In a year in which the need to tackle climate change was headline news around the world, global NGO WRAP provides some handy tips on how we can still enjoy Christmas at the same time as giving a gift to the planet.
We all have the power to be proactive in the climate change fight and simple actions in our daily lives can and will make a huge difference. Nearly half of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the way we consume; so by making small changes this Christmas to the things we buy, the clothes we wear, the food we eat and how we dispose of products, we are making a great contribution to both tackling climate change and living in harmony with Nature.
Marcus Gover, CEO, WRAP said: “2021 saw the climate crisis grab global attention with COP26 focused on the large international commitments on issues like methane, coal and forests. Individuals may feel removed from the climate action on this scale and even question what difference they can personally make in the face of such challenges. Yet nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the food and products we buy so the choices we make in our daily lives really are critical for protecting our planet. Our tips show how you can make a real difference while still enjoying a great Christmas.”
Love Food Hate Christmas Waste
For every two tonnes of food produced globally, one tonne goes to waste. In the UK, 70% of food waste comes from our homes with a value of around £14 billion a year, and a cost of 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. We waste a huge 4.5 million tonnes of food that could have been eaten.
At Christmas especially, the freezer is your friend in the fight against wasting food. It acts like a ‘pause’ button – frozen food will not deteriorate and most bacteria cannot grow in it. Labelling the food in your freezer avoids ‘UFO’s (Unidentified Frozen Objects). It is best to use up food stored in your freezer ideally within 3 – 6 months.
- Turkey – poultry is in the top 10 most wasted foods in the UK at number 8 – 100,000 tonnes of it ends up in the bin every year. Most poultry waste is chicken (the nation’s favourite meat) but at Christmas it is all about turkey. Leftover turkey can be stored in the fridge for up to two days, but turkeys usually produce more than a couple of days’ worth of leftovers. Freeze the excess turkey and defrost either in the fridge or using the microwave on the defrost setting directly before re-heating. The golden rule? Only re-heat once. Check out the Food Standards Agency and these storage tips for more information.
- Vegetables – fresh vegetables and salad is the most wasted food group in the UK. We waste 1.3 million tonnes of perfectly good fresh veggies and salads every year*, costing £2.7 billion. Swapping highly wasted fresh foods for frozen options (’swaptions’) could help to reduce food waste – they last for months and you can use as much as you need when you need it. Frozen vegetables (including your Brussel sprouts) can be cooked from frozen. Top tip – when preparing fresh veg for freezing, blanch in boiling water for a few minutes and plunge into cold water before freezing.
- Potatoes – the potato is the most wasted food in the UK. We waste 710,000 tonnes of spuds a year from our homes, the equivalent of 4.4 million whole potatoes per day. Potatoes need to be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. Get ahead – parboil and freeze them prior to Christmas Day. To prevent potatoes sticking together, ’open freeze’ them on a tray before transferring to an airtight container.
Recycle Now at Christmas
UK recycling saves 18 million tonnes of CO2 every year. It takes 75% less energy to make a new plastic bottle out of recycled materials and making one new aluminium can uses the same energy as 20 recycled ones. Ahead of the festive period, find out what can and cannot be recycled in your area using Recycle Now’s Recycling Locator so that you can manage the influx of Christmas packaging. Recycle Now also has a dedicated Christmas page which is helpful for your post-Christmas clear up.
- Wrapping paper – avoid any wrapping paper which is laminated or is not made from paper (that is, made from plastic or aluminium). If in doubt do the ‘scrunch’ test – if it stays scrunched, it can be recycled. Paper with glitter is best avoided – glitter is almost impossible to remove in the recycling process and can cause problems when being transformed into a new product. If you receive wrapping paper decorated with glitter then it will need to go into the refuse bin, along with any sticky tape. Check out what to do with wrapping paper.
- Christmas crackers – a lot of traditional Christmas crackers contain packaging and plastic which cannot be recycled. Opt for recyclable Christmas crackers, and avoid single use plastic gift crackers and, again, those covered in glitter.
- Christmas trees – ‘real’ Christmas trees can be recycled and turned into chippings for parks. Some local authorities have special collections or organise drop-off points, or they can be taken to your household waste recycling centre. Artificial trees are made from a combination of materials and cannot be recycled. Unwanted artificial trees in good condition may be accepted by charity shops for re-use. More information about Christmas tree recycling can be found here
Re-Love Your Christmas Clothes
Every year, an estimated 336,000 tonnes of used clothing is thrown away by people living in the UK. Over 50% of the UK public are concerned about the environmental impact of their clothes. Shoppers are looking for inventive new retail options that prolong the life of clothes including vouchers for clothing exchanges (46%), and pre-loved clothes (41%). These options are particularly popular among younger and high frequency (weekly) clothes shoppers.
- Rent your Christmas party outfit – renting your Christmas clothes for a special occasion is a win-win situation for your bank account and the environment, allowing you to be more adventurous and experiment with designer labels. Love Your Clothes has some top recommendations for clothing and accessory rental sites.
- DIY Christmas jumpers – extending the length of time we wear clothes by just three months would lead to a 5 – 10% reduction in their carbon, water and waste footprints so instead of purchasing a new Christmas jumper, why not decorate a jumper or cardigan which you already own. Read more about how to do this here
- Christmas charity/second-hand shopping – the most significant opportunity for reducing the environmental impact of clothing lies in increasing the active life of the clothes we wear and adopting a more circular approach to clothing. One way we can do this is by shopping in charity shops, vintage shops and online marketplaces – Christmas is an ideal time to embrace this habit. Any unwanted clothes can be donated via charity shops, or at collection points in many high-street stores and recycling banks.
A Sustainable 2022
WRAP will continue its work to help people via Love Food Hate Waste, Recycle Now and Love Your Clothes throughout 2022. The second Food Waste Action Week will run from 7th – 13th March, and the annual Recycle Week is back from the 19th – 25th September 2022.
Resources and Waste Minister, Jo Churchill, said: “It is incredibly important that we understand how we can do our own bit to have a more sustainable Christmas. From buying gifts at local shops to using food leftovers and recycling wrapping paper, we can all take simple steps to enjoy the festive period in an environmentally friendly way. We are leading by example through our new reforms in the new Environment Act which will give us powers to put new charges on single-use items, ensure producers cover the cost of recycling their packaging, and make recycling easier for households.”
Food Standards Agency Chair, Susan Jebb, said: “Consumers tell us that food waste is one of their top concerns and at Christmas in particular, we can be tempted to buy more food than we need. Following some simple steps can help reduce food waste but also keep you safe, such as freezing food that is approaching its use-by date and ensuring that leftovers are thoroughly reheated, but only once. So, this Christmas, give to the planet and future generations by cutting down on your food waste safely.”