Almost overnight, sometime in November, high streets came to life as retailers dressed their stores in festive decorations, inviting us in from the cold outdoors to browse through shelves of sparkles, lights and Christmas wares. It can mean only one thing…Christmas is nigh! And for many of us, that means dashing (sometimes in the snow!), to getting everything bought and ready for the big day.
It’s easy to get caught up in the massive spending sprees, especially with days like ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’, pulling us in with a bargain. But is spending really a joyful Christmas experience? The world as it is today, with the increasing pressures of social media, brings with it a need to be ‘on trend’ and up to date with all the latest gadgets and fashions, perhaps more so than ever. As a result, expectations of gifts can be high, and people face increasing pressure to spend money that they don’t have, on excessive and expensive purchases. Not only can it be stressful for us, but it also puts increasing strain on our waste services and our planet, as we see a surge in food and packaging waste, much of which can end up in our environment.
You would be forgiven for wondering, with all this talk of waste, if maybe we’re just the Grinch in disguise…
But fear not! We’re certainly not suggesting we cancel Christmas.
In fact, our office elves have been busy discovering all the amazing ways that you can save more, and waste less, this Christmas.
Here are their top five tips…
Be kind to your wallet and to your food bin this Christmas by planning ahead! If you’re hosting a Christmas party or family gathering, work out how many people are coming to help cut down on any excess waste and spending. Think about the number of adults vs. children and look online for party portion guides that can help estimate the quantities of food and drink you might need.
Once you’ve made your decision, make sure to write it down and make a shopping list. Using your phone is a great way to do this, as most note-taking apps will shift items from your list once you check them off. It’s is a really easy way of saving you both time and money as you wander the aisles.
If you’re worried about running out of food, especially as the shops will be closed over the Christmas period, then make sure any extra supplies that you stock up on are both filling and can either be kept for a while once opened, or used up in a ‘leftover’ dish. For easy and cheap ideas, potato based dishes or pastas are an excellent shout for this. By buying jars of sauce, you can even whip up a batch on demand in minutes should the need arise!
It's all about the leftovers!
Even with all of the planning in the world, there is still the possibility that you might end up with a fridge of uneaten food in a confusing mass of plates, bowls, tin foil and containers, stacked in Jenga like fashion on the shelves. It can be a bit of a daunting and despairing sight, in fact the thought of rummaging through it will probably drive most of us to close the door and try to forget about it. It can be a problem for another day, right?
Unfortunately, all this does is lead to nasty smells in the fridge and the dread of opening up any containers for fear of what may have grown inside. Inevitably, with this approach, most of the food will end up in the bin. In fact, according to RUR3, we throw away £64million in wasted food, including 1,000 wheelie bins of sprouts, enough carrots to stretch from London to Munich and enough gravy to fill and Olympic-sized swimming pool.
So, aside from planning our food purchases better, how can we deal with the challenge of food waste?
It all starts with how you organise your leftovers to begin with. No one is asking you to whip up a leftover meal whilst digesting Christmas lunch, so the food needs to be put away, ready for another day. Here is where you can get smart. Aim to organise the food as you put it away, label it with what it is and when it was boxed. If possible, dedicate a shelf space to your leftovers to make them easier to keep tabs on. If you are planning to use leftovers for a future meal, say so to avoid any sneaky nibbles! For food that wants to be nibbled, make these leftovers the easiest to access and keep them in containers that can be handed out or set down on the table for future lunches.
When it comes to the leftover meals, research the different options in advance to get the most out of your ingredients. An online search will bring up plenty of recipes for just about any leftovers you might have, so don’t think you have to stick with turkey sandwiches!
Above all, and perhaps a resolution to continue into the new year, check your fridge regularly for items reaching their use-by date (remember the best-before and sell-by are just guidelines). If your struggling to find a way to use them, the freezer works wonders with most foods or you could even see if there is anyone you could donate them to.
Get smart about packaging
Buying gifts can be great fun, especially when you find that ‘perfect’ present, but when looking out for gifts this Christmas, try and be conscious of the packaging that comes with them. Plastic packaging booms at Christmas, with gift sets bundling together what would normally be individual items, from toiletries to food sets. Simply being aware of this next time you browse the aisles could make a huge difference in how you decide to buy.
If the packaging seems excessive or pointless, ask yourself if there is an alternative, perhaps you could try out a market or even have a go at something homemade? If you like the idea of a gift set, why not buy the items separately and make your own? Spices and oils, or soaps and skincare products can often be bought at a fraction of the price elsewhere. Decorated with twine or ribbons, these can easily replace the plastic packaged gift sets that line the shelves, and by choosing your own products, they can be personalised too!
Not only will this save on wasteful packaging, but it will likely save the pennies too.
Be 'Elfless' this Christmas
According to Global Action Plan, each year UK adults are given £2.6BN worth of unwanted presents. This seems like an awful big waste of money, so Global Action Plan are encouraging people to join them, and use their imagination this Christmas in their campaign for ‘Elfless Acts’.
What exactly is an Elfless Act?
The campaign came about in response to the results of studies, which found that often, the things that cost no money at all, are the very things that make us the happiest. So, an Elfless Act isn’t something you can purchase in a shop, it is a personal gift that inspires us to use our imaginations, get creative, and really think about what we can do, not buy, to put a smile on our loved ones faces. The other positive is that it is pretty much guaranteed to save on the pennies too!
Ideas range from days out and home cooked meals to creative treasure hunts and personalised playlists. There is a whole list of ideas to inspire you on their site, be it for work colleagues, family, friends or partners. As these can be a bit difficult to wrap, once you have chosen or invented your ‘Elfless Act’ their website allows you to turn it into a ‘gift voucher’ to be printed, or sent online!
That's a wrap
This last piece of advice tackles the one thing left to do once you have chosen all of your gifts, the gift wrapping! Every year the UK alone throws away enough wrapping paper to be able to stretch out to the moon. If you agree that this is a pretty shocking statistic, or if you simply fancy saving some money, the great news is that there are lots of simple ways to either cut the amount of wrapping paper you buy, or at least find better ways of reusing it.
First off, wrapping paper can be expensive, so try reusing other items as wrapping paper before you buy it. Brown paper is commonly used to package deliveries, so next time you open a parcel, save the paper and reuse it. You could even spend some time decorating it with drawings, stamps or paintings to personalise it!
If you are going to buy wrapping paper, aim for those which are made of recycled paper. The process uses 50% fewer chemicals to make than virgin paper, so is a lot less polluting. Also try to steer away from anything shiny or glittery. These types of wrapping paper can’t be recycled and will either end up in landfill, or if disposed of incorrectly, could end up contaminating batches of recycling. Plus, they are usually more expensive too.
On the topic of recycling, make sure you are clued up on your local recycling facilities, find out what can and cannot be recycled at home to make sure you get it right! Every year around 40% of the extra waste we produce at Christmas comes from products that could be recycled and aren’t.
WRAP describe a simple ‘scrunch’ test for anyone unsure, simply crunch the wrapping paper in your hand and if it holds its shape then it is recyclable, if it starts to spring back, it isn’t. For even more advice on recycling at Christmas, WRAP feature an excellent article here.
If your wrapping paper can’t be recycled, you can always reuse it to wrap future gifts, as part of a craft project or even by popping it in the shredder to use as protective packaging for future parcels.