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LITTLE GREEN SPACE



Christmas is a wonderful time of year – but it’s also one of the most difficult times to be environmentally friendly. With gifts galore, fridges full of food and rooms decked with decorations, keeping track of your carbon footprint at this time of year can seem like an impossible challenge.

But it is possible to celebrate without it costing the earth – and if you follow these tips for a carbon-conscious Christmas, you can spoil your loved ones and save money, too!

Gifts

Every Christmas many of us receive an unwanted gift or two – and some of these will end up in the bin.

Instead of sending unwanted items to landfill, consider selling them, swapping with friends, or giving to charity shops. You could also donate items to be used as raffle prizes, to a local school for example – or even club together with friends or colleagues to organise your own fundraising raffle for charity.

Better still is to avoid giving and receiving unwanted gifts in the first place. Ask loved ones what they really want for Christmas – and let them know what you want too!

Consumable items are usually very welcome – and with many people on a tight budget again this year, chocolates and other luxury foods should be appreciated.

Food is an excellent eco-friendly gift if you choose local products in minimal recyclable packaging. And here in the Peak District there are countless local food options, from beer and gin, to chocolate, cheese, and chutney. Try one of the region’s excellent farm shops, or visit a farmers’ market, for more ideas.

Consider non-physical gifts too. Magazine subscriptions, gym membership, or a voucher for a spa day or beauty treatment are a few ideas – and they don’t need wrapping either!

National Trust or English Heritage membership allows free visits to their properties: ideal for families who like to get out and about. Many other charities, such as the RSPB, offer gift membership too.

Award-winning charity Trees for Life (www.treesforlife.org.uk) can plant native trees on behalf of your loved-ones, as part of its restoration of the Caledonian forest in the Highlands of Scotland – this vital work is providing habitats for wildlife and is helping to tackle the nature and climate crises. Gift recipients receive an e-certificate with a personalised message – a great eco-friendly idea for a last-minute present.

Food

A traditional Christmas dinner uses seasonal British food, which can nearly always be bought from a local producer. Try your local farmers' market or farm shop for fresh, seasonal produce, and try to choose organic – non-organic agriculture uses chemical pesticides and fertilisers, contributing to climate change.

If you want to save money while helping the environment, try a meat-free meal or two. Some turkey prices are up by 20% this year, with even the smallest turkey costing around £20 – and the price rises dramatically if you chose an ethically raised free-range bird.

This means a turkey can be one of the most expensive food items of the Christmas festivities – so choosing a vegan or vegetarian alternative can really save money. Many classic accompaniments – cranberry sauce, bread sauce, roasted parsnips, stuffing and pigs-in-blankets, for example – are meat free or available in meat-free versions, so it’s still possible to have a traditional-tasting Christmas lunch.

If the turkey is a non-negotiable for Christmas day, you can still cut food bills by enjoying a few meat-free meals during the festive season. Eating just one plant-based meal a week can reduce your carbon footprint, help boost biodiversity, and improve animal welfare – as well as benefitting your health. Visit the Meat Free Mondays website (www.meatfreemond ays. com) for more information and recipes.

Whatever you eat over the festive season, avoiding food waste is another way you can help protect the planet – and save money. The UK creates around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste each year – and at Christmas, the problem gets even worse.

A lot of household food waste can be avoided with sensible planning and careful storage. And a bit of imagination in the kitchen can prevent leftovers going to landfill. See www.lovefoodhatewaste. com for lots of ideas and inspiration.

Christmas trees

Real or fake tree? The debate about which is the most eco-friendly continues. And the answer isn’t simple, as many factors – including production, use and disposal – need to be considered.

According to Carbon Trust, an artificial tree has a carbon footprint that’s around 10 times higher than a real tree that’s disposed of at the end of the festive season.

This means an artificial tree would need to be used for at least 10 years to make it a more eco-friendly option than a real tree – but in reality, most fake trees are disposed of after just four years. And as they can’t be recycled, they end up in landfill.

If you choose a real tree, opt for one that’s been grown locally, and look out for Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) or British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) symbols, as these trees have been grown sustainably with minimal use of harmful pesticides.

An added bonus of buying a real Christmas tree is that, during the time it takes for trees to grow to a useable size (around 12 years for a six-foot tree), they’re capturing carbon and providing a home for wildlife – birds, in particular, benefit from this habitat.

At the end of the festive season your tree can be collected by the council for composting. Or, if you buy a small tree with roots, you can plant it in the garden and reuse it next year.

Strings of fairy lights on the Christmas tree use a fairly small amount of energy, but switch them off when there is no one there to see them. For outdoors, you could invest in some solar-powered lights, which will cost nothing to run.

Finally, avoid buying plastic wreaths and garlands. Instead, make use of traditional greenery such as holly, ivy and mistletoe. And if you grow these plants in your garden, you’ll also be helping to boost biodiversity – with their blossoms and berries, they benefit all sorts of insects, birds and mammals.

Penny Bunting

Twitter @LGSpace

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