Ilona Amos: Wishing for a green Christmas

The wrapping paper binned at Christmas is enough to encircle the globe nine times
The wrapping paper binned at Christmas is enough to encircle the globe nine times
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There will be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and caroling out in the snow, apparently. Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s also a time for mass consumption and shameful levels of unnecessary waste. Research suggests the amount of rubbish we bung out jumps by nearly a third at Christmas.

All that spreading of goodwill to friends and family around the globe is commendable, but a new survey by londoncleaningsystems.co.uk estimates that as many as a billion cards could end up in landfill instead of being recycled.

On top of that there’s a trail of wrapping paper that stretches for 227,000 miles – long enough to encircle the equator nine times if you were to gift-wrap the planet.

Six million Christmas trees are also discarded once the celebrations end, not to mention a mountain of unwanted gifts.

And don’t get me started on the food and drink. We may all scoff our own body weight in festive fare, but the equivalent of around two million turkeys, more than 17 million Brussels sprouts and 74 million mince pies will be tossed out once the big day is over.

Since this is also a time when even the most abstemious will partake of a Yuletide tipple, all those empty bottles of wine, sherry and Bailey’s fairly pile up. More than 13,000 tonnes of glass is thrown away across the UK as a result of our festive excesses.

Bah, humbug, I hear you say. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are a few simple steps we can take to lessen the impact of Christmas on the environment.

Unfortunately fake trees aren’t necessarily a good answer since the carbon footprint involved in their production means you need ten Christmases before they are comparable with the genuine article. You can get a real tree that can be replanted and resurrected for future appearances. But if not then make sure your tree is recycled rather than going to landfill.

No matter how fabulous your decorations, there is no need to illuminate the entire neighbourhood. Save energy – and money – by not leaving lights burning 24 hours a day over the festive period.

We need to get over the stigma of gifting used goods. Research shows only a quarter of Scots have ever given pre-loved items to their nearest and dearest, despite the fact that more than two-thirds have bought such items for themselves. As well as reducing waste, buying from a charity shop has the added bonus of raising money for good causes. So take comfort from a recent YouGov poll which found four out of five folk would be happy to unwrap second-hand presents on the 25th.

Pass on any unwanted gifts to charity and make sure to recycle cards and wrapping. Admittedly they don’t look so good on the mantelpiece, but electronic greetings save on postage, transport emissions and landfill.

For the feast itself, buy local wherever possible and don’t overstock the cupboards. Get creative with leftovers – there are plenty of recipes out there to help – or stick it in the freezer for future use. Alternatively, pass useable food on to friends and neighbours who might be glad of it and make sure any that does have to be chucked is composted.

Forecasters have dashed hopes for a festive snowfall, with only mountainous regions having any real chance of a white Christmas this year. But we can make sure it’s green.

They say that philanthropic fellow from the North Pole knows whether we’re naughty or nice. So let’s be good, for goodness’ sake. Wishing good health and happiness to you all.