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I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas?

I've always had a lot of time for the Centre for Alternative Technology in the heart of Wales. Okay, the hippyish feel of the place isn't really me, but when I was writing Ecologic it proved a very helpful resource, and though they may be evangelical about being green, they don't go about it with a big stick like some of the green lobby.

For that reason I was rather taken with a press release they sent out on having a green Christmas. I am going to pass on that festive-but-caring message, though I will be throwing in one or two of my own comments as I go. So here we go. From now on the CAT gets the ordinary text and my comments are italic:


Christmas is a time for excesses and whilst its [sic] wonderful to kick back and relax with family and friends there are lots of things we can do to make Christmastime more sustainable and reduce our environmental impact. “ From reducing the amount of rubbish we produce, making our own Christmas decorations to buying ethically sourced and traded Christmas gifts there are loads of things we can do to make Christmas more sustainable.”

While I could quibble about their ability to punctuate (and what are those inverted commas for, guys?) - a perfectly sensible sentiment.
  • Buy ethically traded gifts, shops such as CAT's eco store offer a wide range of products, specially selected for their low environmental impact and eco- credentials. >> You may be thinking 'There's a time for composting toilets, but I don't want to find one under the Christmas tree, there are some rather entertaining gifts here (bamboo socks, anyone?) including some made from PLASTIC! I emphasise this merely to highlight that they are properly green, not knee-jerk green.
  • Give someone a course, CAT short courses make the perfect present for family and friends to learn about more sustainable ways of living and allowing them to put those ideas into practice. >> Sorry, I really can't go for this one. Courses don't make a perfect present, they are very disappointing gifts. Don't do it, unless either a) you don't like the recipient or b) you know the recipients are really worthy people, the sort that like yurts.
  • Reduce the millions of Christmas trees ending up in landfill sites. The alternatives are to get a tree with roots so it can be potted and reused next year, ensure that your local council will recycle dead trees (many councils grind them down into chips to be used as mulch in parks or gardens) or be creative: use branches, paint and cardboard. >> While the last suggestion is a joke - please don't do it - I do strongly encourage you to go for a rooted tree or to recycle. Our council takes them away: jolly convenient. The only thing with the rooted tree, if you put it in the ground after Christmas, leave it there and get another. Don't disturb it again, you risk killing it.
  • Reuse your Christmas decorations. Bring out your old decorations rather than buying new ones every year, turn scratched CDs into personalised decorations, create decorations out of fruit and popcorn which can be fed to hungry birds in the new year. >> Ah, the Blue Peter spirit. Actually I don't think many of us need much encouraging to bring out old Christmas decorations. It's part of the delight of the season. By all means get one or two new ones (we need to support the economy) but don't go mad. For me, the only reason for using DIY decorations is because your children made them, so you can go 'Ahh!' Otherwise avoid like the plague unless you are really artistic. Trust me on this.
  • Recycle Christmas cards and wrapping paper. Many charity shops sell gummed labels to stick over previous messages and addresses and E-cards are an eco alternative to paper based cards. Be creative when wrapping presents use fabric, magazine pages, aluminium foil that can be reused for cooking, to create beautiful, unique wrapping paper. >> A hearty 'Yes!' to the be creative bit. I've seen some brilliant gift bags, for instance, made from scraps of old wallpaper, sewn up and given a string handle. (Not sure about magazine pages, though.) By all means recycle cards and wrapping paper, but reusing them is just a bit... tacky.
  • Reduce the number of polluting food miles your festive meals clock up by buying locally grown or reared produce. Locally produced, organic food tends to taste better too! For those Christmastime essentials from faraway places i.e. chocolate and coffee - make sure you buy Fairtrade products. >> Mixed feelings about this one. Yes to buy local. We get our turkey from a local farmer, and it's brilliant. And fresh local food may well taste better. It has been clearly established that organic food does NOT taste any better, and I try not to buy it myself as I don't approve of many things the Soil Association does. But their animal welfare standards are good. Our turkey is free range but not organic, and that's what I'd go for. Fair trade is fine, but don't think this is limited to the 'Fairtrade' label - that is a marketing organization. 
  • Recycle your scraps. Turn your vegetable peelings, fruit cores and nutshells into fertile compost and avoid unnecessarily using landfill sites. If you avoid composting cooked food, you will not attract unwanted wildlife and it won't smell. Many local authorities provide free c >> That's not me editing them, the original stopped like this. If your council does food recycling (some do) I'm all for it, but if it's DIY, do make sure that you avoid attracting rats etc. - they don't just go for cooked food - by making sure your composting is done in a closed, robust bin, rather than an open compost heap. 
Most of all, enjoy it! Don't feel guilty about not always being green in your Christmas celebrations. It's always a balance. But if you can have fun and be green too, why not? All together now: 'I'm dreaming of a green Christmas, just like the ones we never knew...'

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