11/12/2017 15:13 GMT | Updated 11/12/2017 15:13 GMT

Giving The Gift Of Sustainability This Holiday Season

If each of us carries at least one of these changes into the New Year, we’ll cause a ripple effect

The winter season is one of the most magical times of the year. Crisp winter nights, crackling fireplaces, sparkling lights and holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah filling everyone with festive cheer whether you celebrate them or not.

Add high street shopping and family feasts on top, it also becomes the one time of year we spend and give the most. Across Europe, UK consumers spend 38% more than any other European country (€614) around the holiday season, with Spain and Italy following closely behind.

In the midst of all the holiday festivities, it’s easy to overlook how the choices we make are having a direct impact on the world around us. According to figures from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), close to 300,000 tonnes of card packaging alone is used during the holiday season in the UK. The unfortunate reality is 60% of what we put in the bin can be recycled.

This throwaway culture and widespread lack of accessible recycling and waste management systems has resulted in nearly 8 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year, harming our sea life and causing seafood lovers to ingest around 11,000 plastic particles a year. Plus, our ever-growing landfills emit methane gas, which is one of the leading causes of global warming. Unfortunately, these environmental issues show no signs of slowing as the world population is only set to rise. So isn’t it time that we as individuals and business alike do more to prevent further damage?

Some organisations, like Dell, are already using ocean plastics and natural resources like bamboo for packaging. More sustainable packaging is just one part of our goal to work with partners and organisations across the globe to create a circular economy. Using recycled-content materials from our take-back operations, purchased from others’ recycling efforts, or collected from other materials streams usually considered waste all help us break free of the linear march of materials to landfills when they reach the end of their lives that has characterised the global economy for too long. However, as individuals, we can also make small changes that will have a big impact this holiday season.

What can I do?

While you’re enjoying the countless festivities this winter, here are four ways you can make a positive impact on the environment and maybe even influence others around you to do the same:

1) Prepare for presents: Ripping off the wrapping paper and tearing open bags are all part of the fun, so before the family gathers around, grab three rubbish bags to separate waste: recyclables, rubbish, and reusable items. There’s nothing wrong with keeping gift bags and paper for next year if they’re still in good condition. Saves money and the environment!

2) Entertain responsibly: While no one’s favourite activity is doing the dishes, by using real plates and glasses instead of single-use plastic plates, cups and straws, you’re taking an active step to reduce the waste produced at this time of year. If you absolutely must use disposable items, make sure they are recyclable or compostable, and set up clearly marked ‘recycle me!’ containers to ensure they don’t end up in the trash.

3) Look for a sign...the recycle sign: Unfortunately, not everything is recyclable, but taking the time to check before you buy will help you make more informed choices about your purchases this season. And if they’re not recyclable, ask yourself if you reuse them in your home at all. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for ways to upcycle or reuse almost anything!

4) Donate the old, before bringing in the new: Whether it’s new toys, clothes, or gadgets, making space in your home for gifts is all part of starting a New Year. However, most people don’t know where to recycle electronics or even old clothes in terrible condition. Global charity Oxfam, for example, will take old mobile phones and return the value in cash or as a donation to the charity. No matter how damaged clothes or toys are, most charities will take them as they have the means to properly dispose of them.

If each of us carries at least one of these changes into the New Year, we’ll cause a ripple effect that could save energy to power our homes, keep fish in our seas and give more to those in need. So before the excitement sets in, take a moment to think about the gifts that our environment gives us and what we can do to give back to create a sustainable future for years to come.