The Gift That Keeps on Giving: Tips for a Sustainable Season

The festive season is a time for celebration for many people and, almost inevitably, a spot of overindulgence. As a result, we tend to use a lot more energy – and we don’t mean during those last-minute trips to the shops – and produce a lot more waste than usual. Here are a few tips, helping you to have a great time over the festive period while doing your bit for the environment.

Think of it as our gift to you.

1. The presents

There are loads of solar-powered toys and cool wind-up gadgets around, so why not think about these as presents for kids – of all ages! Using re-chargeable batteries will help to reduce the number of single use batteries going to landfill and could save you money in the long-term. Check out sustainable gift options online. Charity shops can be superb places to find an unusual or individual gift for that special someone … For those of you living or visiting Edinburgh, there’s the handy Edinburgh charity shop and reuse map.

Hand-made gifts are personal and show you’ve invested your energy in the giftee – check remadeinedinburgh and other sites for inspiration and techniques. Maybe set yourself a resolution to make all your gifts hand-made next year, by making use of the free drop-in sessions and the training – appliqué patchwork anyone? (Yes, please!).

If your fingers are all thumbs, then cooking up a chutney or infusing a booze, might be more your avenue of choice.

2. The wrapping

You’ve got the presents, so why not wrap them using reusable paper gift bags or recycled wrapping paper, newspapers or magazines you’ve finished reading rather than the shiny, metallic variety? Tie up presents with funky ribbon, minimalist string or natural raffia – no sticky tape means you can save the paper and use it again.

3.   The tree and decorations
Choose a living tree that can be planted out after the festive season and used again. If your tree doesn’t have roots, you will be able to recycle it, in most areas, using your kerbside recycling service or you can take it to a Community Recycling Centre. You could also invest in some Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights to decorate your tree and your home. They look great, appeal to the (possible) tech geek in all of us and use less energy than traditional Christmas lights. Of course they last longer too, so you’ve really no excuse.

To recycle your trees, check with your local community recycling centre about their garden waste/green waste containers. Trees will be shredded then composted. Also handy to check local press and council websites for details.

For people in Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Scottish Borders Check out our online Too Good to Waste –the A-Z guide of practical ways to reduce, reuse, repair and recycle. Also check your local council’s website

For more on real, fake or home-made ‘trees’, check out our Ruth’s recent blog.

Back to the sparkly stuff. You can make decorations from re-used paper. For a hand-made traditional feel and a great way to spend a wet afternoon, there are a whole stack of tutorials online.

4.   The cards and gift tags
If you have access to a computer, why not send an electronic card to friends and family? Recycle any cards you receive with your other cardboard via your kerbside recycling scheme, local recycling facility or Community Recycling Centre. Still got your cards from last year? Cutting out pictures from old Christmas cards is a neat way to make home-made gift tags. Got a lot of cars through the post, why not help out one of these charities by donating your old stamps.

5.    The grub
Support your local economy by shopping for your festive food at your nearest farmers’ market. Local products tend to have less packaging and are not transported long distances. Try to choose unwrapped fruit and vegetables, to cut down on unnecessary packaging.

Over £1 billion worth of food is wasted by consumers in Scotlandeach year. That’s an average of £430 per household, £550 for the average Scottish family with kids. Kitchen Canny is here to help you gain those savings, eat better, live smarter, love the heart of your home. You can get hold of one online.

6.   The lunch
Cook with lids on pans and match ring size to saucepan size to save energy. Call 0800 512 012 for energy efficiency advice. Compost your vegetable peelings, and by next Christmas, you’ll have FREE nutritious compost – black gold! – to help make your garden grow. Visit our website or call 0131 555 4010 for more composting info.

7.   The party
Avoid disposable plates, cutlery and napkins and use real ones instead, which reduce waste and look smart. Hire extra glasses, rather than buying new ones. Put leftovers in reusable containers, rather than wrapping them in foil or plastic film, and recycle your empty bottles and jars. Wait until you have a full load before using your dish washer: full load, eco cycle and whoever didn’t cook cleans up.

8.   The unwanted gift
Take any unwanted presents to your local charity shop, organise a swap party, sell online or offer up to anyone who’s interested on sites such as Freecycle. If you’re in or near Edinburgh, you’re lucky. Take a look at Changeworks Edinburgh Charity Shop and Reuse Map or look up your local charity shops.

9.   The sales
Remember to take reusable bags or reuse old plastic bags, when you venture out to the shops. Many supermarkets now have plastic bag recycling facilities, so you can recycle bags when they are no longer fit for use.

10. The travel
Try to use public transport, where possible, during the festive season. Better for the environment and, if you decide to have a wee glass of festive fizz, it’s no problem getting back home. Cheers to that!

10. The New Year (it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day)
If they’re your kind of thing, why not make a New Year’s resolution to lead a more sustainable life? Or just do it anyway. Whatever you fancy… start home composting, cut down on your food waste and booking at least one holiday in your home country rather than flying abroad are all great sustainable ideas.

What’s your tip?

Wishing you and yours a merry festive season.

 – Jo

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