How to have a less wasteful Christmas

I promise, this is not a Christmas guide (we're already suffocating in them, y'all don't need another one); this is a handy little guide to help you have a less wasteful Christmas.

 

Last week, we spoke about why you would want to reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill and some of the ways you can benefit from it. Problem is, we're probably coming up to the most wasteful time of year; Christmas. From piles of wrapping paper that dwarf Mount Doom, Christmas cards flying through your letterbox like you're Harry Potter, secret Santa gifts from someone who barely knows your name, and not having enough cups for your family, your rubbish situation can get out of control quickly.

 

Let's look at a few ways we can have a less wasteful Christmas - I suspect it might also be a teeny bit less stressful too, but I'll leave that up to you to decide.

 

Thoughtful gifts & experiences

Some people dread trying to buy gifts while others are pros at picking out something to be cherished without the slightest hint. Let's be real for a sec, we all know our family will buy each other gifts, even though we all say "oh, I don't want anything." Or your Mum says "a tidy house" for the 12th year in a row.

 

We know we're all going to buy each other gifts, so let's be helpful and talk about things we'd actually use or like. If you can't find a thing to get a family member or friend, give experiences; take them out for food, go to the cinema, or take them to see their favourite band or show.

 

If you want to keep the element of surprise, give each other a list and pick one thing from it. This is what me and my vinyl-loving friend do - we give each other a list of a few albums we'd like, and we pick one off the list. Buying people gifts they need or want is a great way to reduce waste over Christmas and 'clutter' people feel they have to keep. If you do find yourself with gifts you won't use, donate them to local charities.

 

Support local businesses

Where you can, shop locally to support local businesses, put money back into your local economy, reduce your environmental footprint, and reduce packaging. If you do order online, consider adding a "please use non-plastic packaging where possible" note to your order.

 

Christmas tree

Make sure everyone understands you're trying to have a less wasteful Christmas

Being British, this is likely to be an awkward conversation unless someone else brings it up for you. Ah, I don't even know how this country developed, let alone conquered places and built and empire - we hate asking for anything or being a mild inconvenience.

As awkward as you might feel (or not if you're from anywhere else on the planet), bring the topic up with your friends and family. Explain you're trying to have a less wasteful Christmas and why it's important to you. No one is going to be a dick about having less rubbish that isn't going to be collected for another two weeks because of how the bank holidays fall. Who knows, you might even inspire your friends and family to give it a bash too. 

 

Shop ethically and sustainably

For a lot of people, Christmas is probably the most expensive time of the year, and ethical and sustainable items are often more expensive than their non-ethical counterparts. BUT, it doesn't mean your gifts have to break the bank at all.

  • Look for cruelty-free, toxin-free skincare and makeup - some of my favourite skincare brands are Lani and Antipodes
  • Instead of buying multiple gifts, by one gift that will stand the test of time - buy one snuggly, ethically made jumper instead of more smaller gifts 
  • How about a cozy-looking pair of handknit vegan socks? Tell me you don't want to wear them, I dare ya.
  • Dad, brother, or boyfriend need a new wallet? Etsy is your friend.
  • Make something - why not challenge your family and friends to make all your gifts; socks, scarves, jams, cake, Skittles vodka, candles…whatever. Get your Pinterest on and become a crafting wizard.

 

Rethink wrapping paper

I dread to think how much wrapping paper we throw away every year that can't be recycled. It can be really tricky to figure out whether or not you can actually recycle your wrapping paper. I used to think all wrapping paper was recyclable - turns out it's not and even Recycle Now can't give you a definitive answer. If you want to use wrapping paper, buy recycled paper that can also be recycled.

If not, how about:

  • Using newspaper
  • Using gift bags that can be reused
  • Cloth wraps
  • Not bothering - I love this idea because my wrapping skills are B- on a good day (and that's just wrapping cubes or oblongs) and I get tangled up in sellotape

 

Ask everyone to bring a cup/cutlery

Fifteen people turning up on Christmas Eve? Don't buy paper cups or plastic cutlery; ask your family and friends to bring their own. It's not weird. Unless you're hosting dinner parties all the time, there's no need for you to buy more glasses or plates that you'll have to sift through all the time. And you sure as hell are not buying plastic cutlery on my watch. I'm sorry, but you signed up for this kinda ass-kicking when you read this blog.

