Have yourself a sustainable Christmas!

Blog Article | By Simplyhealth | 29 November 2022

Sustainability is a hot topic for many businesses following COP27 in November 2022 and with an abundance of environmental news, it is unlikely to (and nor should it) diminish any time soon. For households up and down the country, the cost of living crisis is drawing into sharper focus how we can avoid the excessive costs often associated with the festive period. 

Christmas is often a time of over consumption too, so it is the perfect time to take action and create some sustainable initiatives that can be carried over into the new year and for years to come. As a B Corp certified company, for 150 years Simplyhealth has been dedicated to creating a positive and regenerative impact on the environment, for our customers, our communities and colleagues. Take for example the changes we have made in the past year, such as installing LED lighting into our office buildings, increasing our recycling rate to 76% and using the rest of our waste for energy recovery, and ensuring that all our building materials such as carpets and tiles are made using 100% green energy and fully recycled materials. We remain committed to doing more by going further and helping others to do the same.

In this article, Ellie Woolgar, Sustainability Specialist at Simplyhealth lays out four areas where consumers and businesses can make a real difference to the planet this festive season, whilst remaining environmentally conscious. The key environmental considerations for Christmas include:

Christmas dinner on a plate

Food waste

It is estimated that the UK wastes around 270,000 tonnes of food each year, with Christmas time being a significant contributor. Furthermore, the UK throws away around 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings, and as many as 74 million mince pies1.

Planning is key to reducing waste at Christmas. Many of us tend to buy more than we need, afraid there won’t be enough for everyone. Make sure plans are well thought-out and remember to always use a shopping list. Don’t fall foul of supermarket discounts either, it can be very tempting, but these promos contribute to a massive amount of food waste every year. It may even be easier for you to order your food shopping online!

After the big day's dinner is over, you can save any leftovers from going to waste by properly refrigerating or freezing items for Boxing Day and the coming weeks.

Person wrapping presents

Plastic waste

There are so many ways plastic is wasted over the festive period, such as wrapping paper, Christmas cards, decorations and more. Of course, giving and receiving gifts is a great way to show you care, but it is even more important that this is done in an environmentally responsible way. 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging goes to landfill each festive period.2 And each year in the UK, we use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper (the equivalent of 50,000 trees).3

Most of this waste goes straight to landfill come January as we find that many wrapping paper options are not recyclable. Many have a plastic, metallic or glittery covering, which cannot be recycled. Or if sticky tape is attached to the paper, then it is also unable to be recycled. Reusable present bags are a great option for individual gifts or company secret Santa’s. Reusable bags help to eliminate waste and can last for years.

Christmas crackers are one thing that you could consider doing away with this year as they are a huge contributor to single use plastics. You pull the cracker and inside find a joke a paper crown and a plastic comb, puzzle or noise maker that you play with for a couple of minutes before it is put down or goes straight in the bin and is taken to landfill. There are so many alternatives to choose from. Christmas is the perfect time to get the family together and make your own paper crowns and jokes, without the need for single use plastics.

Of course, we can’t go without mentioning reuse and recycling. Wherever possible it is important to reuse your decorations and recycle any waste that is unavoidable.

Two people looking inside a christmas gift box

Unsustainable Christmas gifts

We all love receiving and giving lots of gifts to friends, family and colleagues. However, overconsumption is a huge problem in the UK today with many gifts never even being used. It’s estimated that the average amount spent on unwanted gifts is £41. Quality over quantity: Over 21 million Brits say they have received a gift they didn't want at Christmas.4

You may think that buying more gifts is better, but many people find these types of gifts create clutter and anxiety when it comes to regifting or returning.

When buying gifts, less really is more. Instead of spending hours at the shops or online filling your basket, spend that time choosing a quality item that will last a long time and that will be a real benefit to its receiver. This reduces the chances of gifts going to waste and can be better for the bank balance!  

Or why not consider gifting an experience for your loved ones? This will reduce demand for physical resources and reduce your carbon footprint. There are so many options now for gift experiences, such as tickets to a show or event, activities like a National Trust day out, a dinner, or even planting a tree or giving a donation in someone’s name.

Woman checking her phone at a train station

Christmas travel 

Taking flights at Christmas will greatly increase your carbon footprint. A one way trip London to Paris equates to 47.8kg CO2e per passenger. This is equivalent to the amount of CO2 one tree absorbs in 2.17 years or driving 176.33 miles in an average car.5

Being with friends and family is such an important part of Christmas, however, there are more sustainable ways to travel. For example, car sharing, using public transport or even hiring an electric vehicle.

Do ensure your car is Christmas ready by checking your tyre pressure and tread. Make sure not to leave your vehicle idling for long periods to prevent pollution.

You can also consider the timing of your trip. Try to travel during quieter periods, long queues of cars are terrible for the environment, so if you can travel steadily in a high gear, this will reduce your footprint and save you fuel!

This Christmas we’d like everyone to embrace sustainability, whilst still enjoying this amazing, festive holiday with great gifts, food, friends and family. We want you to know that it’s possible to have a fantastic Christmas without compromising the health and sustainability of the planet, and ourselves! Because we know that everyone can’t truly thrive without a healthy environment.

Please feel free to share any of your own eco-friendly Christmas tips and tricks with us on social media @SimplyhealthUK – we’d love for you to get involved.

Thank you and Seasons Greetings from Simplyhealth.

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