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The Great Places

A to Z for a green Christmas

A is for Artificial trees These are not necessarily greener - although they last for longer, they are made from plastic, not recyclable or from a renewable source and have probably been shipped great distances. There are also question marks over where they are made and the labour used. Real trees help to remove carbon from the atmosphere while they are growing – check out C for more on real trees B is for Batteries Christmas brings yet more battery-devouring appliances and toys. The energy used to manufacture a battery is around 50 times greater than it gives out, and the UK wastes 20,000 - 30,000 tonnes of batteries every year ( So use mains or go for rechargeable appliances where possible, and treat your household to a battery charger - preferably one that charges NiMH batteries, least damaging to the environment, and rechargeable 1000 times C is for Cards 1 billion Christmas cards are dumped each year in the UK (Friends of the Earth). Use recycled cards, and spread a sustainability message. Make your own from last year’s cards. Alternatively walk to nearby family and friends and pass on your Christmas Greetings in person… pick up the phone and speak to loved ones far away. Or send an e-card ( which can easily be deleted in the New Year. Clothes Over 80,000 tonnes of old clothes will be thrown away this Christmas. If you do get a new wardrobe, make sure you donate your old clothes to a local charity shop/Sarah Lodge. Christmas Trees Real trees (prior to cutting!) pump out oxygen which we need and slurp up climatechanging CO2. We used six million Christmas Trees across Britain last year of which only 10% were recycled. For a change, look around outdoors for fallen cones, branches, and festoons of ivy, to transform your home into a magical wonderland. If you must have a tree, make sure you get one from a sustainable source check out the British Christmas Tree Growers Association where trees are grown according to strict guidelines or the Soil Association which certifies trees as organic which means no pesticides have been used. Look for one with good roots, and apply TLC; keep it away from heaters and remember to water it. Remember to recycle your tree after Christmas. Many local authorities and garden centres will be recycling Christmas trees after the festive period. Meanwhile get outside and plant a tree – your present to the planet. Or you could just forego the whole palaver and dedicate a tree - it’ll offset some carbon emissions, too. D is for Decorations Use last year’s decorations or decorate your tree with products that are fairly traded and ethically sourced. Or get creative and make your own. E is for Eco-bags Use a cotton shopper bag instead of all that plastic. F is for Food miles By the time the ingredients that make up the average British Christmas dinner arrive on our plates, they have travelled a combined distance of 49,000 miles. Turkeys from Europe, vegetables from Africa, wine from the southern hemisphere, cranberries from America. Try this food footprint calculator to check some of your ingredients.

Buy local or buy less. Produce bought locally means you will be supporting small suppliers and the local community, while minimising your carbon footprint. Shop at a local farmers’ market, or try growing some of your own vegetables where possible. Buy your fruit and vegetables loose and ditch all that wasteful plastic packaging. Make sure the goods that are packaged are made from recycled materials. . G is for Check it out for a selection of ethical and eco decorations and Christmas stocking fillers. H is for Heating Be cosy this Christmas - check that your home is fully insulated, your heating appliances are serviced and working efficiently. Close doors windows and curtains (at night) and turn down your thermostat one degree. Check out the Energy Saving Trust for offers and grants in your area. I is for Ivy Bring in some holly and ivy from the garden - fallen branches are obviously okay, but take only what you need. J is for Jumble sale After Christmas take those unwanted gifts to a jumble sale and payback Christmas early. K is for Keeping your curtains closed This keeps heat in and saves energy and money. And with all those guests to entertain, more heat is going to be generated anyway. L is for Lights Christmas tree lights left on for 10 hours a day over the 12 days of Christmas produce enough CO2 to inflate 12 balloons, so turn them off when they are not needed. It’s not compulsory to cover your roof with flashing santas, but if you crave festive lights, look for products using LEDs instead of traditional bulbs. LEDs last 10 times longer, produce virtually no heat and dramatically reduce power consumption. Meanwhile this is a good time to replace old inefficient bulbs around the house with energy efficient ones. It’s a great investment, as every low energy bulb you use could save up to £100 in its lifetime! If you haven’t already - make it a new year’s resolution to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. M is for Million Over the Christmas period we use an extra 750 million bottles and glass containers, and 500 million drinks cans. About 20% to 30% more glass and cans are collected each year over the Christmas period. Make sure you recycle yours! N is for Natural When decorating the tree, consider using edible treats rather than plastic baubles to save on creating rubbish. Check out the for chocolate snowmen and star decorations.

O is for Organic turkey 10 million turkeys are eaten every Christmas. If you can, try to make sure yours has been reared in humane conditions. Organic turkeys taste better too. P is for Presents Remember that good food makes a great gift, especially if you’ve made it yourself; also pictures, knitted hats, bedsocks! Try to buy local or buy less. Each Christmas, 4,000 tonnes of products arrive from China. Presents bought locally means you will be supporting small suppliers and the local community, while minimising your carbon footprint. Buy durable gifts and avoid buying or requesting presents that rely on disposable parts like batteries. Try to look for alternatives, for example, goods that are solar or wind-up powered. Do you have to buy gifts? Could you buy an “experience” instead? Try cinema tickets, club memberships, gift tokens. Q is for Quick Search Have a quick search on the internet for more ideas and festive solution to minimse the impact of Christmas on your wallet and the planet. R is for Recycle According to, households will throw out an additional 3m tonnes - that’s five sacks of rubbish per family - over the festive period. Much of this will be waste that could have been recycled. If you’re not doing it already, it’s getting harder to have an excuse not to recycle, with nine out of 10 homes in Britain now having a doorstep recycling service which will take paper, card, glass and metal cans. There are plenty of tips on which materials you can recycle and how here. S is for Stockings And advent calenders. Buy ones that you can use year after year or for a more personal touch, make your own. T is for Travel Car journeys can be particularly fraught over the festive season as drivers become over-tired and many may be the worse for a seasonal drink or two, so aim for a few car-free days this Christmas. Jumping on a cheap flight for Christmas seems like an irresistible bargain, but we’re starting to realise that it’s killing the planet. CO2 emissions from aircraft are the most rapidly rising in Britain and also the most damaging: they go straight into the stratosphere. If you like to get away, look at the excellent choices in the UK. U is for Using the right-sized pan Use the right-sized pan for the vegetables you cook, and only boil the kettle with the amount of water you need.

V is for Vegetables Is that mountain of Brussel Sprouts too much for the family? Compost all your food peelings or get a wormery to help break down the vegetable food waste into rich soil nutrition. W is for Wrapping This constitutes one of the biggest Christmas wastes. It was estimated the UK used enough paper to wrap up the entire island of Guernsey last year. If we all recycled just half of the 8,000 tonnes produced we’d save 25,000 trees. Try wrapping your presents in brown or recycled paper (WWF has some nice paper here), recycled foil or newspaper, and using string or raffia (made from bark which regenerates) to tie it up. X is for Xcessive packaging (I am struggling!) With retailers yet to get the message on excessive packaging, try to avoid purchasing products and food that are overpackaged. Y is for You It’s your world, your planet, your choice. Z is for Zzzzzzz Have a post-Christmas doze, content that your Christmas carbon footprint is minimal!

Have a Happy Christmas... From all the green gang at Great Places!

The Great Places A to Z for a green Christmas  

Find out how to have a green Christmas thanks to the Great Places green gang.