Greening Christmas: Saying ‘Bah Humbug!’ to plastic.


Is Christmas sneaking up on you?

Cards in the shops. Grottos appearing. Jingle bells chiming up in the background and small people getting excited. The festive season is looming. Goodwill, laughter, lights, decorations, presents, lots of food, lots of glitter, lots of sparkle and lots of …. plastic.

The festive period generates an extra three million tonnes of rubbish in the UK, a whopping 115kg per household, of which plastic packaging represents a sizeable proportion. Nationwide, an estimated 117,000 tonnes of plastic is thrown away and not recycled each Christmas.

Much of what we do at Christmas generates plastic waste. So many of the presents we choose are made of plastic, especially children’s toys. Or they are packaged in plastic, like those attractive boxes of smellies and body care products we buy for friends and relations. Everything from the new iPad for a discerning teenager to a food hamper beautifully wrapped for the grandparents, or that special delivery of a bouquet of flowers preserved in cellophane for Aunty Doris, contains plastic.

You may have already taken up Greening Steyning’s ‘Plastic Free pledge’ to cut down on single use plastic. But Christmas can be a real challenge. How can you keep to joy and fun of the festive season while saying ‘Bah humbug’ to plastic?

Deciding what to buy is hard enough without thinking about its environmental impact. But there are alternatives. Wooden toys made to last and pass down the generations are somehow more precious. If they are too expensive there are always good ‘pre-loved’ toys to be found that can be cleaned, smartened up and given new life. What about an ‘IOU’ to take your offspring somewhere special; a panto, ice skating, a muddy bike ride? The possibilities are endless.

The grown up versions can be equally fun: a cookery course; an outdoor adventure day; or a relaxing body massage? Forget the plastic wrapped soaps and cosmetics, there are websites selling beauty and body products that make a point of avoiding plastic. Or you could make up your own hamper of bathroom and kitchen goodies to start someone else down the plastic free road.

Before you wrap that ‘special’ gift, stop! Many wrapping papers contain plastic. Do the scrunch test. If you scrunch it up in your hand and it stays scrunched then it can probably be recycled. If it springs back, it can’t. Since Sellotape can’t be recycled, why not wrap your parcels in brown paper tied up with coloured wool or sting. You can hand decorate them with potato printed designs, or natural greenery from the garden, or old book pages cut into Christmas tree shapes. Use ‘Google’ if you need inspiration. Time consuming? Yes. But fun and it can be turned into a family activity.

If you want to be radical, what about cutting down on presents dramatically by inviting Secret Santa to your Christmas gatherings? A single well-chosen gift, or even better a homemade one, can be a lot more special than a pile of so-so presents bought in a hurry, and destined for the charity shop or bin. Taking turns unwrapping gifts and guessing who they are from can be a lot more memorable than opening your stack of presents quietly in the corner.

Decorating the house with greenery, handmade wreathes, orange and clove pomanders, salt dough or edible decorations for the tree, is also fun and plastic free. And that Christmas tree? Yes, drag the artificial one out of the loft again. But if you are considering a new one, go for a real tree.

On the food front, it seems so easy to dash into the supermarket and stock up with all those ready-made mince pies, sausages rolls and dips. But they are nearly all wrapped in plastic that will find its way into the bin at the end of the festive season. Instead of queuing at the check out, stay home and make your own puddings, Christmas cake and mince pies and avoid a mound of plastic wrapping. And buy your vegetables loose and local.

In the party mood? Use real china and cutlery rather than disposables. As for cocktails, forget the plastic straws and sip with paper ones.

And as for Christmas crackers – the clue is in the name. They are crackers when you think about it! Let’s face it. Missing out on the jokes and plastic trinkets wouldn’t be a great loss. If it’s the hats that appeal, how about holding a competition to see who can make the most elaborate one using only their left over wrapping paper?

So this Christmas, why not give a gift to the planet by cutting back and reducing plastic, and taking one more step along that plastic free road.

For more information onGreening Steyning’s Plastic Free campaign visit: www.1010steyning.org
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