Make your own Christmas jumper and other simple swaps to help the planet this festive season
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Kate Cooper from Norwich-based fashion activism group, We Wear The Trousers, shares her top tips on how we can reduce waste this Christmas.
Norfolk County Council is encouraging us to get our recycling right this Christmas and there have been plenty of reminders, throughout the year, to ditch our paper cups and use less single-use plastic – a phrase that even made it into Collins Dictionary's word of the year.
But aside from using less packaging and minimising our food waste, what else can we do?
Here Kate Cooper from We Wear The Trousers – a local organisation which practises everyday fashion activism, reconnecting communities to their clothing – lists the easy things you can swap this Christmas in favour of a greener alternative.
Swap your supermarket novelty knit for one from a charity shop!
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We spend £220 million on Christmas jumpers, a quarter of which end up in the bin. Pop into any high street charity shop and cast your eyes over others' Christmas cast-offs. You're sure to pick up a bargain and help out a local charity at the same time.
Another option is to upcycle an old jumper that's past its best. Stains or holes can be cleverly concealed with sequins, beads, ribbon or scraps of festive material. We Wear The Trousers is running a workshop on Saturday, December 2 at Oxfam on Magdelane St, Norwich. For just £5 you will receive all the materials and festive inspiration you require to make a DIY one-of-a-kind Christmas jumper – find We Wear The Trousers on Facebook for more information.
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If neither of these options appeal, you can still have an impact simply by wearing last year's Christmas jumper again! Apparently one in three of us buys a new Christmas jumper each year. Dig out last year's threads and wear them with pride, even warmer in the knowledge that you've rescued a garment from landfill.
Swap your vacuum-moulded, shrink-wrapped-plastic-coated novelty chocolate model for a reusable fabric advent calendar.
You can pick one up from a local festive market or craft fair ready for next year, or look at online platforms like Etsy. Fill it with whatever treats take your fancy.
If you're feeling crafty you could make your own advent calendar. Pinterest has loads of ideas for how to reuse materials you might otherwise throw away. Paper cups, yoghurt pots, tins, kitchen-roll middles or newspaper pockets can all be strung together and filled with sweets and treats to mark your own personalised Christmas countdown.
Swap your rootless Christmas tree for a potted tree.
Artificial trees are nasty, plastic things, right?
Well actually, if you already own an artificial tree, the most eco-friendly thing you can do is keep using it. The longer you use it, the longer you keep it out of landfill – which is its ultimate destination as it can't be recycled. Research from the Carbon Trust suggests that if you reuse it for at least ten Christmases, its carbon footprint will be equal to that of using ten real (rootless) trees.
If you don't already own an artificial tree, and Christmas isn't Christmas without that Christmas-tree smell, source your real tree from a local grower. Make sure you recycle your tree via your local Norfolk County Council Recycling centre. More details about when these will be open over the festive period can be found here.
If you have any garden space, select a potted tree for top eco-points. You can pick one up from a local garden centre, keep it outside for 11 months of the year, and bring it inside during December. As it grows, keep re-potting it. When it gets too big to move, plant it outside and get a new potted tree.
Swap shop-bought mince pies for homemade.
Shop-bought mince pies generally come with at least three different types of packaging – all of which ends up in the bin.
Shortcrust pasty is super quick and easy to make, and festive baking is great fun for the kids to get involved in, too. If you're not up to making your own mincemeat, supermarkets will usually sell it in a recyclable glass jar.
If you really can't face Christmas baking, do your best to avoid food waste. Research from Unilever in 2012 suggested that us Brits throw away 74 million mince pies each year. When you're buying, think 'less is more' to avoid over-purchasing. If you do find yourself with mince pies going spare in January, use an app like OLIO to connect your unwanted festive foodstuffs with willing tummies!
Swap fancy wrapping paper for reusable gift wrap.
There is a Japanese tradition of wrapping fabrics in reusable cloth. Look online and there are a myriad of reusable fabric wrapping solutions to be found. If this is too pricey, pick up old scarves from charity shops and use these instead of paper – then give the scarf as part of the gift.
If you want to use paper, make sure it's recyclable. Not all wrapping paper can be recycled, as glittery or shiny finishes can mean plastic fibres are involved. To be safe, wrap presents in brown paper, or take part in the scrunch test.
A better paper solution is to wrap presents in old newspaper or magazines. Make sure you remove all Sellotape before you put paper in your recycling bin – or even better, forget the Sellotape altogether and tie the present closed with string or ribbon.