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Brits dreaming of a green Christmas

UK 'shuns consumerism for a more thoughtful approach to the festive season'
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Brits dreaming of a green Christmas

Over a third (39%) of the UK public who celebrate Christmas are feeling the pressure to buy more gifts than they would like – many citing fear of being impolite. This is having a knock-on, negative effect on the environment, according to new research by WWF, in conjunction with Opiniumi.

The ‘pressure of politeness’ is forcing us to overbuy this festive season. Fear of looking cheap (19%), guilt (17%) and bad manners (11%) are some of the top reasons shoppers are making unnecessary purchases, with the UK public expecting to receive up to 70 million unwanted gifts this festive season – an average of one to two per person.

Some of these unwanted presents may go straight in the bin, along with the festive packaging. UK residents estimated they threw away approximately 100 million black bin bags’ worth of waste during Christmas time last year.

While we want to do better, we don’t know how. Intentions are good, with nearly all adults celebrating Christmas (93%) say they are planning to recycle as much waste as possible during the season. However, a quarter (24%) of those surveyed confessed to throwing all their non-perishable Christmas waste in the bin in the past because they didn’t know what can and can’t be recycled.

Recycling at Christmas

A staggering 84% of UK adults who celebrate Christmas wrongly think most wrapping paper can be recycled. 62% believe food-stained paper plates can and nearly two-thirds (62%) think Christmas ribbons and bows can be recycled, too. A quarter (24%) do not recycle as much of their Christmas waste as possible, simply because they don’t have enough space in their recycling bins.

However, the research shows that we seem to be at a turning point, with over half (53%) of adults saying they will take steps to have a more sustainable Christmas this year. A quarter (23%) will be buying fewer presents this year compared with last year; 12% will achieve this by choosing experience gifts over physical gifts.

9% will re-gift presents they have already received from other people and one in 10 are reducing their meat consumption across the festive season.

To support efforts for a more sustainable Christmas, WWF is calling on the nation to #FightForYourWorld, encouraging many small actions to add up to a better and sustainable Christmas.

‘People in the UK are increasingly embracing the idea that Christmas can be festive and fun without costing the earth. We can all make simple changes by cutting back on food waste, reducing the amount of meat we eat, using recyclable wrapping paper and giving time to friends and family rather than things. But our survey also shows industry and government need to help to make it easier for people to do their bit to fight for our world.’

Chief Executive at WWF UK

Ben Fogle, broadcaster and WWF ambassador said, ‘The festive season is for spending time with friends and family and we shouldn’t feel pressured into buying more than we need. Ultimately, the efforts we make to be more sustainable during this time will be beneficial to us all.’

WWF’s Top Tips for A Sustainable Christmas

  • Use brown paper or recycled wrapping paper instead of regular wrapping paper, as regular wrapping paper often has a shiny layer which means it can’t be recycled.
  • Remove all ribbons, bows and Sellotape from recyclable wrapping paper before putting it into your recycling bin, as these can’t be recycled.
  • Plan your shopping list ahead of time to make sure you don’t buy more food than you need for Christmas.
  • Try making simple changes with festive meals and eat less meat, fish and dairy and look to swap in fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • ​Christmas leftovers can be turned into some great alternative dishes – leftover turkey and potatoes can be used in pies, bones can be turned into stock, vegetables can be used in stir-frys.
  • Try replacing single-use plastic wraps like cling film with reusable beeswax wraps to help protect food.
  • Consider giving experience presents, such as afternoon tea, instead of physical gifts.
  • Go for a real Christmas tree instead of an artificial one – check it’s from a sustainable source (FSC certified) that you can recycle through your local council afterwards, or why not rent a potted tree and return it after the festivities are over.

Click here to discover our top 5 switches for Christmas – and beyond!

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