By Chloe O’Connor
A call for Christmas to be the most eco-friendly time of the year and offer people the chance to celebrate consciously in a bid to help save the planet.
From market stall owners to residents, people across Sheffield are fighting for a more environmentally and ethically sustainable festive period.
Whether it be shopping for pre-loved gifts, making your own decorations or getting creative with last year’s wrapping paper there is a call for a new approach to celebrating in a climate friendly manner.
Mary El Menyiy who co-runs Bazaar El Menyiy, in the city centre, with her husband, said: “I think we need to move more to recycling and eco-friendly products. All of ours come from Morocco and they’re sustainable from local co-operatives.”
The Sheffield Christmas market attracts thousands of people each year but many believe they should be more eco-friendly in a less damaging way.
Some are asking for radical action and follow in other countries’ footsteps to do their part in saving the planet.
Leading figures across the world have called for people to be greener and lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle in the hope to stop climate change, which leads to the question of the level of waste generated across UK households.
Mrs El Menyiy said: “Four years ago Morocco made bio-degradable bags, with a complete ban on plastic bags for the whole country. We use them now. It would be helpful for everybody if we could at least do that in this country it’s not a difficult thing but as far as the attraction as a trader we are in it to earn money.”
Just how much waste does the UK produce?
Each year the UK spends £25 billion on Christmas presents and £42 million of unwanted gifts are thrown out in landfill. This contributes greatly to the 365.1 million metric tons (approx.) of CO2 emitted by the UK every year.
According to Waste Data Flow, in 2019 England has only increased their recycling of waste from households by 4% since 2010. Neighbouring countries such as Northern Ireland has surpassed England over the last 10 years with an increase of 13%.
While the recycling rate for waste from households increased in all UK countries in 2019, England is starting to slowly fall behind. The recycling rate for England was 45.5%, compared with 50.6% in Northern Ireland, 44.9% in Scotland, and 56.4% in Wales.
Where does Sheffield stand?
Groups across South Yorkshire run events including the ‘Alternative Christmas Markets’ in a bid to make people more conscious of their spending decisions this year. The markets showcase crafters who use recycled and upcycled materials to create gifts in a way to help the planet.
A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Climate Alliance said: “We know that a lot of people have a strong emotional attachment to Christmas, which is why we don’t want to be Scrooge and tell everyone to stop celebrating.
“Instead, we want people to switch to more sustainable habits such as buying less, wasting less and shopping second hand. We want to show that it is possible to have an eco-friendly Christmas and create some new Christmas traditions.
CREDIT: Maddy Winters / Against the Grain Photography
“We want to demonstrate that you can have a sustainable Christmas by buying less, buying recycled and upcycled gifts, and by making your own decor and gifts (or buying nothing, and focusing on spending quality time with loved ones instead).
“We always aim to be as low waste as possible through using sustainable materials and being conscious of what we buy throughout the course of our project. It’s important to be as sustainable as possible all year round so that we can carry on celebrating for a long time into the future.”
So what can we do this year to lead a greener Christmas?
Wrapping paper is not recyclable. Try an alternative such as newspaper, old parcel paper or upcycle old boxes and decorate delivery boxes with the children.
If you can afford recyclable paper don’t forget look up techniques on wrapping presents without sticky tape.
Decorate old wine glasses into snowmen and reindeers.
Reuse last year’s Christmas cards as tags.
Avoid buying boxes of chocolates, they have a lot of unnecessary packaging. Why not bake chocolates with the family?
Visit the local charity shops for decorations.
Charities such as ‘Friends of the Earth’ offer support and guidance from COVID-safe community celebrations to gifts that are good for the planet. These suggestions include renting trees and buying Christmas Bee Saver Kit. People are also following pages such as ‘Sustainably Lazy’ for ethical gift ideas for a conscious Christmas, linking pages to eco-friendly and organic produce companies.