Friends Joey fork GIF

 

We do not use plastic cutlery in this house blog community. We get everyone to channel their inner Joey Tribbiani and carry cutlery in their coat pockets. Joey gets it. 

 

Eat those leftovers

Make sure you chomp up those leftovers and send your favourite people away with doggy bags for when they can finally look at food again - usually around 4 pm on Boxing Day.

 

Dispose of your tree responsibly

I can't figure out how I feel about Christmas trees. Daz and I have an artificial one; it's plastic, and I'm sure there are all kinds of things in it that I'd rather not know about. On the other hand, the thought of chopping down a tree makes my stomach knot. Though, if it gets turned into woodchip or used as a biofuel afterwards, it's good for the ol' carbon sink...
Friends - Phoebe and the Christmas Tree Chipper

If you have a real Christmas tree, check out your local council website to find out if they are collecting Christmas trees kerbside, or if there's somewhere you can take your tree.

 

Turns out, it's not as hard as you think to have a less wasteful Christmas. I mean, we get to save the planet a little, find ourselves surrounded by a small hill of wrapping paper instead of a mountain, and you're less likely to find yourself grumbling in the cold on Boxing Day night that the bin is too full and the wrapping paper is blowing around. Who doesn't enjoy the thought of that? 

 
 
Follow:
 
 
 
 
 

8 reasons why you should produce less rubbish and how you and the planet can benefit

Since the start of 2017, I’ve been on a mission to reduce the amount of waste we send to the tip/landfill. It’s not quite zero waste (which is about producing no waste whatsoever, including recycling), but it’s an important step in the right direction.

One of the things I really want to do with Girl In Awe is help you figure out how to live a more conscious, eco-friendly, and ethical lifestyle, if that’s your jam. Starting with the basics.

When I write a blog post, I sometimes forget that not everyone has read exactly what I’ve read, or even knows what the hell I’m on about. When I began working with Jasmin as my blog coach, she suggested I take some things back to absolute basics in case you lovely folk were completely beginners to some of my wafflings. I’m sorry if I bamboozled you; I kinda turn into an over-excitable puppy sometimes. I’m gonna make it up to you though. We’re gonna smash sustainable and eco-living together. Are you ready for it...? (Yeahhhh, you got the T-Swift reference.)

Today’s topic, is waste reduction and how you can benefit from it/why you should do it. Together, we’re gonna reduce the amount of crap in our general waste bins that gets send to landfill, and here’s why.

 

1. No one likes pollution

How much do you love the delicious smell coming from a landfill site when it’s mildly warm? It’s delicious, isn’t it? I used to live in a town that had a tip and my dog, you could smell it all over town on a mildly warm day. And on one of those hot, humid British summer days, you could taste it.

That smell is the stink of things breaking down (note that not everything sent to landfill will rot away). During this process, methane is created. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is even better at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, which means it’s not really something we want to be creating more of than necessary. Though, some tips harness this methane for energy purposes, which is better than letting it escape into the atmosphere.

There are additional risks of soil and water pollution due to the gross, toxic soup of liquid that forms when things break down. I don’t think any one wants that to end up in local streams, ponds, lakes, rivers, and killing anything that lives in it.

While landfill sites now are fairly well regulated, old landfill sites are polluting waterways and could impact local wildlife. Experts have also warned that coastal erosion at old landfill sites could expose us and wildlife to toxic chemicals. Not cool. I did not sign up for historic rubbish coming back to fudge stuff up for us like the plot of the fourth sequel in a horror movie franchise.

SaveSave

2. ‘Things’ take a lot of time, energy, and resources to make

Whatever it is you’re throwing away - that thing had to be created and packaged. We are now so far removed from manufacturing processes that 1) don’t even think about it, and 2) when we do, we probably wouldn’t have a clue how it was actually made.

