Its that time of year again, Christmas, a time for thinking of family and friends, eating, drinking and celebrating. Lets spare a thought at this time and think of the things that we can do to help protect the environment. A little thought and care can make a big difference towards avoiding damage to our environment without spoiling your celebration.
Polluting industries often cease their activities during the holidays, and the atmosphere, land, and water are able to recover a little from the effects of pollution.
When the amount of commuting to and from work is reduced, there is a corresponding reduction in motor vehicle emissions.
Christmas motivates many people to donate to charity, including charities working to mitigate environmental damage.
The exchange of consumer products in Christmas wrapping, many of which will be unneeded and/or unappreciated, contributes to the sending of consumer waste to landfills, unless consumers choose to regift them.
The cultivation of Christmas trees for display during a few weeks, before they are sent to landfills, represents a monoculture which sometimes reduces the use of arable land for agriculture.
Artificial Christmas trees are manufactured by processes which may have harmful effects on the environment.
Christmas decorations for homes and for Christmas trees are consumer products which are sometimes discarded to landfills.
Electric Christmas lights consume electricity, which, by most means of production, harms the environment. But remember candles and oil lamps can be fire hazards.
Increased travel to visit friends and relatives generally involves the consumption of fossil fuels.
One solution to counter the negative effects is alternative giving to help you to save money, reduce your Christmas carbon footprint and have a more eco friendly and sustainable Christmas.
Some manufacturers and retailers have developed new ranges of less environmentally damaging products in response to consumer interest and demands. Support these efforts.
When buying gifts check that they have not been manufactured using cheap labour in sweatshops in third world countries. Read labels carefully. Be aware of false or misleading claims that products are safe for the environment. Support local Oxfam/Fair Trade/Amnesty retail outlets. Try to wrap presents with ribbon or string instead of sticky tape.
GIFTS:- This year why not give a gift with a difference?
1. Young trees.
2. Bulbs or seeds.
3. UBiee Power Pills
3. Non-violent toys.
4. A homemade gift. (Yule Log, centre piece, jam etc)
5. A gift of your time e.g. using your skills of baking, baby-sitting etc.
Good quality products that will last. Products with a long life symbol keep the energy used in manufacturing new goods to a minimum and avoid the creation of waste.
Products that do not contain CFC’s. Check that sprays and similar products are clearly marked “ CFC- free.” or “ozone friendly.” CFC’s damage the ozone layer.
Cosmetics, which use natural materials, preferably from companies, which will refill the bottle so it can be used indefinitely.
Soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based candles as they biodegrade, are smoke-free, and so more eco friendly.
DO NOT CHOOSE:-
Products with excess packaging. Buy unwrapped items and wrap them simply rather than buying over packaged goods.
clothes made from natural fabrics such as cotton, linen or wool. Some outlets now promote garments made from environmentally friendly cotton.
Stationery and other paper products made from recycled paper.
Books from the large range dealing with environmental issues.
Paraffin candles are made from petroleum residues so neither do your health or the environment any good.
RECYCLE YOUR UNWANTED GIFTS:-
Unfortunately everyone receives at least one unwanted gift at Christmas. Recycle my unwanted presents to charities, local hospitals and hospices they are often very pleased to receive unwanted smellies to give to patients.
An estimated 1.7 billion Christmas cards are sent each year in Britain alone, the equivalent of 200,000 trees, and around 1 million Christmas cards are thrown away every year.
There’s no point recycling rubbish if you don’t buy recycled products! Purchase wrapping paper and Christmas cards printed on recycled paper from charities that donate up to 20% to less fortunate people at the same time.
Recycling all our cards, wrapping paper, bottles, cans and even Christmas trees will mean less waste going into landfill sites that are filling up fast.
Buy good quality toys that will last and can be used again and again. Choose wooden toys over plastic ones. This will help to reduce the amount of energy needed for manufacturing and to avoid the creation of waste.
Whenever possible, buy toys that can be run from mains rather than from batteries.
Pick games with an environmental theme, which help children appreciate the value of our environment and how important it is for us to protect it.
Avoid poor quality toys and disposable toys.
Millions of batteries are used every year, the range toys and equipment requiring them is increasing all the time. Many batteries contain hazardous materials, including cadmium and mercury and can cause pollution in disposal.
