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Festive fun without the footprint

Published: 27 November 2019

It's time to make a difference

What would Greta do this Christmas? This year Greta Thunberg has been all over the news with her impassioned pleas to save our planet. So we sat down and thought about how Greta would go about having festive fun but without the footprint.

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, the tree, the food, the decorations and lights and of course getting together with family and seeing children's faces light up when they unwrap that present they wanted so much. But is there a way of doing things differently this year? Being a bit more green?

Here are some ways you might do things differently this year…

Shopping locally

By shopping locally – obviously with your eco-friendly shopping bag - you improve air quality by minimising van delivery journeys, reduce packaging waste from ordering online and best of all you support small local businesses. You'll be surprised about what is produced on your doorstep from Surrey gin, and beer to cheeses and arts and crafts. Check out our Christmas events guide for a list of markets across Surrey. Also, look out for shops that are springing up all over the place like Greenwise in Fetcham which is going plastic free.

Recyclable wrapping paper

Christmas wrapping paper and cards are one of the biggest recycling nightmares over Christmas. Sharing seasons greetings and gifts are always a highlight of Christmas, but please try to avoid anything with glitter, plastic, foil or batteries.

According to BIFFA the UK produces 30% more waste than usual over Christmas using 277,000 miles of wrapping paper. If you have old Christmas cards from last year why not cut them up and use them as gift tags?

A sustainable approach to gift buying

Could you manage a plastic free Christmas? It would be tricky to go completely plastic free but by making small changes you can do your bit. Here's five things...

  1. Everyone likes smellies at Christmas, but look out for plastic free options for example replace liquid soap in plastic packaging with soya based soap, those Christmas markets are sure to have some on offer.
  2. Buy someone a metal straw to be used instead of plastic straws or if you know someone who likes their takeaway coffee buy them a re-usable cup.
  3. Have you visited our Revive shops at some of Surrey's community recycling centres? You'll be surprised at all the treasures that can be found – channel that shabby chic or try upcycling for a homemade Christmas.
  4. Consider when present shopping how much packaging has been used is there an alternative that uses less?
  5. Give an experience as a gift.

Real or plastic tree? the great debate

It's never really Christmas until the tree is up let's be honest and there are pro's and con's to whether you go real or artificial. If you decide on a real tree then there are some environmentally friendly things to consider – check the Soil Association website for some interesting insights.

After Christmas see if your local district or borough council has any arrangements for tree recycling, or if you can take them to a community recycling centre.

Artificial trees can give years of dedicated service, which helps to offset the environmental costs of it's manufacture. So take good care of it and pack it up safely for next year.

Trees are great for the environment, so when you put your tree up, consider donating £3 to the Surrey Trees for Christmas appeal, which is supporting the planting of 1.2 million trees in the county by 2030 – one for every Surrey resident.

Home grown decorations

  1. Christmas Wreaths - go forage go explore, fancy Christmas decoration making and a walk? the Surrey Hills Society are arranging various walks and wreath making sessions gathering winter foliage. Surrey Wildlife Trust also has wreath making classes. Take a look at our Winter Walks issue for some ideas on where you can walk and forage.
  2. Why not make your own crackers or buy crackers that don't have lots of plastic nik-naks in such as that super large paper clip that no-one ever used ever, and the paper hat that stays on everyone's head for seconds over Christmas lunch.

Reduce your electricity consumption

The twinkling of fairy lights is always a joy to behold, but electricity usage goes up by 39% over Christmas. So maybe think about turning those Christmas lights off during the day and only switching them when it starts to get dark. Switching off the lights is also good for fire safety – read our Fire Safety at Christmas article for tips.

Reduce food waste

Apart from the tree, Christmas is also all about the food but it is often a time of excess and food waste is the sad result. But by planning ahead food waste can be reduced. Here are some simple ways to reduce food waste:-

  • Plan your meals.
  • Clear your freezer before Christmas to clear space for food over from Christmas.
  • There are lots of great leftover food recipes that mean that last bit of turkey can be gobbled up rather than thrown away.
  • Donate any unwanted food to a foodbank or local community fridge.

Discover leftover recipes, food waste tips and more information on what else you can recycle at the Surrey Environment Partnership website or you can download the Surrey Recycles app. And don't forget that many rubbish and recycling collections change over the festive period, so check the dates with your local district or borough council.

If we all made one change in Surrey this Christmas it would make a world of difference. Merry Christmas everyone!

P.S. Follow us on social media on Surrey Matters Facebook and Twitter and find out what Pip the Pudding is doing each day to make a difference over Christmas in Surrey.

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