Just some of the steps that might go into making a ‘thing’ might include:

  • Mining something from the Earth (which can be rife with slavery, human rights, and environmental issues)
  • A lot of water being used in the manufacturing process; clean water is a precious resource
  • Time and energy from every person involved in the entire process (again, this could be linked to slavery, human rights, and environmental issues, such as the Rana Plaza collapse)
  • Forests or grassland being cleared to grow or extract a material used in that thing
  • The use of fossil fuels; for example, plastics can be made from fossil fuels, which are a nonrenewable source

3. It’s not just about throwing less away

For me, this is an offshoot of the last post. I used to think waste reduction was about putting less things in the bin, and it is in one way. It’s also about being more conscious of what you’re buying. You learn to really research things to find out what they’re made from, how long they will last, if they can be repaired, what you need from something, or if you even really need it in the first place.  

Reducing your rubbish definitely leads to a more conscious lifestyle, and, if you want it, it can lead to a minimalist lifestyle.

 

4. Less clutter is always good

For me, living more consciously has meant having less clutter in the house. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying our house is a clutter free zone. It’s a work in progress but I’m happy knowing that anything I bring into the house is something I’m happy with, confident will last, and fulfil its purpose.

5. We all have to do our part

We all share this planet and are equally responsible for looking after it. It isn’t just about us as individuals though. It’s about us holding companies and governments accountable.

Don’t like that your favourite biscuits come in non-recyclable packaging? Tell the company how much you love to dunk those biscuits, but are so disappointed in their packaging choices. Change might be slow, but if everyone does their part it will happen.

  • Tell your local MP that you want something to be done about all the litter thrown out of car windows and into hedges.
  • Complain to your local supermarket if you can’t buy the produce you want plastic-free.

 

6. Does anyone actually enjoy going to the tip?

I can’t imagine anyone enjoying having to load a car up, fight for a parking space, not find a parking space near the bin you want, and have to haul a load of stuff down the other end of the car park to put it in the right bin.

How about we just bring less crap and things that will break easily into our homes, so the only time we do have to go to the tip is when something is legit old and past it. And even then, you might be able to rescue it; I turned some wood from an old wardrobe into two stunning hairpin leg bedside tables.

A company, and the government, is responsible for their actions the same way you or I am (whether or not they try and shirk that responsibility). By telling them that their efforts aren’t good enough and that it’s not what their customers/the public want, we encourage the kind of change we want to see. Maybe that sounds a bit ‘away with the faeries’ to you, but let’s all try it and see how it works out.

DIY Hairpin leg mid century nightstand

7. You learn new skills

Instead of throwing that broken thing away, figure out if you can fix it first. In Edinburgh, we have the Shrub Coop and Edinburgh Remakery, both of which offer ways people can learn new skills, repair, and purpose items. Maybe there's something similar near you? If not, does one of your friends or family know how to fix something?

If something can no longer be used for its original purpose, can you repurpose it? Maybe you can...

8. You can save money

Hands up who loves saving pennies? I thought so. 

There are plenty of ways to save a penny or two by reducing your waste. For example:

  • Keeping tabs on your food waste by making sure you don’t buy food that will spoil before you use it
  • Trading single-use items in for forever-use items
  • Buying something higher quality that will last, instead of you replacing it in a few months
  • Fixing something instead of replacing it

And then, you can spend those well-saved pennies for adventures, seeing your favourite band, buying The Sims 4 and proceeding to spend your spare time cleaning up after pixel people instead of cleaning your own house, or treating you and your Mum to a long day exploring record stores. 

 

I need your help!

I’m toying around with running a waste reduction challenge next year and I want to know if that’s something you’re interested in? If it is, please tell me what kind of things you’d want it to include or what kind of questions you want answering. 

As ever though, if you have any questions or suggestions, fire away and lets produce less waste! 

Follow:

Path leading to the Athabasca Glacier, where it once stood

You don’t have to look far during extreme weather, or when a damning report is published, to find people who truly believe climate change is fake. As a scientist, that point of view seems unfathomable to me. I am more curious than a cat and I wanted to understand why people think climate change is fake.

