Two graduates who have spent more than two years living waste-free have produced a special festive guide to help people enjoy a zero-waste Christmas.
Former Birmingham City University (UK) students Charlotte Watkivs and Anna Jackson, have produced the guide to help people reduce their waste and impact on the environment over the festive season, offering advice on removing waste from trees, decorations, food, drink, presents and traditions.
The pair who describe Christmas as ‘the most wasteful time of year’ gained an interest in zero-waste during the 2016 festive season and decided to change their lives to live a waste-free existence.
It is estimated that over Christmas waste in UK households increases by 30 per cent, with excess food, plastic and wrapping paper among the main culprits, while Christmas trees – both synthetic and natural – are one of the least sustainable items of the festive period.
Among the top tips for a waste-free Christmas are:
- Abandon the wrapping paper: Over 100 million metres of wrapping paper will be thrown away each year in the UK alone, so create your own wrapping from fabric using the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki. Or create your own wrapping from paper or newspaper in the house, or try doing away with the wrapping completely. And avoid using sellotape by using string and ribbons which can be reused.
- Change up the gifts: Cut down on plastic waste by buying experiences and giving loved ones the chance to go on that course or to that event they’ve always wanted to. Gift vouchers can also reduce the single use items we often find in our stockings at Christmas. Or try making consumable gifts such as jams, cookies or chutneys to spice up Christmas dinner but without adding waste.
- Get crafty: If you can’t reuse old decorations, try crafting your own. Drying out orange slices in an oven makes cheap biodegradable decorations. Christmas markets for local producers often have handmade decorations with less waste.
- Compost your clippings: Put your spud, sprout and carrot clippings (or real Christmas tree) into a composter to recycle the organic materials.
- Think about your tree: Decorate a regular houseplant to transform it into a temporary Christmas tree, reuse a fake tree or remember to compost a natural tree after usage.
- Buy less: Simply put, if you buy less you waste less. Cutting down on the amount of food, number of presents and amount of wrapping you use will make a major difference to the level of waste you produce.
- Change your traditions: Start new waste-free practices like putting presents in tote bags which can serve as part of a gift, or putting presents into a drawstring stocking to avoid individually wrapping them.
Speaking about the guide, Charlotte Watkivs said:
“Christmas can easily become one of the most wasteful times of the year, from the food we buy, the presents we receive to the previous year’s decorations which are beginning to look worn and tired. It is so easy to fall into the trap of throwing more waste to landfill than we normally would. “By modifying Christmas traditions, such as gift giving, we can all reduce our waste to almost zero, by opting for reusable gift wrapping, buying gifts which are high quality and from people’s wish list or not buying physical gifts at all, but rather giving ‘experiences’ like I have begun doing with my close friends and family members.
“At the start of our zero-waste journey we focused on one area at a time, such as remembering to bring a water bottle every day, or switching from tissues to hankies. When we had ensured that area of our lives produced zero-waste, we’d move onto the next thing. “These small accomplishments meant we regained that optimism we began with. We began the blog to spread that positivity and support others to reduce their waste too.”
The pair started writing their blog to track progress on their zero-waste journey, having met as students at Birmingham City University. Other things to feature in the advice is to maintain good habits, such as using a reusable coffee cup if enjoying a hot beverage out of the house, taking your own containers to supermarkets and ultimately slashing how much is sent to landfill at the end of the year.
Charlotte and Anna document their experiences of living waste-free on the website Zero-Waste Life. They classify zero-waste as living without the need for a bin and opt to refuse, reduce, repurpose, recycle or regenerate any waste that they come into contact with.
Charlotte Watkivs will appear on a national UK TV show examining sustainability over the festive period to discuss how to have a sustainable Christmas.