I think we can confidently predict that we won’t be having a white Christmas this year in Cyprus. Sadly for snow-lovers, the weather is beyond our control, however, we can opt for a green one instead! That’s of course green in the environmentally-friendly sense. Taking steps towards a greener Christmas is about being responsible and something we should all really be taking on board.
Think about the wastage we contribute to with this over-indulgence. To make matters worse, we are living in economically difficult times with money tight and food shortages very real. This state of affairs is apparent from the downward trend in our economy. Certainly from where I’m standing, just this reason alone shifts my thinking towards a more frugal approach to festivities and a tendency to adopt a more philanthropic approach (both greener). I’m sure I am not alone….
I am not suggesting we stop our Christmas festivities and present-giving that so many of us look forward to each year. I just think that we could lessen our impact by adapting our behaviour and becoming a little more green over the Christmas period. Adopting this kind of approach is not a difficult transition. It’s simply about making wise, ecologically sound decisions, many of which will save you money and will be better for you, your family and the environment on the whole. So, get into the spirit and start preparing for a greener Christmas!
Here are 10 Green Christmas tips that’ll help you to save money, reduce your Christmas carbon footprint and have a more eco friendly and sustainable Christmas.
Always try to buy locally produced food which is organically grown. Buying locally produced food boosts rural jobs and supports our economy. If you are buying turkey or chicken, try to make sure it has been reared in humane conditions and is organic. Organic poultry besides being chemical-free, tastes better too. Organic fruit and vegetables are available in selected supermarkets and health shops so you can also enjoy pesticide-free fruit and vegetables over the festive period. Health shops tend to sell fresh organic produce at very competitive prices, especially the local produce.
You can get the party going with organic wine, beer and soft drinks (see the Green Cyprus website for stockists) and know that your hangover, common with cheaper alcohol, won’t be quite so bad! 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 or from
2. Buy gifts which give
Try to buy presents that are beneficial and make a positive difference to the lives of the receiver such as bicycles, juicers, blankets and jumpers to encourage them to exercise, be healthy and cut down on their heat use as well as save money. A necessity bearing in mind our astronomical electricity prices! There are many online suppliers of some great, green alternatives and eco gift ideas to make this year a green Christmas. Visit companies like Green eBay () and Natural Collection (www.naturalcollection.com) for a variety of fabulous gift ideas.
3. Look for locally made gifts
Many gifts in today’s marketplace come from halfway around the world, and the impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local craft fairs and artisan shops are a good source for gifts that come without the added costs of transportation. And gifts made locally often have a story which goes with the gift, since the artisan and the origin of the gift are known. There’s no shortage of craft fairs and small suppliers of hand-made gifts here in Cyprus. Check out the newspapers and facebook for a variety of local events and gift ideas.
4. Give a charity or environmentally friendly gift
Sponsor an animal or give a membership to a charity or environmental organisation for Christmas. We tend not to be big on giving to these kind of causes in Cyprus and it would be good to see a change for the better. Think about whether you or your loved ones need that extra bottle of perfume this Christmas when you could instead make a positive impact on someone’s life. Or consider donating instead to one of my chosen charities, animals. With so many unwanted and abused cats and dogs in the Cyprus sanctuaries and municipal pounds, I would personally rather see 30 euros handed over on my behalf than be the recipient of a concoction of 160 chemicals i.e. a bottle of perfume! There are many kinds of charities from where you could buy a sponsorship gift for a loved one. If you do choose the animal option, Sirius Dog Sanctuary is one of the many shelters desperately in need of funding. Visit their site at ()
5. Use recycled wrapping paper
There’s no point recycling rubbish if you don’t buy recycled products! I’m sure there’s sufficient wrapping paper that ends up in our rubbish bins to wrap up the whole of Cyprus, so try to make sure that you use recycled wrapping paper or gift bags that can be reused.
6. Use recycled Christmas cards or send messages electronically
Numerous Christmas cards are sent each year only for them to be thrown away after Christmas. Try to send recycled Christmas cards or ones made from sustainable sources. You can also make your own, or send texts or e-cards instead. You can also buy recycled Christmas cards from charities and donate up to 20% to less fortunate people at the same time. Just a little thought into the way you convey your Christmas messages to your friends and family can have a more positive impact.
