01/12/2021

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly (Green)

Christmas is traditionally a time for excess, for eating and drinking more than usual and for being a bit more extravagant – in all ways. However, as we approach Christmas and with COP26 still fresh in our minds, could this be the Christmas to make some small changes which could add up to quite a lot? Can we enjoy this Christmas and still meet the sustainability definition of ‘meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations’?

We think so.

At the University of Bolton, our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals set by United Nations is at the heart of both our operations and our philosophy. That’s the university as a whole organisation. As individuals – students and staff – let’s make 2022 the year that we create some new, more sustainable Christmas traditions and adopt some greener New Year resolutions.

Bringing The Outdoors Inside

Would Christmas truly be Christmas without a tree? Well, that’s got to be worth exploring. It’s hard to work out a way of having a traditional Christmas tree without negatively impacting our carbon footprint in some way. If you go for a fake tree, it will last you for a few years, but it’s heavy on plastic and what will really happen to it once it’s past its prime? Fake Christmas trees are usually made from PVC, which makes them difficult to recycle. They’re often diverted to landfill, where they degrade very slowly and release greenhouse gases as they do. They’re also often produced in international factories and are imported, adding to their carbon footprint before they even make it out of the box.

A real tree seems like the obvious answer, but there is a new way of thinking about real trees that could make a huge difference. Choosing your Christmas tree could be infinitely more sustainable, meaning an end to wasteful cutting of trees and hoping the same number – or more – are replanted! You could simply plant your own and bring it in every year, in a pot. We’re not suggesting that you move an 8ft Nordmann fir in every year, but you can reduce your own Christmas tree usage by getting 5 or 6 years out of a fir in a pot. Start small, though, and give yourself plenty of growing room!

Papering Over the Cracks

It’s easy to get swept away in the wrappings and trappings of Christmas. Once a gift has been selected with care, attention and love, it’s natural to reach for some beautiful wrapping paper to complete the look. It’s not until the presents have been unwrapped and there’s a pile of crumpled paper to be disposed do we realised that the moment is over and clear up has to begin. And, for much of our modern wrapping paper, it’s heading to landfill and not recycling.

To stay on target for our collective sustainable development goals, why not make this the year that you change how you wrap your gifts. Just think, if everyone celebrating Christmas wrapped and exchanged, making this one, simple change in Greater Manchester alone, Christmas waste could be dramatically reduced.

As a nation, we’re already aware of the waste associated with wrapping paper. Over half of people will re-use paper from last year, but what we don’t often realise is that the paper we’re re-using contains non-recyclable elements, such as foil, glitter and plastic. It’s not always easy to tell if your paper can be recycled just by looking at it – but there is an easy test that lets you see what can be recycled and what can’t.

If you’ve already bought your paper and wrapped your gifts, you can work out what can be recycled after unwrapping by using the scrunch test. Scrunch up discarded wrapping paper in your hands and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up, it can be recycled. However, if it unfolds by itself, it’s very likely to contain non-recyclable elements and will have go to landfill.

If you’re yet to wrap your presents, you might want to opt for recyclable paper this year. Many high street retailers are offering a fully recyclable gift wrapping; it’s both made from recycled paper and can be recycled itself.

Send Christmas greetings – and seedlings

Christmas cards have got to be the antithesis of sustainable development, but, for many, it’s our only point of contact with friends and family that we might not see over the festive period. While over one in four no longer write Christmas cards, there are a few changes that we can make.

If sending Christmas cards remains an integral part of your Christmas celebrations, you could opt to buy cards with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark. This mark demonstrates that the paper used in the card has been produced sustainably and ethically.

You could also turn your card into a gift for someone by sending them a plantable card. Plantable cards contain seeds that have been embedded into the card. Once the card has been opened and enjoyed, the entire card can be planted in the garden. Add a bit of water and some sunshine and, in a few months, the recipient of your card could be enjoying a patch of wildflowers or even nibbling on a carrot that’s been grown from your card.

Explore Reusable Advent Calendars

For many people, advent calendars are the first sign that Christmas is on its way. Traditionally, advent calendars were made simply – from card – and featured a different picture behind each door. Now, advent calendars are increasingly elaborate cardboard, foil and plastic compositions that house chocolate, sweets, gin, cheese, beer and even skincare. Once empty, they often can’t be recycled because of the many different materials used in their production.

A reusable advent calendar is a great investment that can be used over and over again, every Christmas and even grow with the owner as they age or filled with a variety of gifts so you can avoid the ‘chocolate before breakfast?’ conversation.

Wear It Well

Christmas is traditionally a time to get together and party- and with that comes the need for something to wear. Although parties are a contentious issue in 2021, dressing up for Christmas Day remains important to many. Hitting the high street to grab a sparkly dress for a handful of events might need a rethink, however. In the UK, we send 350,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill every year. In terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, buying a new garment for a few wears makes ‘Responsible Consumption’ unachievable. Yet, the high street is enjoying something of a revolution when it comes to sustainable fashion.  What was once a high-value, niche item is now more likely to be found on the racks of our high street staples, reasonably priced and ethically sourced. With greater focus on the materials used, sustainable garments are more likely to stand the test of time and can be reworn for a number of years.

If you do want to shop for something new, but want to shop responsibly, here are a few top tips to help you choose wisely:

Watch your fabrics – Most man-made fibres do not bio-degrade, but leech chemicals into the environment as they sit in landfill

Plastic not fantastic – Sometimes, it’s what makes a garment special, sparkly or stand out that causes the most problems in terms of the environment. Sequins, glitter, zips, buttons, and jewels are all plastic. Not only will they last forever – in the wrong way – but they will also release millions of microfibre plastic particles when they’re washed. This micro plastic make their way to the ocean, into the marine life and end up in our food chain

Buy Less But Buy Better – our retail therapy mantra of the future (or why not the now!)

Whatever you are doing over the holidays the University of Bolton would like to wish you and your loved ones a wonderful time.

Related articles

myBolton

Download the app for your smartphone from:

Help Centre

We have the answers to your questions, find all the advice and support in one place.

Part of the University of Bolton Group

Bolton college
Alliance learning
Anderton centre2
RiSE pos rgb logo
QQA Scheme Participant

Help Centre

We have the answers to your questions, find all the advice and support in one place.

Part of the University of Bolton Group

Bolton college
Alliance learning
Anderton centre2
RiSE pos rgb logo
QQA Scheme Participant