Wasted: sprouts, Sellotape and six million trees

Spruced: Around 60 million Christmas trees are planted in Europe each year. © Getty

Should we all have a green Christmas this year? We create around a third more waste during the festive season than at any other time. Some say it is time to rethink how we celebrate.

What’s happening

The date is 6 January. The room is bare. Lights and tinsel are gone. All that is left is an empty tree, slightly brown, with pine needles making a carpet on the floor.

It is the time everybody dreads: throwing away the Christmas tree. And it is not only sad – it’s bad for the environment too.

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Every year, six million Christmas trees are thrown away in the UK. Many go to landfill, where they release harmful greenhouse gases.

Our meals are wasteful, too. Last Christmas, we ate 175 million mince pies and 10 million turkeys. Plus, we threw away about 17.5 million Brussels sprouts.

All that feasting means rubbish: the mince pies alone create a tonne of aluminium waste. Add in the packaging from over 200 million gifts, and we throw away 30% more than we do at any other time of the year.

Some hope to change this. Farms are letting people rent a tree in a pot and give it back in January. Supermarkets have banned plastic glitter, while other shops are only selling recycled wrapping paper.

Should we all have a green Christmas this year?

Some say…

No! Christmas is about celebrating and having fun. Eco-friendly decorations will be boring and not as pretty. Without glitter and tinsel, everything will look gloomy. And nobody really wants to cut back on presents. This year has been difficult enough as it is. What we need is to have a great time without feeling guilty.

Others think…

Yes, of course! Lots of shops are creating eco-friendly versions of traditional decorations – like glitter and tinsel. Using recycled wrapping paper will help cut down on our waste. And having a live tree will mean that it never goes brown or loses its leaves. Plus, if we know we are helping the planet, we will enjoy the celebrations even more.

You Decide

  1. What is more exciting – opening a surprise gift or watching someone else open one you picked out for them?

Activities

  1. Make a greetings card using only scrap paper. If you have a recycling bin in your classroom, ask your teacher to give you some. Use colours to make it look as festive as possible, then send it to somebody you know.

Some People Say...

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Dr Seuss

What do you think?

Word Watch

Landfill
A place used for waste disposal. It works by throwing away waste and burying it in the ground. There, it is not recycled and food cannot break down naturally.
Greenhouse gases
When trees break down, they produce methane. This gas contributes to global warming. There are more eco-friendly ways to get rid of trees – like turning them into chips for gardens. Sadly, few people can recycle their trees in this way.
Aluminium
A strong, light, silver metal that does not easily rust. It is used for the cases in mince pies bought from shops.
Rent
The idea behind renting a tree is that you only borrow it for the Christmas season. All you have to do is water it, and then the farm will take it back and put it in the ground. Some companies let you make a note and come back for the same tree year after year.
Plastic glitter
Earlier this year, three major supermarkets said they would not sell glitter. It is made from tiny pieces of plastic that can get in pipes and water, as well as ending up outside and harming wildlife.

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