Tips for a plastic-free Christmas
DID you know that in the UK alone more than six million rolls of plastic wrapping tape will be sold in the run-up to Christmas- and 227,000 miles of wrapping paper will end up being thrown away?
In fact, the UK produces 30 per cent more waste over the festive period - a sobering thought when the rest of the year most of us are consciously trying to reduce the amount of rubbish which could end up clogging up our waterways and oceans and harming our wildlife.
So what should we do? Throw caution to the wind just because it's Christmas?
No way, argues Cath Moore, a passionate campaigner for the reduction of single use plastics which she says are literally killing our planet. You can read her tips on how to cut down on plastics at this time of year on these pages.
Cath, who lives in Fishponds, founded The Plastic Free Shop - www.theplasticfreeshop.co.uk - back in February after watching the premiere of A Plastic Ocean in Bristol.
The film, a documentary about the amount of plastic in the world's oceans, horrified her and she vowed to become part of the solution - not part of the problem.
So far, Cath has been staggered by the interest shown in the business both in the UK and Europe, but especially locally, with people living in the area arranging to pick up items from Cath to cut down on packaging.
So far she has sold 550 packs of plastic free cotton buds (they are made of cotton and bamboo and are compostable) and more than 1,000 bamboo toothbrushes (interesting fact - toothbrushes don't biodegrade so every one ever made still exists somewhere on our planet).
Cath, 54, said she never expected the public to ditch plastics overnight - what she hoped for was that people would make simple swaps.
Cath said: "It has been quite a journey! Thanks to the support of local people, as well as the growing public interest in reducing single-use plastic, not only have orders to the shop grown dramatically but I've also been involved in a lot of interesting initiatives.
"Even though we are now reaching more people, the ethos of making simple swaps and not trying to change everything all at once are still key to the way that we are doing things.
"I've also started doing pop-up shops for corporates and businesses in Bristol – basically setting up a market stall in their foyer so that staff can see some of our products, and I’ve run plastic free parties in the evenings for people in Fishponds, a bit like Tupperware parties of old! I’ve also had stalls at markets, including B-Bees in Fishponds, St Nicks Market and the Festival of Nature in Bristol."
Cath has been so busy she's taken on an extra pair of hands, 44-year-old Claire Stone from Emersons Green who helps out in the week. The duo are rushed off their feet, preparing to meet their last order deadline of December 18.
The pair are so passionate about the environment, they can't stop litter-picking. Cath is a member of Fishponds Clean Streets and Claire removes every bit of litter she sees.
Gratifyingly, Cath's work is not going unnoticed. She says it was "thrilling" to be mentioned in 12 Small Acts To Save Our World - international book for the WWF which is proving really popular as a beginner's resource for reducing plastic.
"It has also been great to collaborate with other local businesses and charities - such as City to Sea, Refill Bristol and thismug.life
"I'm encouraged to see how some of our local big retailers such as Tesco, Morrisons and Iceland are getting on board (the giants are trialling deposit return schemes for plastic bottles) and playing an ever increasing role in reducing plastic usage - it's amazing to think that so much progress has been made in the past few months. As a small example, just through my small business alone we have sold over 1,000 bamboo toothbrushes, totally mind-blowing to think that there are now 1,000 fewer plastic toothbrushes clogging up the world and the oceans.
"It is amazing that just that one simple swap really does add up - collectively we really can make a difference."
Some of Cath's creative ideas for eco-friendly festivities
• Choose wrapping paper which is actually made of paper (ideally recycled), but at the very least consider avoiding the paper which is shiny or covered in glitter. You could even try wrapping parcels with fabric.
• Be creative with decorating gifts - try reusable string, paper strips or ribbon bows rather that plastic pre-made bows or decorations.
• Use last year's cards (or any cards at all really), cut up to make tags for your gifts.
• See if you can use less plastic tape to secure your parcels - unless they are being sent in the post, you don't need to cover every single edge with tape. Also consider using paper-based tape, or even just ditching the tape altogether and getting inventive with string.
• Look after the decorations you already have - chances are you've got a big stash in the attic, and with a bit of love, they'll last for a very long time.
• Get crafty and go old fashioned - try making your own paper chains or hanging decorations and or head outside to collect fallen pine cones, twigs and holly.
• Eat the decorations - take inspiration from Europe where edible decorations are everywhere.
From dried orange slices with cloves stuck in them (they make your house smell amazing) to gingerbread tree decorations, you'll find there are plenty of ways of making decorations that also taste fab! And if you aren't feeling creative, chocolate coins are a good first step.
• Take your own containers to the deli or supermarket so that you don't end up with loads of packaging by Boxing Day.
• Have a go at home baking for cakes, snacks and nibbles - savoury dips are super easy to make too.
• Ditch the plastic cups and plates - yes, they are convenient, but if you really can't face the washing up, consider paper plates and cups instead.
Relax - enjoy the season, be conscious of what you are buying and who you are buying for, and see if you can make things a tad more simple and back to basics. Most of all, don't stress.
You can't save the world all by yourself so try to remember that every swap you make is a step in the right direction.