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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.

 

Environment

Want to Connect With Nature? Start by Disconnecting From Busyness

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Connect With Nature

Have you ever found yourself staring at one of your (many) devices and feeling slightly disgusted with how much time you waste on technology? If so, you aren’t alone. We all have moments like these and it’s important that we use them as motivation to change – especially if we want to be more connected with nature.

How Busyness Impacts Your Connection With Nature

Whether you realize it or not, you live an ultra connected life. Between smart phones, tablets, computers, and wearable devices, you’re never very far from some sort of technology that can connect you to the internet or put you in touch with other people. That’s just the world we live in.


While it could be argued that this sort of omnipresent connectivity is a positive thing, it’s also pretty clear that being permanently tethered to technology impacts our ability to strip away distractions and connect with nature.

When you’re always within arm’s reach of a device, you feel a sense of busyness.  Whether it’s browsing your social media feed, uploading a picture, reading the news, or responding to an email, there’s always something to do. As someone who wants to spend more time in nature, this is problematic.

4 Practical Ways to Disconnect

If you want to truly connect with nature and live a greener lifestyle, you have to be proactive about finding ways to disconnect. Here are a few practical suggestions:

1. Switch to a New Phone Plan

It’s not always practical to totally unplug from the world. Family and work responsibilities mean you can’t go off the grid and continue to fulfill your responsibilities. Having said that, there are some ways to scale back.


One suggestion is to switch to a prepaid phone plan. When you have a prepaid phone plan, you’re far less likely to spend hours and hours of your time making phone calls, sending texts, and surfing the web. It forces you to be more conscious of what you’re doing.

2. Get Rid of Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest time wasters for most people. Whether you realize it or not, it’s also a huge stressor. You’re constantly being exposed to the best snapshots of everyone else’s lives, which makes you feel like you’re missing out on something (even when you aren’t).

If you want to feel a sense of relief and free yourself up to spend more time in nature, get rid of social media. Don’t just delete the apps off your phone – actually disable your accounts. It’s a bold, yet necessary step.

3. Create Quiet Hours

If you aren’t able to get rid of social media and disable various online accounts, the next best thing you can do is establish quiet hours each day where you totally detach from technology. You should do this for a minimum of three hours per day for best results.

4. Build Community

Do you know why we’re drawn to social media and our devices? Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s because we all want to be connected to other people. But do you know what’s better than connecting with people online? Connecting with them in person.

As you build real life, person-to-person relationships, you’ll feel less of a need to constantly have your eyes glued to a screen. Connect with other people who have an appreciation for nature and bond over your mutual interests.

Untether Your Life

If you find yourself constantly connected to a device, then this is probably a clear indicator that you aren’t living your best life. You certainly aren’t enjoying any sort of meaningful connection with nature. Now’s as good a time as any to untether your life and explore what a world free from cords, screens, and batteries is really like.

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Environment

6 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Move

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Moving can be a stressful and challenging time. No matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the process of packing up, transporting, and unpacking isn’t very fun. It’s also not very eco-friendly. As you prepare for your next move, there are things you can do to ensure you leave less of a footprint behind.

6 Tips for a Greener Move

Because of the stress and pressure felt when moving, it’s pretty common for people to rush through the process and focus on getting it done. In fact, a lot of people take an “at all costs” approach; they’ll do whatever it takes to make the process as cheap and fast as possible. Don’t be one of those people. It doesn’t take much effort to turn a standard move into an eco-friendly move.


1. Maximize Each Trip

When moving across town, it’s imperative that you make as few trips as possible. Each trip requires more gas, more emissions, and more waste, and more time.

If you’re taking your personal vehicle, consider pulling a trailer behind it. You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into a small trailer. Not only will it make your move greener, but it’ll also save you a lot of time.

2. Donate Things You Don’t Want to Keep

The longer you live somewhere, the more junk you accumulate. This isn’t always obvious until you start packing for a big move. Instead of bringing all of these things with you to your next home, get rid of the stuff you don’t need! If the items are useful, donate them. If the items don’t have much value, toss them.

3. Reuse Moving Boxes

Not only are moving boxes expensive, but they’re also wasteful. If you need a bunch of cardboard boxes, consider looking around on Craigslist, asking friends, or checking the dumpsters behind stores. You can usually find a bunch of recycled boxes of all different shapes and sizes. Here are 12 places you can get them for free.


4. Get Creative With Packing

Who says you need moving boxes? You may find that it’s possible to do most of your move without all that cardboard. Things like storage containers, trashcans, filing cabinets, buckets, and dressers can all store items. Blankets and sheets can be used in lieu of bubble wrap to prevent your items from getting damaged.

5. Use Green Cleaning Supplies

Once you arrive at your new place, resist the urge to pull out a bunch of harsh chemicals to clean the place. You can do yourself (and the planet) a favor by using green cleaning supplies instead. Ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and ammonia are great to start with.

6. Forward Your Mail ASAP

Don’t delay in forwarding your mail from your previous address to your new one. Not only is it wasteful for the Postal Service to route your mail to a place where you don’t live, but the next owner is probably just going to toss your letters in the trash.

Moving Doesn’t Have to be Wasteful

Most people only move once every few years. Some people will go a decade or more without a move. As a result, the process of moving often feels strange and new. The less experience you have with it, the less likely it is that you’ll be as efficient as you should. But instead of just diving into the process blind, take some time to learn about what an eco-friendly move looks like. That way, you can leave behind the smallest footprint possible.

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