Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Have a lovely eco-Christmas

Over the next few weeks it's going to be difficult to keep to those green resolutions about ethical purchases and living an environmentally conscious life. It certainly will for me when you have all the family pressures and tasty temptations all around.

My philosophy is to do what you can and not beat yourself up about the times you 'let the side down'. We're only human after all.

I thought it might be worth pointing out that the council is running a free Christmas tree recycling service where people can leave their trees at collection points around the borough from December 27 until the last week in January. More info on this and other council recycling issues here.

Like a good Green the other thing I thought I'd do is recycle this Lewisham press release, from 2006, on having a Green Christmas.

Everyone knows that turkeys can't fly very far, so you might be surprised to learn that your Christmas dinner may have travelled a staggering 30,000 miles before it gets to your table.

From European fowl and African vegetables to Australian wine and American cranberry sauce, the ingredients of the traditional yuletide meal can notch up enough air miles to circumnavigate the globe.

But if that is worrying for the growing number of us who want to do what we can to help prevent climate change, local Green Party councillors have been spreading the message that you can still have a fantastic Christmas without it costing the Earth.

Councillor Ute Michel said: "There is no need to turn into Scrooge in order to help save the planet at Christmas time. By shopping at farmers' markets and local shops, watching our waste and reining in our spending we can enjoy a very Merry Christmas without sacrificing our Happy New Year."

The Greens have been brainstorming and have come up with ideas to make your celebrations more carbon-neutral:

Christmas dinner

Think local, think fair trade, think organic. With all the money being spent at this time of year, it is a great opportunity to support your local community by buying from small shops and market. Buying local produce also cuts down on those all-important ‘food miles' - why buy Zimbabwean beans when great British produce is on our doorstep?

You can find out about your local food suppliers on the Soil Association website: www.soilassociation.org

Councillor Sue Luxton said: "By eating locally grown food we not only enjoy fresher, tastier food but we can spread Christmas cheer by supporting our local economies - and cutting out some of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the aviation industry."


With UK households already owing more than £1 trillion, festive spending risks pushing thousands deeper into a spiral of debt - a terrible worry hanging over many people at Christmas, spoiling what should be a joyful time. Giving Secret Santa presents means no one goes without, and adds some fun and mystery to Christmas morning. Or why not give home-made or edible gifts instead of spending unnecessarily?

If you're not the craft or baking kind, check out local flea markets and vintage clothing shops - you'll be giving something beautiful and unique, and recycling without even realising it!

The Christmas tree

Save money and save resources - why not use a tree with roots? You could watch it continue to grow all year round. You can find out more about container-grown trees at www.christmastree.org.uk. Each year, 6 million trees end up in landfill sites. So if you do go for a regular tree, check out the council's tree recycling service - there should be a drop-off place close to your home.

Cards and wrapping paper

Each year, 200,000 trees are cut down to supply the UK's 1.7 billion Christmas cards, and enough wrapping paper is used to wrap the island of Guernsey. So don't forget to recycle yours! Or, as your grandparents probably used to tell you, reusing is even less wasteful - why not help your children to show off their creative sides by turning those old cards into decorations for next year?

Learn more here: www.woodland-trust.org.uk/cards/.

Christmas waste

When you go shopping, cut down on yet more waste by taking your own shopping bags with you - and avoiding presents with lots of unnecessary packaging. All those vegetables that go into the roast don't need to come in plastic packaging - buy loose! And when your clueless auntie gives you that present you know you'll never use, don't throw it away - join your local Freecycle group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lewishamfreecycle/) and give it away to someone who will appreciate it. You never know what you yourself might get for free when you become a member - and it all helps to avoid adding to our bulging landfill sites.

Going abroad for Christmas?

Consider taking the train to destinations within Europe - it's far less polluting than air travel, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. And if you know where to look - www.seat61.com is a great place to start - it can be cheaper and quicker than you think. With no check-in, baggage reclaim, stale cabin air or cramped seating, avoiding the airport is really a Christmas present to yourself, and the amazing views from your train window are the best way to get know the continent on your doorstep.

Any other hints or tips on having a fun festive season without too many black marks on your eco-copy book are more than appreciated!

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