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:
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.