Use mains power wherever possible. Remember that manufacturing batteries can take up to 50 times more energy than the batteries can provide. Mains electricity is many times cheaper than batteries.
Switch to using rechargeable batteries. A battery charger can make a useful Christmas gift.
Look for batteries that are free of mercury and cadmium.
Dispose of batteries carefully.
Use old batteries with new ones. The new batteries try to recharge the old ones, cutting their useful life.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE:-
Christmas would not be the same without the traditional tree and decorations. Real trees are carbon neutral, absorbing as much carbon dioxide as they grow as they will emit when burnt or left to decompose. They are also a wildlife habitat and a naturally renewable resource.
Most Christmas trees are grown on managed tree farms for Christmas or come from thinnings of larger forests. They are a renewable resource and generate employment.
Buy a tree with roots in a pot, which you can use year after year. When it grows too big for indoor use, it can be replanted outdoors in the garden. There are more and more potted trees on the market each year. Make sure that your tree is properly secured and positioned away from doors, stairs, open fires, and heaters. Use only good quality Christmas tree lights which meet approved standards. It is important to keep a real tree in a cool place in a leak proof container and water it frequently. Remember Safety First. If watering a tree, ensure that electricity is switched off and that no water comes in contact with the lights.
In some areas Local Authorities operate recycling schemes where you can leave your old Christmas tree to be shredded. Check out with your own Local Authority before disposing of your tree to see if they have such a scheme.
Although artificial trees last for many years they are made from metal and derivatives of PVC, which requires large amounts of energy to make, and also creates by-products such as lead which can be harmful to both the environment and human health. The average life of an artificial tree is just 6 years and given that they are not naturally biodegradable they will potentially pollute a landfill site for many years to come. Most artificial trees are now made in Taiwan and China and so have additional energy costs associated with transport.
Buy good quality decorations which will last year after year. Store the decorations carefully away for future use. Avoid the cheaper varieties, which have to be thrown away after only one use.
Encourage the children to get involved in making decorations for the tree from everyday household items. A number of books and magazines will show you how to make decorations for the tree. House decorations can be made from organic, recycled and scrap materials. Try popcorn, dough, cinnamon sticks, bows, gingerbread, holly, seasonal berries, ivy and evergreen branches – once you have finished with them, you can put them in the compost. Don’t forget to turn off your fairy lights
Christmas tree lights left on for 10 hours a day over the 12 days of Christmas produce enough carbon dioxide to inflate 12 balloons – so make sure you get energy saving light bulbs for your home and try outdoor solar powered fairy lights for some winter sparkle without adding to your carbon footprint.
ENTERTAINING AND FOOD:-
Having a big crowd over for Christmas dinner can make it tempting to use disposable products. Don’t use plastic containers. Plastic leaches chemicals into food, especially when heated, so even if you store food in plastic transfer it to glass before reheating. If possible forget disposable plates and utensils altogether. Try to buy organic fruit and vegetables. Although they are a little more expensive, they are grown without artificial fertilisers and pest-repellents, which can cause so much harm to the environment. Throw those vegetable peelings on your compost heap and make some natural fertiliser for your garden next year. Organic turkeys taste better too try to make sure it has been reared in humane conditions.
Shop at farmers markets or buying direct from the farmer is far cheaper than buying organic in the supermarket. Think of the benefits – the taste of chemical-free food, the reduction in food miles and CO2 emissions, and reduced dependence on oil. Buying locally produced food also boosts rural jobs. If demand for organic produce grows, they will be grown in larger quantities and the prices will start coming down.
Getting to your destination is half the battle, but the other half is what all of our travel does to the environment. If you can avoid flying, particularly short-haul flights, do so. Buses and trains are less expensive, and can be a bit of an adventure because you actually get to see things along the way. Regardless of your mode of transportation,consider offsetting your emissions. The money you pay for offsetting goes to projects that reduce carbon in the atmosphere, like reforestation and renewable energy.
CHRISTMAS CLEAR OUT:-
When you are clearing up after it is all over, pay attention to what waste is being generated. Remember to avail of recycling schemes for disposing of paper, glass and cans. Bring empty bottles to the nearest bottle bank and cans to the nearest can bank. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
With a little planning we can all have a wonderful Christmas and make a difference to the environment too.
The 6 Musketeers