Top Tips for a Low Carbon Christmas

Christmas is a time when we all tend to use lot more energy and our carbon footprint (the amount of harmful CO2 we each produce) can leave an even larger impression on our world. So here are a few top tips to help you have a low carbon Christmas without skimping on the fun and festivities.

Buying presents for friends and family is one of the best parts of Christmas so if you are choosing gifts or looking for ideas for yourself, try out some of the online ethical gift stores or charity shops. For example: www.ethicalsuperstore.com, www.lovelula.com, and http://shopping.rspb.org.uk . Alternatively turn your back on consumerism and use your money to support a charity by sponsoring a gift for someone needy; www.oxfam.org.uk/shop/content/unwrapped/oudefault.html

If any of the items you give or receive require batteries – remember to get rechargeable batteries. They will save you money and at the same time you’ll be protecting the environment from the toxic chemicals that are in old batteries.

Send e-cards rather than Christmas cards – it costs less, uses less paper, there’s less transport and no waste afterwards.

Rather than buying rolls and rolls of wrapping paper, you could make your own by decorating newspaper, or wrap your presents in pretty pieces of fabric that can be reused again and again.

If you are buying Christmas cards or wrapping paper – then buy recycled paper and ideally look to support a charity. Many charities offer lovely Christmas cards and paper with profits going to fund their work.

Once the presents are wrapped put them under a live Christmas tree in a pot, rather than having a cut tree. After Christmas, if you keep the tree well watered and put it in the garden, it will last until next year. During the year the tree will absorb lots of CO2, so as well as brightening up the garden it’s also absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

If you are decorating the tree choose low energy Christmas lights, (www.lights4fun.co.uk has a massive range or www.ecocentric.co.uk has a smaller quirky selection). They don’t cost any more to buy but they are much more environmentally friendly, as they use less energy. It is also worth remembering to put the Christmas lights on a timer so they don’t stay on all night. It will save money and the environment.

Do you really need to buy new Christmas decorations again this year? Could you re-use last years? Or make your own? The frivolities of Christmas are lovely but they use up so much of our resources – so anything you can re-use or recycle will help to cut your carbon and your costs.

We all love to stock up on treats at Christmas but rather than going for sweets how about munching on some fair-trade Brazil nuts. Eating Brazil nuts from the Amazon gives people a sustainable income and helps to preserve the forest, soaking up even more carbon from the atmosphere!

Ok, so swapping Brazil nuts for sweets may not be something you want to do ALL the time over Christmas, so if you do fancy some chocolate – look for fair-trade brands. They taste great and help the farmers in the cocoa growing regions.

When you are shopping for Christmas lunch, look for labels that say where the food has come from. See if you can find locally produced meat and vegetables. Transporting food long distances from overseas or even just from the other end of the UK produces many tonnes of CO2 every day, so check the labels and ask the shopkeeper where the food was produced. Better still, ditch the turkey and go for a healthy nut roast instead – just be sure those nuts are Fairtrade! For some meat free recipes try: www.munchlessmeat.co.uk/Recipes.html

After Christmas lunch, if you’re visiting family and friends locally why not suggest that you all walk, rather than take the car. It might even help to work up an appetite for the mince pies at teatime, as well as reduce carbon emissions from using petrol.

Try a candlelit Christmas dinner. By turning the lights off and going for atmospheric candles you’ll reduce your power consumption and in turn your CO2 emissions. It may not make a huge difference, but it’s true that every little bit helps and it’ll be more Christmassy with candles anyway!

After all the festivities are over see how much of the Christmas wrapping paper and Christmas cards can be recycled. If you can reuse wrapping paper for next year – even better! If not put it all in the recycling bin. It takes much less energy and water to produce new paper from recycled pulp than from virgin pulp. You can also shred your waste paper and use it for packing or for bedding for your pets.

If you were lucky enough to get a new mobile phone for Christmas remember to recycle your old one. Many charities collect old mobile phones. Any unwanted gifts or items you no longer want can be donated to your local charity shop to help raise money.

Make sure you compost your vegetable scraps – don’t put them in your dustbin. As they rot down in landfill sites they produce leachate and while sitting in your dustbin they attract vermin. Go for a compost bin or a Greencone [http://www.greencone.com/] if you have a garden. If not then ask your local council – many local councils will collect compostable food scraps.

Christmas is a time of giving. If you can afford it make one of your gifts a donation to charity – however small, you can be sure your cash will be put to good use. If you haven’t got any spare cash then donate some of your time. A day volunteering [http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/HomeAndCommunity/Gettinginvolvedinyourcommunity/Volunteering/index.htm] can make a huge difference to you and the charity. It’s a great way to give back and for many is an inspiring way to start the new year.

As the year draws to a close take a moment to think about how you will live your life in 2010. Consider your impact on the planet and if you can choose a couple of things that you could easily do differently in 2010 that would make a difference. It doesn’t need to be anything major – start small and grow your contribution. Every step we take to reduce our carbon emissions is a step in the right direction, so don’t be put off by the size of the problem – remember the old saying; “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Now is a great time to take that first bite.

Cutting your carbon at Christmas doesn’t have to mean cutting your fun, but it can mean cutting your costs!

Have a very merry green Christmas this year!

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