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How to Have a Wasteless Christmas

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christmas-present-by-craig-d-via-flickr

More than four million Christmas dinners are thrown away each December 25 in the UK. Four million is enough to feed the population of Iceland 12 times over, or almost everyone in Croatia. If someone ate a Christmas dinner every day, this waste would feed them for 11,000 years. We bin 227,000 miles of Christmas wrapping paper, enough to go around the world more than nine times, and 125,000 tons of plastic wrapping. Around one billion cards end up in the dustbin, alongside 4,200 tonnes of aluminium foil.

So, what can you do to avoid adding to those numbers this Christmas? Here’s some advice to help you waste less this festive period:

Food

We all know that there are various ways of re-using and re-eating food; there are no elements of the perfect Christmas dinner that can’t be eaten cold or chucked into a Boxing Day curry.

Other options include turkey tagines, Moroccan-spiced pies, and ham and veg crumble – all of which can be seen in this BBC leftovers recipe bonanza. If you don’t want to use it straight away, cooked turkey can be kept for 3-4 days in the fridge or 2-3 months (for best quality) in the freezer.

One little tip; while you’re making the dinner, have a bag ready for any rinsed packaging that can be re-cycled. Before throwing away bones and vegetable off cuts you can make a simple stock which can then be frozen, saving the need to buy it. Smaller ‘quarter’ bottles of wine reduce the risk of throwing away stale/flat alcohol, while alternating alcoholic drinks with water saves money and hangovers!

There’s also another, more obvious ways of saving waste, and that’s buying less. The average Christmas feast can, in some circumstances boast up to 7,000 calories, which is 4,500 more calories than the average man and 5,000 more calories than the average woman needs. If we’re all brutally honest, no-one really enjoys chugging through the last remnants of the meal – so why not go for half servings? A small crown of turkey and fewer roast potatoes and pigs in blankets will save cash and limit expanding beltlines!

Preparation is also key. If you plan your meal out properly in advance you’re much more likely to make a success of it – and waste less. Use AO’s Christmas Dinner hub for a step-by-step guide to help.

Wrapping paper/cards

What can you do with wrapping paper and tags? Most of the best ideas will require you to save it in storage for next year’s Christmas, saving you a few pounds when 2017 rolls around. For example, you might use off-cuts to wrap small cards as a fancy envelope, or make your own decorations. This writer’s family also wraps our precious Christmas tree baubles in scrunched-up paper, to protect them when they go in the loft. Buzzfeed even suggests lining drawers and bookcases with paper, among many other possible uses for paper and tubes.

Also, if the paper is relatively plain, then it can be used for other non-Christmas activities. Bows clearly can be used throughout the year, as can some gift bags. Wrapping text books, creating collages with children and even ‘wallpapering’ their dolls’ houses are three possibilities.

Of course, as with the food above, another way of saving is to not actually buy the paper in the first place. Visiting Lecturer at Winchester School of Art and blogger Emma Waight, who explored second hand gift giving as part of her PhD research, said: “You can save money on gift wrap by recycling wrap from the previous year, using newspapers or magazines, or buying reusable wrap (such as WRAG WRAP) which you can use year after year. Get kids involved with making crackers and place names. Focus on quality over quantity with gifts.”

Gifts and toys

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may have gone, but there are plenty of ways of saving money while reusing items. Clearly, recycling as much packaging as you can is the first step – all paper, cardboard, and some plastics can be reused. If not, then try making use of the boxes and containers in innovative ways.

The plastic moulds that hold some toys might be of use for bakers, to create strange cake designs. The little plastic clips that hold toys in place can sometimes be reused to hold wires in place. Challenge yourself to be creative.

Buy second-hand

Nearly new sales organised by the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) are widespread and extremely popular, allowing parents to trade-in and buy second hand items. Nikki Squelch, NCT head of volunteering, says of the sales: “The sales are usually jam-packed with parents selling pre-owned baby essentials to mums and dads wanting a cheaper alternative to trawling the high street for expensive baby products. Babies and young children are simply happy to play with a toy and won’t know if it is second hand or not. Older children also won’t mind as long as it is in good condition.”

Money…and no object

Another option is to buy something that has no physical presence, such as an online voucher for downloadable music or books, or giving to a charity on behalf of the recipient. You don’t need to print it out and you can’t lose it (unless it’s deleted from the email account).

Trees

The ideal way to look after your tree, post-Christmas, is simply to keep it outside – providing it lives, of course.

Unfortunately the vast majority of trees are simply destroyed: as many as 6 million are burned according to this Independent piece. However, there’s a large number of uses for the bark and pines, including ten listed at thisoldhouse.com. They include cutting the trunks into discs to edge flower beds; making coasters; and feeding the tree through a chipper to create chips which can be used to suppress weeds and add nutrients to soil.

Buying smartly

There are many other ways to help save money in the first place, some of which which could ultimately lead to a reduction of waste. One such idea is the No Unnecessary Present Pact (NUPP), to be taken by friends who pledge not to feel obliged to buy each other gifts for the sake of it.

Alternative measures include selling items off, planning out the meals around the festive period in advance (to utilise vouchers etc), and many others which can be seen at Money Saving Expert.

 

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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