Ten tips to make sure that your Christmas is merry, bright, and green.
1. Swap your Christmas lights
No Christmas is complete without some lights twinkling away! However, all that added electricity consumption is not great for the environment.
Opt instead for Christmas lights with LED bulbs; they may cost a little more at the outset, but they use up to 90% less energy than traditional bulbs! What's more, they're likely to last longer over time, so you may end up saving money in the long run.
And we all know not to leave Christmas lights on when we've gone to bed or when we're out, but keep Christmas green by limiting the number of hours you have your lights on each day; a timer switch may help.
2. Make your own decorations
Rather than buying artificial wreaths or garlands, why not make your own? In the UK, many of us have easy access to seasonal evergreens, and if you have an ounce of creativity, it's quite easy to make your own decorations with some spruce or pine, ivy, holly and fallen branches. For added colour and smell-factor, intersperse your creations with some cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices.
If you have scraps of material around the house, make your own bunting (there are lots of tutorials online you can use), and get the kids involved by colouring in bits of scrap paper, cutting them into strips and going 'old-school' with some home-made paper chains.
3. Change your approach to Christmas cards
It's great to give and receive cards at Christmas, but all the card and paper that gets generated is not great for the environment. Luckily, there are a few ways to keep your seasonal greetings green!
Of course, the first option is to not send any cards at all, opting instead for e-cards or emails. You may even want to donate the money you've saved to charity (make it an environmental charity for maximum eco-impact!).
Or, if going entirely virtual with your Christmas greetings doesn't suit you, buy Christmas cards that are made from recycled paper. And when it's time to take those cards down, recycle them! Many stores offer Christmas card recycling services, so just take them along when you do your weekly shop. It couldn't be easier.
4. Give green gifts
A very quick Google search will show you how many businesses now offer eco-friendly gift ideas, and it's perfectly possible to do all your Christmas shopping ethically and sustainably. From clothing to furniture, from toys to candles, search for an eco-friendly option before heading to the high street.
Or, for the person who has everything, head to www.goodgifts.org to find an original present that will help somebody else, rather than buying something which may just go to waste. For example, plant 10 metres of British hedgerow or 30 mango trees in India on someone's behalf; it'll be a gift that gets remembered and does some good. For an animal lover, sponsor an endangered species through adoption packs - www.wwf.org.uk and www.bornfree.org.uk are good places to start.
For the more adventurous among you who want to give someone a truly unique gift, have a go at upcycling! Turn old ladders into bookshelves, old bottles into lampshades or even old tennis rackets into mirrors - again, go online for an endless number of tutorials. Pinterest is a great place for initial inspiration.
5. Go green with your wrapping
When getting those gifts ready for giving, either wrap several presents in one parcel (provided they are for the same recipient, of course!), or take a tip from the Japanese and use the ancient art of furoshiki to wrap your gifts.
Dating back to when women wrapped their clothes in cloths while bathing together to avoid muddling up their belongings, furoshiki involves using beautiful, re-usable cloths to wrap gifts, regardless of their size or shape. www.furoshiki.com has lots of different designs and tips to add an extra special something to your presents this year.
6. Plan food ahead of time to avoid waste
We've all been there - the last-minute shop in blind panic, when we throw anything and everything into our trollies. However, if you're not going to eat all that food, you'll waste it as well as your money.
Take an hour over the weekend to plan your meals throughout the Christmas period. Buy only what you need and try to avoid getting sucked in by offers that sell you three times as much of something you didn't actually want in the first place.
Be creative with your leftovers to avoid unnecessary waste. I'm a particular fan of Brussels sprout bubble and squeak on Boxing Day! Visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.com to find out what you can do with your leftover meat and veggies.
7. Buy local and seasonal produce
Save carbon emissions and support your local businesses by buying seasonal produce from local producers this year. The food will taste fresher and better, and it won't come with a huge carbon footprint attached!
There are usually a good number of farmers' markets taking place around Christmas, some local grocers and farmers run veg box schemes, and many farms have shops where you can by produce at the site at which it is grown or reared.
8. Cater the eco-friendly way
If you're throwing a party, it can be difficult to avoid using throwaway plates and cups. Reduce your environmental impact by opting for tableware that's made from recycled materials, and is recyclable at the end of the party.
Wave goodbye to plastic, and say hello to bamboo, palm leaf, wheat fibre and sugarcane tableware, much of which is also compostable! Opt for paper straws and cups, and clean up with paper napkins. Websites such as www.littlecherry.co.uk and www.vegware.com have great selections to get you started.
9. Get a party outfit with green credentials
Ah yes, the Christmas party outfit - our opportunity to go super glitzy, just because it's Christmas. And of course, we can't wear last year's outfit, because everyone will remember what we wore to the work do/family gathering/university reunion (despite the fact they can't even remember what they wore themselves that night...).
This means that lots of party outfits end up in charity shops, with many only having been worn once or twice. Save yourself a fortune and reduce your carbon footprint by seeing what they have in stock. Oh, and help a great cause too!
If you absolutely must buy your outfit brand new, recycle some of your old clothes as you shop. M&S' 'shwopping' scheme is one of many offered by high street stores, encouraging us to recycle our old clothing and make space for our new stuff. There's no excuse now!
10. When it's all over, sort your waste properly
As tempting as it is to throw everything in a black sack when you're exhausted and have had one too many sherries, one of the best things you can do is sort your waste responsibly.
Most councils run recycling schemes and will dispose of paper, plastics and glass on your behalf - just make sure you're using the right bins or sacks! Many also recycle food waste, avoiding unnecessary landfill.
If you can't recycle your food waste, keep your scraps and peelings, and start your own compost pile to keep your garden looking great in 2016!
See? It's really easy to have a great time this year and show your love for the environment. Happy Christmas!