While doing an assignment for college recently, I wandered the streets of Dublin, Galway and Kildare with a microphone asking people whether they thought an eco-friendly Christmas was possible. What I got was an entire range of ideas that I had never thought of, and I think that I will share.
Did you know that real trees are probably more environmentally friendly than artificial ones? It’s still debatable to an extent, but if your tree is sustainably sourced from a managed forest, it’s probably a safer bet. This is because real trees are biodegradable, and because fake trees impact the environment negatively in the amount of petroleum that they use in their manufacture. The plastic of fake trees is also less biodegradable than the wood of the real trees, so can cause more damage to the environment in their disposal, as they take longer to decay. So don’t feel guilty if you love the real deal at Christmastime. In the long run, it’s better for the environment too.
A local school near to where I was wandering thought that the lights in a nearby shopping centre had gone on far too early. They’d surveyed shoppers on the subject, and found that the general public agreed. Granted, their teacher admitted that the reason the shoppers objected to the Christmas lights being turned on mid-November may not have been environmental. But the fact that a majority of shoppers disliked the lights being on so early would make one wonder at the reasons for having them on at all. Maybe the results of this and other surveys would encourage centres to keep from turning on the lights until the week of the 1st December.
In an especially poetic moment, one man told me that in order to make his Christmas more eco-friendly, he planted more flowers in his garden, and was giving them out as gifts. My heart honestly melted, for something so simple that I had never thought of. What an ideal and personal Christmas present.
What about wrapping? The people I spoke to who didn’t believe an eco-friendly Christmas was possible said that it was mainly because of the wrapping and the presents’ waste. Some people mentioned that it would be possible to wrap presents in newspaper, but that realistically they probably wouldn’t. I was thinking about this actually, and the more that I thought the more I realised it could be done quite well. If you used ribbons and those shiny bows that people put on presents, you could make your newspaper-wrapped gifts look chic and über-trendy. It’s definitely do-able and one that I’m going to look at for next year.
An idea that I tried this year was to make fudge for presents. I am no stellar cook, but the recipe was so easy, and it only took about 40 minutes to make enough to go around. I packed them into little bags tied with ribbon and sparkles. I hope the wrapping makes up for the questionable quality of the sweets. The jury’s out on whether the packing itself is actually sustainable, but I tried, using material and ribbon I found around the house, so I like to think that I tried.
The last steps around the eco-friendly Christmas focus around the waste removal. Once the tins of Roses are finished, most households have almost twice the amount of waste after Christmas week than usual. Wrapping paper is the obvious one, but wine bottles etc can also be recycled. The Christmas tree can be chopped for firewood if you have a fire, or alternatively can be scrapped sustainably. Turkey and ham can of course make loads of sandwiches for over the Christmas period, and we recommend heating scraps for the dogs and cats that have special places in your heart. For any unwanted food, check out the tins/cans appeal by Saint Vincent de Paul, this goes for toys too.
Most people know of recycling programs in their local waste collection centres, and if you are resident in Ireland you can avail of Repak’s new Recyclemore App which will help you find your nearest centre. Tips on having a green Christmas and the opening hours of your local recycling facility are available on http://www.recyclemore.ie/repak-green-christmas, and they also give out information on local Christmas tree recycling centres.
For any vegetarians ( or would-be vegetarians) out there, I will be posting a whole host of new veggie friendly recipes for the New Year. I’m trying out as many as I can over Christmas, so stay posted!
Merry Christmas to all,