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Dreaming of a Green Christmas

As you may have noticed in recent weeks, the Daily Info team are enthusiastic about all things festive. But the season of goodwill to all can sometimes risk descending into a consumerist frenzy, meaning that making a few changes can go a long way to reducing the impact of the season on the planet. We're by no means saying that everyone should do all of this (just writing this list was a little exhausting!) but we hope you'll find inspiration for taking steps that are manageable to for you - we've included an easy win in each area in case you're in a hurry.

Decorating

For many people, a tree is a centrepiece of Christmas decoration, and although artificial trees are longer lasting, they don't feel quite like the real thing...

Easy win: buy your tree locally, and recycle it when finished!

Sourcing your tree locally can reduce carbon emissions from the distribution and delivery, and UK-grown trees can help ensure that cutting the tree down won't contribute to deforestation. The best kind of real tree for the planet is a pot-grown tree, as they are fully natural and decomposable, and can be reused year after year. See our Christmas page for details of where to buy trees in Oxfordshire.

Don't forget to recycle your tree once you've taken it down - Oxford City Council will collect it for free, or some suppliers (such as The Garden and Blenheim Palace) will take their trees back from you - long live the circular economy!

If you're opting for a second hand artificial tree, scout out ebay, Facebook marketplace or your local charity shop for a bargain (and, if you're lucky, our very own sales pages - currently there are Christmas tree stands and fairy lights for sale through the Other Sales and Domestic Items pages)

Once you've got your tree, decorating it can be another source of over-consumption. But as this Daily Info staffer has discovered, there is immense fun to be had in sourcing second hand decorations (and making your own). Alongside saving other people's decorations from being wasted, this approach has the benefit of ensuring your tree looks truly unique. You can often find whole sets of coordinated baubles in charity shops, but most will also have a range of individual baubles for sale too - offering the chance to indulge your inner magpie while scouring for affordable treasures (often costing between 10p and £3).

If you have a bit of time on your hands, making simple decorations from foraged or recycled materials is another way to cut waste out of the decorating process. The snowmen, crackers and hot air balloon above were made from reused shampoo and soap bottles, and toilet roll middles. The Wildlife Trusts have some great ideas to try out, and Orinoco Scrapstore has a wealth of crafty resources.

Broken tree lights? See if they can be repaired before trying to replace them - it'll save you money as well as the tedium of queuing at the dump. Share Oxford - the Library of Things runs a weekly repair cafe, where they can look into repairing small electrical items for a donation. They also have Christmas lights available to loan, to help people buy less stuff that goes unused most of the time.

Wrapping

A lot of wrapping paper can be recycled - but not if it's glittery or foil-y - see Oxford City Council's guide here. But reusing or avoiding disposable packaging altogether is always the better option for cutting down waste.

Easy win: avoid wrapping paper that's glittery or shiny, as it can't be recycled.

If your wrapping paper is still intact after opening presents, it can be folded and saved for next year - you could cover up any tears with a carefully-positioned ribbon or gift tag. Why not make a game of it, and see if you can manage all your Christmas wrapping without buying new paper? You'll find that, once you start looking, good-condition packaging that can be repurposed into git wrap is everywhere - from paper grocery bags to the tissue paper that protects fragile items. Sustainable loo roll company Who Gives A Crap deliberately wrap their items in particularly interesting designs around this time of year, to ensure a ready supply of colourful wrapping.

If you don't have any saved paper to hand but still want to avoid creating more waste, scarves are becoming a popular option. Oxfam stock a range of recycled saris for this purpose, but you could use any silk scarf from a charity shop - you could ask for it back once the present has been opened, or if it would suit the receiver, you can say it's part of the gift.

And if you really can't avoid buying new paper, keep an eye out for sustainably sourced and recycled options. Supermarkets are becoming more aware of these issues, with many of the big names now stocking sustainably sourced or recycled paper. Keep a beady eye out - recycled is always better than recyclable!

As a finishing touch, you can make eye-catching gift tags from old Christmas cards, since the front of the cards don't tend to have writing on the other side.

Presents

As we've seen from eye-opening footage from the Amazon warehouse earlier this year, large retailers have a terrible track record when it comes to processing returned items. Switching up your gift-giving habits can help cut down on a huge amount of waste, by reducing the chances of giving your loved ones stuff they don't want.

Easy win: buy vouchers from your favourite independent shop, so your loved one can pick out something they love!

If you've got a group of friends or lots of family members to buy presents for, why not suggest a Secret Santa? Each person then only has to buy one present, and the budget will likely be higher than if you were getting multiple gifts - meaning you can invest in something high-quality that they'll use again and again, rather than a trinket that might be hit-and-miss. You can select names out of a hat, and set a spending limit that everyone's happy with. Add in even more fun to the process with The Writers' Greenhouse's marvellous Present Game - a cross between Secret Santa and a board game.

Received something you don't love? Before taking it to the charity shop or selling it on, one Daily Info-er has some innovative advice: "at New Year a group of us do a raffle with unwanted gifts as the prizes - if you don't want the thing you win, you can pay a small fine for charity and take a forfeit (usually a horrible sweet) and give the prize to someone else (usually someone else wants it). It raises money for good things, and means one person's unwanted stuff finds a home" - and is also a good way to use up Bounties left at the bottom of the Celebrations tin!

If you are being Father Christmas and need to fill up a stocking, try and go for gifts bought from local, independent shops and makers - they tend to be less mass-produced, which cuts out waste from the supply chains. The Oxford Christmas Market on Broad Street is an open-air treasure trove, while the Covered Market has plenty of options for gems to give - including the newly-opened Ducky Zebra, selling colourful, gender-neutral kids' clothing made from organic cotton. See our Shopping Guide and our Advent Calendar for more local ideas.

If you have a loved one who you know has everything they need, you could make a charity donation on their behalf, or 'adopt' an animal through sponsoring a rescue or conservation project. Oxfam have a long-running scheme, Oxfam Unwrapped, where you can buy gift cards for projects that support sustainable development around the world. Or why not buy a membership to an arts organisation? It won't fill their space with stuff, but instead holds the promise of enjoyable experiences at their favourite cinema or theatre. Check out our favourites here.

Food

Food waste is a growing problem - Good Food Oxford tells us that if it were a country, it would be the third largest polluter in the world. Of course, there are systemic changes that need to happen, but there are some easy changes we can make to reduce our own food waste this Christmas.

Easy win: buy your accompanying veg from a local greengrocer!

Love Food Hate Waste have a handy meal prep guide that can help you prepare the right amount of food and use up all the leftovers, adjusted for how many people you're entertaining. There's also a wealth of leftover-busting recipes on BBC Good Food.

We'd never preach ditching the roast, but getting your meat from a local butcher can help ensure it was reared responsibly. Generally, pork and chicken are less carbon-intensive than beef, and you could incorporate more vegetarian trimmings/nibbles into your party plans (halloumi in blankets works just as well at its porcine equivalent!)

You could also rent your tableware from the Library of Things or Witney Eco Party Packs - another budget-friendly option to help ensure your space isn't cluttered with stuff you'll only use occasionally.

Got some handy festive waste-saving advice that you feel is missing? Let us know on [email protected]


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