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A Sustainable Strathclyde Christmas

Our first Strathlife blog is brought to you by the Sustainable Strathclyde Student Society. Their goal is to reach out to students to make them reflect and increase their knowledge on sustainability in the University and in their day-to-day life. Here they share their top tips on how to be more sustainable over the festive period...

Ever wondered where all your excess wrapping paper goes? And what about all the leftover food from your Christmas dinner?

If you're wanting to know how to adopt a more sustainable Christmas this year, then you've come to the right place. We are the Sustainable Strathclyde Student Society and want to share with you some of our tips of how to make this Christmas more sustainable.

Sustainable gift ideas

Buy less

Many people would prefer to get personalised and unique presents. Research has shown that more than 42% of the population in the UK prefers to give an experience rather than physical gifts. Therefore, gifts of service such as vouchers for spa’s and entertainment activities could be more memorable and provide lasting value with minimal impact on the environment. Handmade gifts such as homemade food or drawings are likely to be more personal and environmentally friendly. The idea of organising “Secret Santa” event may also be more cost-efficient and suitable for a group of friends.

Choose wisely

Some of the best presents for Christmas are those that help people improve their lives in any ways possible. Therefore, those products that would encourage a more sustainable lifestyle such as reusable shopping bags, straws, water bottles or bamboo toothbrushes. The zero-waste kitchen or bathroom kits may introduce new ways of reducing single-use plastic products at home.

Christmas gift wrapped in brown paper

Royal Exchange Square at night, with canopy lights

Shop locally

Another important point that will help you to be more sustainable on Christmas is to shop locally. The pollution created by delivering gifts from across the world, which contributes to the global warming, can be reduced by supporting small local businesses. Shops that sell products made from recycling materials or create zero waste in your city should be considered while looking for Christmas gifts.

Once you have bought all your gifts, if you can spare a little extra please consider donating to the Strathclyde Toy Appeal, any donations will make a huge difference.

Strathclyde Christmas toy appeal

Sustainable wrapping

Come Christmas morning, whether you rip open your presents, or carefully take the tape off, one common thing in households will be the mountain of used wrapping paper, ribbons, bows and glitter…and not all of it will be recyclable.

When shopping for wrapping paper, look for recyclable options. Steer away from anything with foil, glitter, or thick glossy paper. If you have received a present and don’t know if the paper is recyclable, a quick way to work out is the ‘scrunch’ test, if the paper is recyclable it will stay scrunched.

The good news is, recyclable paper is becoming easier to get hold of. Many high street retailers like John Lewis sell Kraft wrapping paper, and if you are looking for something with a pattern, Amazon sell a wide variety of recyclable festive paper. Primark has even introduced shopping bags that can double up as wrapping paper!

Before you add wrapping paper to the recycling bin, do not forget to remove any sticky tape first, or even use paper-based tape. Rather than wrapping, you could also use gift boxes or bags as they can be reused year on year.

Christmas wrapping paper

Decorating your home

Include a timer on lights so they are not on 24/7, this could also help gain Jump points. Using LED lights as this is less harmful to the environment and both strategies will save you money as they last 20 times longer. Baubles made from wood, brass, paper, recycled glass or edible baubles e.g. chocolate/ginger breads.

Buy trees that are forestry certified (FCS) as this means it is made with, or contains, forest-based materials from FSC-certified forests or reclaimed sources. Another idea would be to rent your tree as they can then be replanted and used again next year.

Cards, crackers & advent calendars

In today’s stores and online there’s sooooo many sustainable options for cards. Have a look on the back for a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approval stamp, this guarantees the paper has been sustainably and ethically produced.

An option that we also love and recommend is to jump on the trend of plantable cards! Yes, you read that right…plantable…cards. A company called Wildflower Papers have a brilliant range of seed packet cards, perfect for battling the holiday blues early next year when the seeds need sowed.

I’m sure most of us LOVE an advent calendar, but are you opening up your paper/card advent calendar where the chocolates lay nestled in a plastic tray…time to ditch that too. How about investing in a personalised advent calendar? These can be customised, decorated and can even include your own favourite sweets, chocolates, gifts etc.

Why not replace your single-use crackers with some reusable ones? Ditch the cheap plastic toy and include a personalised gift instead… I’m sure your loved ones might prefer a thoughtful, locally sourced gift over a plastic toy racing car. I know we would!

Using the decorated cracker tubes can make some great Christmas bunting or decorations too. So, this Christmas be sure to look at everything and think to yourself can this be reused, recycled, or revamped?

Kids pulling apart a Christmas cracker

Christmas pudding with star shaped biscuits and mince pies

Food waste tips

Did you know that your Christmas dinner can be made more sustainable, too?

Firstly, some vegetarian and vegan alternatives of traditional meals can be introduced to the table. For instance, this year Aldi has introduced a range of meat free options in the Christmas menu. Secondly, it is especially important to reduce your food waste, you could also consider:

  • planning ahead (consider food that you already have and free space in the fridge)
  • don't over-buy food (limit the “just in case” purchases and consider expiry dates)
  • use freezers (freeze and store as much food as possible, including the leftovers)
  • make a use of your leftovers (useful leftover recipes)
  • think about the value of food (donate to local food banks)

The clean up

So many of us nowadays are online shopping addicts and receive so many cardboard boxes. Luckily enough these can be recycled! However, people receive that many that they often run out of room. Our top tips would be to break them down to free up some extra space, or keep the boxes to store all of your new quirky Christmas decorations you’ve been busy making out of crackers or wrapping paper.

Now we’ve discussed the how to’s lets discuss the do nots. Please do not try to recycle disposable plates, napkins or paper towels. Throw them straight into the bin. These are not recyclable and only contaminate other items that can be!

You may have received a brand new gadget, new TV, phone, gaming console and might have an old one to get rid of. There’s a great website and campaign across the UK called Recycle Your Electricals, where you can check your local recycling centres. There’s many other options too, such as Zero Waste Scotland, Recycle More and Recycle Now that will help to direct you.

Continue to recycle, papers, cards, excess food and electronics too! If you’re a Strathclyde Student or Staff member make sure you’re signed up to the Jump app where you can log your activities and claim green points to compete and win prizes!

Get involved with Sustainable Strathclyde

If you've made it this far and not stopped to make your own sustainable advent calendar, bought from a local business or rethought your Christmas dinner then we hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post.

For more information on the how to’s this Christmas follow us on social media, and if you’re a student sign up to become a member of our society and most importantly, we hope you have a Very Merry (Sustainable) Christmas!

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