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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 16 January, 2019

7 easy ways to have a more environmentally-friendly Christmas

Including some much-needed gifting inspiration.

Image: Unsplash

IT’S THE MOST wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most wasteful. It’s estimated that we’ll spend an estimated €2,654 per household this Christmas and in doing so, produce 83,000 tonnes of packaging waste.

But it’s also a time when we love giving back to the world that we live in – we’ve raised almost €1.5 million by just listening to Christmas FM over the last decade, while we try to ensure that charities get a little extra support for the period. 

So, what can the average household do to lessen their impact on the environment at a time when indulgence is encouraged and recycling can fall by the wayside?

Here are just a few ‘green’ ideas to try for Christmas 2019.

1. Give people ‘experiences’ rather than items

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Unfortunately, buying items for gifts usually come with a lot of additional packaging between the price tags, boxes and plastic packaging. And it’s even worse when you buy online – it’s estimated that packaging waste from online retailers will generate over 10,000 tonnes of packaging this year, an increase of 34 per cent on 2017, according to the latest research from Repak.

Instead, why not give something that you can enjoy with that person? For ideas check out experience’ sections of gift sites, deals on beauty treatments and spa days and even gift offers at your local restaurants - you’ll get to spend time with them and even get a few endorphins flowing (or lower your adrenaline), without any of the packaging.

2. Check charity shops for presents (or make your own)

Not everyone needs a brand-new version of a gift – you can often find perfect furniture (great for new parents), beautiful clothes and unopened books at your local charity shop or for books, at secondhand book shops.

Alternatively, if you’re skint and/or creative, there are so many brilliant things you can make a loved one at Christmas. From delicious Christmas-inspired treats to homemade playdough to terrariums, here are 100 ideas of gifts you can make yourself

3. Buy Irish produce for your Christmas dinner

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There has been a lot more awareness of ‘food miles’ in recent years – the distance travelled by our ingredients and the inevitable pollution that that creates. According to‘s calculator, even a turkey bought in the UK will have to travel around 288 miles. Support the economy and the environment by buying local wherever possible.

So, during the frantic pre-Christmas shop, look for things like Bord Bia stickers on your food and avoid picking up produce that has been shipped in from countries on the other side of the world, especially if it’s something grown in Ireland. Have a look at all the wonderful Irish food available to us here for ideas.

4. Pick up a real tree, not an artificial one

Though you may think that an artificial tree is kinder to the environment as it’s reusable, plastic trees are unfortunately made from petroleum products and use up resources in both their manufacturing and their shipping, and often end up in landfills where their plastic content makes them last forever.

On the other hand, real trees contribute to our air quality throughout the year and if you buy them from the right place, are replanted regularly so they’re fairly renewable. If they’re disposed of properly, the majority end up as mulch for other trees. Plus they’ll fill your home with scent for the entire month. Here’s where you can find your local grower.

5. Shop with the most ‘green’ retailers you can

shutterstock_530641696 Source: Shutterstock/nito

Along with buying locally produced Christmas trees and the makings of your Christmas dinner, it’s also useful to ensure that the shops that you buy from take recycling seriously. For example, there are over 2,800 retailers who are members with Repak – meaning they support recycling in Ireland. These member companies are fulfilling their corporate social responsibility, by contributing to recycling the packaging that they place on our island. 

Fortunately, this extensive list also include supermarket retailers such as Aldi, Lidl, Supervalu and Tesco, and popular gift sources such as Primark and Eason. It’s worth double checking that the company you buy with is committed to recycling their packaging first.

6. Try to unwrap your presents carefully  

Once the celebrations are over on Christmas morning and the wrapping is all sitting in a pile, it’s worth taking a few minutes to see which paper you can salvage and reuse (simply fold it up and place it in a bag for next year), and neatly placing the rest in the recycling – avoid putting any in the fire or the general bin for the environment’s sake.

7. Know where exactly to put your rubbish

shutterstock_552754168 Source: Shutterstock/photocritical

It’s extremely important for the environment that our Christmas waste doesn’t end up in the wrong place – Christmas trees should be left at dedicated collection points from your county council and glass bottles should always go in your bottle bin or to the local recycling centre – not in your recycle bin.

In terms of the things that we can recycle – newspapers, magazines, catalogues, egg cartons, food boxes, kitchen roll tubes, drinks cans, biscuit tins and even clean tin foil can all be put in your recycling bin. Unsure of something else? Find the full list here.

Read more: QUIZ: Are these common Christmas items recyclable?

Each Christmas, it’s estimated that we generate 25% more packaging waste than at any other time of the year. Luckily, there’s so much you can do to help boost recycling in Ireland. From choosing to buy your gifts from over 2,800 Repak members who support recycling in Ireland to ensuring that you know exactly which packaging you can recycle, check repak.ieto learn more.

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