Real or artificial? If you’re wondering which is better, the simple answer is that real trees are the more eco friendly choice as they biodegrade. Although artificial trees last for many years they are made from metal and derivatives of PVC, which requires large amounts of energy to make and also creates by-products such as lead which can be harmful to both the environment and human health. The average life of an artificial tree is just 6 years and given that they are not naturally biodegradable they will potentially pollute a landfill site for many years to come. Most artificial trees are made in Taiwan andChina and so have additional energy costs associated with transport. Real trees are carbon neutral, absorbing as much carbon dioxide as they grow as they will emit when burnt or left to decompose. They are a naturally renewable resource and generally feel much nicer in your home. Try to choose a tree with roots so it can be replanted and used again next year or why not start growing your own?
8. Avoid using petroleum-based candles
Paraffin candles are made from petroleum residues so neither do your health or the environment any good. Soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based candles are better because they biodegrade, are smoke-free, and much more eco friendly. Whether for your own use or for gifts, make a special effort and seek out vegetable-base candles from health shops and organic suppliers rather than big commercial brands which are almost definitely paraffin based. Much better to breathe in naturally scented candles made with essential oils than artificially scented candles with paraffin residues!
9. Be battery-wise
Families can get through a lot of batteries, particularly at Christmas. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard. Batteries contain toxic chemicals and don’t biodegrade. Instead use rechargeable ones or try . By opening the cap and plugging into a USB connector, you can recharge them pretty much anywhere there’s a USB socket. You’ll never have to search for a charger again.
10. Don’t forget to turn off your appliances & Christmas tree lights
15% of household electricity is wasted by leaving TVs, computers and other appliances on standby bumping up our annual electricity bills by over €50 per year. Make sure you turn things off when you’re not using them. Lighting accounts for around 15% of household electricity, and 100-string Christmas tree lights left on for 10 hours a day over the Christmas period produces enough carbon dioxide to inflate 60 balloons. So make sure you turn them off at night and when you’re out and buy for your house.
To sum up, if you want a green Christmas remember to keep in mind the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Let’s not add to our already over-grown problem of being one of the worst waste-offenders in Europe, so make an extra effort to…
Recycle your unwanted presents
Everyone tends to receive one or more unwanted gifts at Christmas. The best way to recycle any unwanted presents is to give them to charities and hospitals. You can also participate in our Green Christmas Campaign (see our event on ). Alternatively, you could try swapping them for other people’s unwanted gifts! Visit facebook’s Swap Shop for more information.
Remember to recycle your Christmas cards, paper packaging, used cans, plastic and glass bottles. We use dozens of extra bottles and drinks cans over Christmas. Make sure all your empty cans, bottles and jars find their way to your recycling bank or are bagged up for collection by Green Dot.
Recycling an old laptop, phone or kettle takes more effort but is still important. 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. If you have any e-waste you wish to dispose of, contact WEEE Electrocyclosis Cyprus Ltd (). Alternatively, you can do a good deed and donate your old technology to a charity. You may no longer have use for it but someone else may well do.
Finally, remember that if you do have used non-rechargeable batteries, you can drop them into AFIS Cyprus recycling bins (www.afiscyprus.com.cy) which are located in various locations across Cyprus e.g. supermarkets, banks, etc.
A little thought and preparation can make this year a Green Christmas and a few careful choices can make a big difference. Less sometimes means more and undoubtedly in this case, that holds true. By following these simple guidelines, why don’t you opt for a greener Christmas too?
Green Cyprus will be supporting families in need this Christmas and as part of the Green Cyprus: Green Christmas initiative, we are collecting donations of food and unwanted toys and clothes in good condition for Alkionides Charity. If you are interested in donating please see our event on our facebook page .
We will also be presenting ‘tips for a Greener Christmas’ at Utopia’s Green Christmas event on Wednesday 19th December at 7pm. We promise an informative and festive evening so please come along and join us! Check the event section on our site for details (greencyprus.net).
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