1 January 2012

Step Down Sunday - Eco-Christmas Review

Step Down Sunday
The last few months we’ve been trying to make changes that will reduce the environmental impact of Christmas. Now that we're through the rush and excitement of the season, I thought it would be good to look back and see what worked and where we can make improvements.

Christmas Cards

This year we printed Christmas postcards on 100% recycled card. The idea was brilliant, but there are some things we can improve on!
Eco-friendly Christmas Postcards
First is that I should have left the backs blank. VistaPrint offer to print a light grey pattern on the back of the card, so I thought why not, but the print was actually quite dark and makes it harder to read the address and message. To make it legible I had to use felt tip pens. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but since they were postcards, there was the possibility they could get rained on and the ink may run. I had a last minute panic as I tried to find permanent markers that wouldn’t bleed. (Surprisingly I didn’t get funny looks in the Reprographics store for testing the markers on my card and then dashing over to the water cooler to dip my finger in the drip tray and try smearing the water across the inks!) I did finally find waterproof pens, but I assume they aren’t very eco-friendly. Next year if I leave the back of the card white I’ll be able to write my message in normal biro .

I think I’ll also try and send my overseas cards by surface mail next year. I have asked Royal Mail if they know how the carbon footprint of surface-mail compares to air-mail, but they’ve not got back to me yet. Finally we can try and find a printer that uses vegetable inks.

So while we made some huge improvements, there is still room for improvements.

Eco-Score: 7 out of 10

Christmas Presents

We did pretty well on the Children’s presents, but started to struggle when it came to the adults. I think they fall within three categories Eco-friendly Presents, Reasonable Compromises, and ones where we could have made better choices. This list includes things we bought for others and presents we asked for (I’ve left off gifts we had no influence over).

Eco-friendly Presents
Reasonable Compromises
  • Lego Sets (Nephew & Mr G)
  • M&S Slippers (For Me)
  • River Cottage Veg Cookbook (Mr G)
  • Spa Gift Certificate (Brother & Sister-in-law)
  • Baby’s First Christmas Ornament (For Friends)
Room for Improvement
  • Doctor Who BluRays (For Us)
  • Harry Potter BluRays (For Us)
  • TinTin DVDs (For Mr G)
  • White Christmas DVD (Mother-in-law)
  • Harry Potter Lego Wii Game (For Us)
  • Batman Xbox Game (For Mr G)
  • Music CD (Mr G)
  • Harry Potter Cluedo (For Us)
  • Hornby Model Train Level Crossing (Father-in-law)
  • Wooden Nutcracker (For Me)
  • Yankee Candles (Aunt & I)
  • Gap Jumper (For Me)
  • Cath Kidston Fat Quaters (For Me)
  • Tala Pastry Cutters Plain (For Me)
  • Tala Pastry Cutters Crinkly (For Me)
  • Staples Paper Trimmer (Mother-in-law)
Some of the items in the "Room for Improvement" list just don’t have eco-friendly alternatives. In particular media discs are a big problem (CDs, DVDs, BluRays, & Console Games), though we’ve greatly reduced how many DVDs we've bought. This year we’ve tried to only buy discs we are passionate about and will watch many times over the years. Other items were chosen because we are trying to buy more of what we need rather than disposable items we don’t. Finally some items were picked because they are tools we can use to make things in future.

On the "Compromise List" we have items that may not be eco-friendly, but have some redeeming characteristic. For the slippers it’s simply that no other product would be suitable. The cookbook will encourage Mr Goldfish to stick to his meat-free diet. Other items are made from plastic, but will be used for years. Finally the Spa Certificate is an alternative to other media type presents. I also feel that while Spa’s may use a lot of energy and such, sharing those costs with everyone else who uses the spa reduces their impact.

IMG_8960 On the "Eco-friendly List" all the presents were pretty successful. I love my new can crusher! I can’t use the foot operated can crushers, and I was a bit worried the wall mounted ones wouldn’t be as efficient. This wall-mounted can crusher by Ashley is brilliant though, we’ve spent the afternoon crushing our cans and they take up lots less space in the recycling bin now! However two of the presents have a small hitch. I’m not sure my youngest niece appreciated the I Love My Planet  Monkey when faced with so many other presents, but hopefully it will grow on her after reading the Curious George books.

Finally you may have noticed that the bamboo socks have an asterisk at the end. We bought these quite early in our Christmas shopping, assuming that bamboo cloth was an eco-friendly choice. It was only when researching the eco-felt that I learned more about bamboo fabric.

To make fabric, bamboo is turned into viscose. Viscose can be made manually, however it is normally made by processing the wood or in this case bamboo in lots of chemicals. It’s hard to claim using all these chemicals is really environmentally friendly. So while my bamboo socks were bought in good faith, I think we’ll have to do more research into eco-friendly fabrics and clothes.

As only half our presents were eco-friendly and even those could be improved, I think there's a lot of work to be done next year.

Eco-Score: 4 out of 10

Christmas Wrapping
Kraft Paper Christmas Wrapping
Now on Christmas wrapping we made some big changes! We bought recycled brown paper, which can be recycled again for the wrapping. We discovered that Sellotape brand sticky tape is bio-degradable! We made some fabric bags for wrapping awkward shaped presents, from some old curtains I had in the loft. And of course we can reuse these bags each year, which will save a fair bit of paper. The only thing we have to work on is snagging the paper back off people when they’ve opened their presents so it definitely goes into the recycling rather than the bin! We did reuse some of wrapping paper we were given, and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for eco-friendly ribbon in future.

We've made huge improvements, but until we use up our supply of curling ribbon and plastic sticky tape there'll still be room for improvement.

Eco-Score: 7 out of 10

Other Things

Even though they're not so far away, public transport doesn't really work for visiting Mr Goldfish's family. We were able to stay over a couple of nights, but once more guests arrived we had to make the 45 minute drive each day.

We also didn't prepare Christmas dinner, so there's little we can change there - but we should make some improvement to the snacks and nibbles we eat over the festive season.

Eco-Score: 1 out of 10

Step Down Sunday So what do you think? How did we do?

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