This post was inspired by a number of commenters on Twitter talking about how the recent horrendous hurricanes were not caused by climate change. That, I absolutely do not disagree with because we simply cannot prove it either way. It’s a whole other topic, but The Week has a really interesting article on this topic and how climate change could impact hurricanes. What I was so intrigued by was people adding that climate change is fake anyway, so it definitely couldn’t have caused them. 

People have been arguing against the existence of climate change for years and years and years and years; it’s nothing new. It’s easy to dismiss views that seem so unrelatable to us, which is why I wanted to try and understand why some people think climate change is fake. After researching for this blog post it became pretty clear to me that there are issues with the way science is communicated to the public, and a lack of trust.

Why some people think climate change is fake

“There have been many ice ages, so ice melting is natural”

This is perhaps the argument for climate change being fake that I see most often. It’s factually correct and is an easy way to dismiss climate change. I think that is a really easy argument to make to dismiss it and not have to think about it. Combating climate change is going to result in changes to our lifestyles and dealing with some big issues which are overwhelming. Saying it’s natural is a good way to not have to deal with those issues.

Our planet has been through many ice ages in it’s history. So yes, that’s right. However, that argument dismisses the rate at which ice is melting. Us kicking out more greenhouse gases than would naturally occur is warming the planet up and causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt faster.

 

“This study says it’s not true”

People pick and choose data that fits their ideals and beliefs and discount those that don’t, this is called cognitive bias. Every single one of us has done it at some point in our lives. We want to find evidence to support our ideas, and sometimes that means we dismiss the truth.

However, cognitive bias is a problem in science too. While scientists are supposed to be unbiased, not all of them are. They might carry out their research in a way that could subtly (or not so subtly) change the results to fit their beliefs or what they want to see from the study. As we’re about to see, that can cause big problems because it can lead to the public being fed lies.

One of the key things in science is to be able to reproduce data. That means that anyone who understands the theory should be able to carry out exactly the same test, under the same conditions, and receive the same results. 

A review of all journal articles covering global climate change and global warming between 1991 and 2011 found that 97.1% of them agreed that humans are causing global warming (Cook et al., 2013). That means 2.9% of papers covering the same topics were either uncertain or did not agree that humans were causing global warming. Benestad et al., (2016) were curious about why those 2.9% disagreed with 97.1% of papers. In their study, they reviewed 38 journal articles that disputed global warming to try and replicate their results. The study found that flaws in the method, ignoring data that didn’t fit their expectations, and a lack of contextual information.

“Shouldn’t there be something to stop biased papers being published?” you may ask. Yes. It’s called a peer review process. That should stop biased papers being published However, the Benestad et al., (2016) paper discovered that some of the papers they looked at were submitted to journals which were not specialists in the area of the paper. It highlighted that this might mean the journals did not have reviewers who were experts in the area who could have picked up on those issues.

That isn’t something the general public would probably even consider. If you read an article about research that had been carried out, would you question it’s validity? In the past, I know I wouldn’t have. It’s only through studying science that I’ve learned to be so critical. This is not a problem that should affect the general public. Journals should only be publishing properly reviewed unbiased papers. Additionally, the media have a responsibility to report correctly, which we’ll discuss in a minute.

While the next three sections link together, I’m going to address them in three sections to explore each area in detail without it being a wall of text.

Snow on the Icefields Parkway

Some people just don’t believe it

Some people simply do not believe or understand the facts. This is nothing to do with a lack of education. Psychologists call it the “anti-enlightenment movement“, which explores some of the things we’ve spoken about in this blog post.

We probably all know people flat out don’t believe some things we believe in. Maybe you’ve even tried to show them facts and had a debate to no avail. It doesn’t matter how many facts or studies they are presented with, they won’t believe it.

Katherine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist who worked on the Benestad et al, (2016) paper I mentioned earlier on. She recently reshared the results on her Facebook page in a post that went viral. The comments section makes for a truly interesting read because she’s been very active in replying and sharing further research papers and facts.

