The Ecologist's green Christmas guide
Laura Sevier & Matilda Lee
16th November, 2009
How to be festive and green - from rentable Christmas trees and organic turkeys to original ethical gift ideas and tips on recycling electrical waste...
A weekly veg box makes life easier and saves you lugging round bags of potatoes and carrots. It also saves you a potential drive to the market - a big chunk of your food-related emissions. The Soil Association have compiled a UK-wide organic box scheme directory.
Go for a free range, preferably organic, turkey - order from your local butcher in advance - or get an organic one delivered to your door from an organic online butcher.
For fresh, green seasoning keep pots of evergreen herbs growing close to the kitchen. Herbs that can survive the winter outside include rosemary (add sprigs to soups, casseroles or sprinkle over roast potatoes or meat); sage (a delicious addition to stuffing and nut roasts) and parsley (a favourite for sauces and soups).
- For ethical gift ideas from Ecologist vetted companies check out our ethical christmas gift section.
Get the party going with organic wine, beer, cider and spirits and know that your hangover will be that little bit healthier (no, we're not kidding: find out why here).
On the subject of hangovers, you might also want to try some milk thistle, a detoxifying, immune-boosting herb well known for its ability to enhance liver function. It's available as a tincture from most health food shops.
• Rent a living Christmas tree from the ChristmasTreeMan.co.uk. It'll be delivered to your door in a pot (to keep the tree alive) and some feed to keep the tree healthy. When Christmas is over your tree will be collected and returned to the ground.
• Have a live Christmas tree in a pot that you can take outside to the garden and use next year. If replanting isn't an option and you buy a cut tree then don't throw it out with the rubbish. Most local councils run Christmas tree recycling schemes, or try www.letsrecycle.com
• If you live in or near London, buy your tree from the Christmas Forest, an independent 'tree-tailer' that sells trees at seven sites around the city. Trees are sustainably sourced - every tree cut is replaced by a new one, mostly in the UK to minimise tree miles. For each tree sold, another is planted in on the Forests for Food project in Ethiopia through Tree Aid.
Original gift ideas
The great re-skilling
When it comes to the basics of self sufficiency (at a household or communitiy level) most of us don't have a clue. Why not give someone an opportunity to learn a new skill for life. For online listings of providers of green courses in the UK visit www.allthingseco.co.uk or try:
• The Soil Association Organic Farm School, supported by the Daylesford Foundation, offers practical courses at organic farms across the UK in growing food, rearing animals, cooking and rural crafts, learning directly from organic farmers and expert practitioners. See www.soilassociation.org/farmschool.aspx
• Garden Organic is the UK's leading organic growing charity, and runs courses, talks and workshops. Membership entitles you to discounts, free expert advice, factsheets and its quarterly magazine. See www.gardenorganic.org.uk
• The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) - runs courses and produces factsheets and publications on energy, gardening, building and all things sustainable. See www.cat.org.uk
• Permaculture - join a local group, watch videos, attend a talk, read books and magazines, attend a regional or national convergence. See www.permaculture.org.uk
• Amazonails is a not-for-profit social enterprise which offers courses and training in strawbale building and other sustainable building techniques. See www.amazonails.org.uk
Join the club
Offer a loved one or friend a membership with a difference:
• The Woodland Trust protects and manages more than 1,000 woods across the UK. It fights to save ancient woods under threat (visit www.woodwatch.org.uk) and creates new native woodland - it has planted more than 8 million trees. Help support the Woodland Trust: become a member or dedicate one, three or 10 trees in the name of your friend or relative. See www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
• The National Trust manages 250,000 hectares of land, including forest, woods, nature reserves, farmland and moorland, as well as 707 miles of coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Over 300 historic houses and gardens. Membership gives you access to green space and helps fund conservation. See www.nationaltrust.org.uk
• Campaigning groups - working to change national policy and business practices around key issues such as climate change, food security, biodiversity and more. Major groups include Friends of the Earth (www.foe.org.uk), Greenpeace (www.greenpeace.org.uk) and the Rainforest Action Network (www.ran.org).
• Buy a friend a subsription to the Ecologist (at a special offer price of £18 for a year) and get a free book worth up to £16.99 - there are ten to choose from including Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Mark Lynas' High Tide.
From unwanted gifts to wrapping paper, for ideas on reducing your festive footprint and recycling seasonal waste, click here.
It's easy enough to know what to do with paper packaging and glass bottles. Recycling an old laptop, phone or kettle takes more effort but is still important.
Every year, the amount of electrical waste created in the UK is enough to fill Wembley Stadium six times over. Quantities of 'e-waste' are even greater at Christmas, and with much of this ending up in landfill, we should all be concerned about what happens to the heavy metals used in electronic components once they are buried underground.
The easiest thing to do is take unwanted or broken electronics to your local recycling centre - find out where your nearest site is from the Recycle Now website.
Jean Cox Kearns, Recycling and Takeback Manager from computer giant Dell, has the following tips.
- Look for recycling advice in the product literature or on the website. Dell's one, for example, is here.
- Do a good deed and donate your old technology to a charity this Christmas, or give it away for free online using sites such as freecycle or gumtree. You may no longer have use for it; someone else may well do.
- Make recycling fun and educational by involving family, friends and neighbours. Get in touch with local organisations or councils and set up community electronics recycling days or arrange e-waste collections for your whole street.
For more information on greener electronics in general see Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics
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