Ireland will generate approximately 90,000 tonnes of packaging waste this Christmas. With this figure in mind, here are some tips for a sustainable and climate friendly festive season.
Buy a real Christmas tree: This might at first sound counterintuitive as a sustainability measure. After all, you could re-use a fake tree year after year, sparing a tree every time. But that would be the wrong way to look at it because your plastic tree will eventually end up in landfill, whereas if demand for real trees continues then they will keep being replanted.
Give the gift of a plant: Now is a good time to take cuttings from houseplants and pot them up as gifts for your nearest and dearest. It is easy to take cuttings from many succulents, spider plants, or Christmas cactus and pop them into some peat-free compost in a recycled or re-usable plant pot. Alternatively, mid-winter is a good time to plant a deciduous tree outside in Ireland as it will need the full spring season to develop a decent root system for the drier months.
Fifteen million crackers will be pulled in Ireland over Christmas, contributing further unnecessary plastic waste. Maybe consider making your own home-made Christmas crackers with recyclable materials (and better jokes ).
Be a sustainable foodie: Try to resist buying too much food, as much of it will end up as waste – instead, try a ‘refuse, reuse, rot’ approach to your food shopping. Refuse to overbuy, reuse all leftovers, and rot or compost what is left. Plan ahead by ordering your fruit and vegetables through a local box scheme, enjoy some social festivities and visit your local farmers’ market, or buy in bulk (plastic-free, of course! ) and batch cook so that you have more time to enjoy family traditions.
Don’t fight at the dinner table: We are always advised to avoid talking about religion and politics at the dinner table. Likewise, if climate change is an issue that raises some hackles over Christmas dinner, and one that you feel strongly about, try to listen as much as you talk, avoid reciting too many climate change facts, and connect the issue to everyday life. Of course, try to avoid gloom and doom and focus on the positive benefits of climate action - it is Christmas after all!
Leave the door open for Santa: An open fireplace with a chimney is very handy for Santa but he can also choose to come in the door if you decide to install an efficient stove or upgrade your heating system. Burning a fuel like coal in your fireplace over the winter produces about one tonne of carbon dioxide. This is similar to a person taking a return flight to New York. Heat-trapping gasses are causing our climate to change, so trying to reduce our emissions is the perfect gift for the planet.
Avoid the plastic: Earlier this year, researchers found plastic 2,100m under the sea off the Co Kerry coast. When buying presents look at their plastic wrapping, try to avoid toys or other gifts that would increase the amount of plastic waste you generate. Why not replace the glossy, non-recycled paper wrapping with recycled paper? Whenever possible try to buy your gifts and food from local sources and in family-owned shops, to promote local communities and also reduce the carbon footprint from transport.
Think of the birds: Research this year outlined how climate change is occurring so fast that common birds such as magpies cannot adapt and are at the risk of extinction. This Christmas leave the gift of water and the correct food out for our feathered friends.