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Food waste   |   Eating & drinking   |   Plastic

Five steps to an ethical Christmas

Christmas is that time of year when it’s tempting to throw all ethical intentions to the wind in place of decadent decorations, thoughtful gifts for loved ones and any kind of food that takes your fancy. And rightly so. But having an ethical Christmas doesn’t have to mean missing out on all the fun, and making a few swaps here and there is easier than it might sound…

1. Consider your choice of wrapping paper.

Anything laminated or metallic cannot currently be recycled, and as for glitter, which is a micro plastic and seeps into the environment almost undetected, that should be an automatic no-go. Try making your own wrapping with brown paper and using a festive stamp to create your own pattern, or failing that, choose the non-metallic paper options. And while we're on the topic of presents, swap your plastic-coated metallic ribbons for recycled fabric ones where possible.

2. Use dried oranges for Christmas decorations

Christmas is the time of plastic proliferation. In a year that has seen Blue Planet II send the issue of plastic pollution skyrocketing up the agenda, now is the time to consider a fabulously fruity Christmas tree decoration instead of yet another plastic bauble. Cut slices of orange and lay them in your oven on its lowest temperature. Bake until dried (anything from two to four hours depending on your oven) and then hang on the tree using red or green wool. Mix it up by drying pink grapefruit or lemons, or if you like your decorations a little spicier, try hanging dried red chillies. For the interior decorations, collect and hang fir cones and other green foliage, bonus points if you find some with berries.

3. Make your own Christmas wreath

There’s nothing more festive than winding beautiful, dark green holly and ivy into a traditional wreath, while sipping mulled wine and listening to old-school Christmas tunes. Invite a friend round for a catch up and a wreath-making session and enjoy the run-up to Christmas as it should be, minus the hectic shopping and preparation. Bend an old wire coat hanger into a circular shape, winding long strands of ivy around the loop until you have a thick base, then weave in the shorter and spikier holly sprigs. Add more foliage until you are happy with the shape, perhaps adding a little hanging Santa or red ribbon through the middle as a finishing touch.

4. Use up your leftovers

It’s the time of year many of us will eat to excess, but try as we might, there is always far too much left over. Before turning to the compost, try using some of these leftover recipes and embrace a bit of cooking to switch up the Christmas TV routine. On a more serious note, Christmas isn’t a time of plenty for everyone and it’s worth remembering as we tuck into yet another feast that many across the country are going to bed hungry. You can volunteer at community food networks such as FoodCycle and help cook and host meals made from donated food, or there are initiatives like the reverse advent calendar, which involves adding one item to a hamper throughout December and donating it all to a local food bank.

5. Support your local businesses

Busy high streets, bad weather and traffic can mean it’s all too tempting to use certain online delivery giants for your shopping. But Christmas is a vital time of year for independent shops, which face an uphill battle competing with online shopping for the rest of the year. Make this year the year you log off and explore your local town or city with its independent shops or markets. It’s also a way to reduce your carbon footprint – instead of ordering five different deliveries in five different vans with their respective diesel emissions, take yourself to the town centre and do it all in one trip.

Happy ethical Christmas!



2 Years 4 Months

I know Christmas is but a distant memory, but I do have a couple of thoughts on this article:

Re item 1) Surely the oranges/pink grapefruits/lemons have travelled a long way to get to the UK? Is this good for the environment? Not to mention the fuel being used for this method of drying in the oven.

Re item 5) Carrying this “shop local” advice to its logical conclusion, I imagine Guy and the team would lose out on quite a lot of Christmas revenue if everyone shopped in their own locality rather than clicked on Riverford for their festive fayre.

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