Environment at Stevenage Borough Council, said: “With Christmas approaching we would really like to encourage residents to think about ways of reducing their waste and choosing more sustainable options to help the environment.
“Following some of these simple steps, whether it’s cutting back on food waste, choosing the right tree or making your own decorations, can make a difference – so why not make it a greener Christmas and help us to achieve our target of getting to net zero emissions in Stevenage by cutting waste.”
For more details on waste reduction and recycling in Stevenage, visit: https://www.stevenage.gov.uk/waste-and-recycling