Some of the commenters are purely looking for reasons to disprove the results she and her team found. While that is part of science, and should be, it’s happening in an unconstructive and damaging way. Some of the commenters simply did not read the article or don’t believe it. This causes problems though if other people see the post pop up, don’t read the article, and then believe what those commenters have said.

 

A lack of trust

For one reason or another, some people do not trust scientists. Maybe it’s to do with their personal beliefs, religion, the media, or something else.

Going back to the post on Katherine Hayhoe’s page, one comment really stood out to me:

“I get that the climate has changed on earth over the years. But here is the thing scientists get paid to prove said hypothesis either side that person is getting paid to prove their point. So unless we take the money out of this then why should anyone believe these papers?”

This is a false view of how research works. Research is not where the money is in science and technology. Getting funding is hard work, and I’m not exactly sure how we’re supposed to “take the money out of this”. If there was no money, no research would be carried out.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that no scientist has ever tried to sway his or her data to ‘prove’ something. Just look at the Benestad et al., (2013) paper. Bias exists in science. I understand why that might lead some people to distrust scientists.

 

Media & political spin / “fake news”

On a related note, the media and politicians use facts and studies as weapons against the ‘opposition’. The problem here is that it potentially lessens the impact and urgency of legitimate studies and facts. Think about how frustrated and sick of politics and arguing we all get during election campaigns. In the end, you tune it out and write off what politicians are saying.

Additionally, it doesn’t help when people in power dismiss climate change issues due to misinformation. Let’s look at America. In 2012, Mr Trump famously tweeted:

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S manufacturing non-competitive.”

In 2014, he tweeted:

“Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax.”

At the start of this year, he appointed Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Problem? Mr Pruitt isn’t entirely convinced about climate change either.

When you have people in positions of power who dismiss climate change so easily, I completely understand why people think they’re right. While a lot of people know Trump spreads fake news, there are still a lot of people who believe him and I can understand why.

The majority of people don’t have the time, or interest, to read a journal article. Some of them can be incredibly boring and overwhelming for someone who is as scientist, let alone those who aren’t. The media play a huge part in disseminating the results of research to the general public. If it’s done the wrong way people perceive it as being overhyped and blown out of proportion.

Similarly, the rise of “fake news” seriously discredits legitimate news that is published along side it. In addition to that, how is the public to know what is fake news? The purpose of a media outlet is not to share fake news, yet some of them do; how do the public distinguish what’s fact or fake? How do we get around that?

There are media outlets who report in a non-biased and non-sensationalist way. Unfortunately there will always be newspapers and websites who thrive off trying to cause hysteria and publishing fake news. I don’t really know how we fix that kind of problem.

 

The retreating Athabasca Glacier

They’re not affected in their every day lives

Out of sight, out of mind. A good chunk of us don’t see, or aren’t inconvenienced, by climate change on a daily basis. Sure, there are huge climate related issues going on all over the world but it can be hard to truly grasp it until you see it yourself. One of the first times I was really hit by the reality of climate change was when I visited the Athabasca Glacier. When I saw for myself how fast the glacier had retreated in recent years I was shocked. Before that, I had never really seen the impact of global warming for myself.

I can completely understand why people don’t believe it, or simply push it to the back of their minds, when they aren’t affected by it every day. We all have a million and one things going on in our lives, dealing with something that doesn’t impact us day in day out is not always top of our list.


Seeing something from another person’s perspective has always interested me, so this was a fun post to write. It is wrong to dismiss those who believe climate change is fake as “stupid” because it isn’t true. We all believe what we believe for a reason. Name-calling and treating people like idiots never works because it isn’t any kind of educational tool.

It’s clear that people’s beliefs and the way science is relayed to the public are two of the biggest reasons why some believe climate change is fake. I don’t know how we get around that. Maybe it’s schooling and teaching people to question what they’re told. Maybe it is more eye-opening documentaries or films. I do think that our governments have a responsibility to step up as well and encourage everyone (businesses included) to make changes in our lives. Maybe it’s punishment for news outlets who publish fake news.

What do you think?

Why do some people think climate change is fake?

Save

Save

Save

Save

Follow: