In 2019 both the UK and Ireland governments declared climate emergencies – so it’s never been more important for families to make this festive season sustainable.  Last Christmas alone our wasted wrapping paper could have stretched around the planet nine times over, so the Live Here Love Here team at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful are calling for families to source eco-friendly alternatives.

Christmas is usually an indulgence of parties, gifts, decorations and lots to eat and drink.  Nowadays there are plenty of eco alternatives that will help save our environment whilst letting us enjoy all the things we love about Christmas.  The charity is calling for consumers to start small and try just one of their top 10 tips for a sustainable Christmas;

Top Tips for an Eco-Friendly Christmas

1. With gift wrapping you want to reuse last year’s giftbags and left over paper before buying more.  Think alternative materials by wrapping in newspaper or make the wrapping part of the present by using cloth or a scarf.  If you have to buy, try recyclable wrapping paper (avoiding glitter as it contains microplastics) and do the ‘scrunch test’.  If the paper stays in a ball shape, then it can be placed in the recycling box but if it ‘springs’ back it is most likely metallised plastic film and therefore not currently recyclable.

2 – Reusing an existing artificial tree is better than buying a new real tree each year. If you do buy, get a potted version you can replant after Christmas and enjoy for years to come. Trees can also be considered as presents too – gift a native tree and plant it with friends and family to mark the end/start of a new year.

3 – Make handcrafted decorations – classic styles that will last a lifetime and are fun to create with the kids. (edible decorations can make things more interesting and are easily disposed of!)

4 – If you’re searching for the perfect party outfit try buy and sell clothing apps or visit a local charity or vintage shop plus all major retailers now stock sustainable clothing lines.  You could always get into the festive season and throw a clothes swap party with friends.

5 – Think organic for food, try to plan ahead as best as possible to minimise waste and visit local fruit and veg or farm shops for package free goods.

6 – Use LED Christmas lights with timers to save energy.

7 – Ditching the car for a winter walk or sharing a lift with friends avoids unnecessary pollution plus the festive season has extended public transport times so glide or try the train!

8 – 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away each year in the UK – send e-cards instead or make a DIY card for close friends and family that they are likely to keep as a memento (again avoiding glitter).  If you need to buy think charity cards that are made of recycled materials.

9 – Create your own advent calendar that will last for generations with wooden boxes or felt pockets and simply restock each year with edible treats.

10 – Gift buying can be one of the most stressful parts of Christmas but there are plenty of options – check if items are environmentally friendly by searching for established logos such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.  Secret Santa is always a good option to keep the number of gifts down or use Secret Santa to regift especially for young children.  Consider buying your presents from a charity shop – in doing so you can reduce your packaging, recycle or rehome existing toys and clothes meaning new resources don’t have to be exploited and you have the added benefit of the money being donated to a good cause.  Try organic and recyclable clothing and beauty products, solid soap ranges, bamboo products as well as pledging money to charity or using vouchers for experiences to enjoy together.

The key is to try and buy less and when you do buy, be responsible. Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also has a number of eco-friendly projects live over Christmas which encourage time spent together as a family – such as Adopt a Spot and various community litter picks – let’s do our bit this Christmas.

Jodie McAneaney, Live Here Love Here Manager called for urgent action as we approach the festive period:  “A green Christmas is possible, if everyone took one small sustainable step it would make a huge impact and reduce waste headed for landfill, bring down our carbon emissions and divert plastics from entering our eco and marine systems. We’ve had a landmark year with a huge increase in volunteers getting involved in our projects – its great progress but we need to keep up the momentum.  We’re calling for everyone to rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle and make steps towards a sustainable Christmas.”

2019 has been noted as a major leap forward in raising awareness of the severity of the climate issues we’re facing – from David Attenborough’s Blue Planet Plastic Pollution Awareness to pioneering activist Greta Thunberg – awareness has never been higher for the environmental crisis we now find ourselves in.

This has been reflected in the increase of volunteers signing up for Live Here Love Here projects right across the year.  273 tonnes of litter were removed from our shores and green spaces through initiatives such as Big Spring Clean, Clean Coasts Week and Adopt a Spot – empowering volunteers and harnessing the nations passion for action.

Jodie continues:  “One of our most encouraging successes is the ‘Adopt a Spot’ scheme where volunteers can take charge of a spot in their local area – improving it for the whole community to enjoy with clean-ups and green-ups (planting and encouraging natural gardens).  This year 130,892 volunteers joined in the various Live Here Love Here projects, including families, community/youth groups, schools, businesses, sporting associations and clubs – tackling areas plagued with litter, graffiti and dog mess plus encouraging people to plant and tend to community gardens.

“We have big plans for 2020 including our annual Live Here Love Here Awards, now in November – an incredible opportunity to acknowledge the selfless volunteers and raise awareness of all the valuable projects happening across the country and throughout the year.  We’ll also see the return of Northern Ireland’s largest volunteer project – The Big Spring Clean and favourites Clean Coasts Week, Blue & Green Flag Awards and Big Beach Clean.  It’s set to be an exciting year ahead and one we hope will turn the tide on our litter problem here in Northern Ireland and protect our country for future generations.”  Visit liveherelovehere.org or contact enquiries@liveherelovehere.org to find out how you can get involved #onesmallthingmyni

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan

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