‘Tis the season for stuff! Fun things such as stuffing a turkey, stuffing a stocking, buying stuff, wrapping stuff and giving stuff. Unfortunately most stuff comes wrapped in plastic, which then has to be thrown away.
With so much going on at this time of year, it is easy to forget what the Christmas season is all about. Whether you are religious or not, many of us enjoy spending time with the ones we love, decorating our homes and, of course, giving.
What it shouldn’t be a time for, however, is plastic — be it cheap plastic toys, plastic containers, plastic wrapping or plastic plates, cups and cutlery. This is because not only does all this plastic end up being thrown away, therefore harming the environment, it ends up harming us too.
Plastic is in everything — the cosmetics we use, the food we eat and the water we drink, even bottled water. The more we consume products that have been packaged in plastic — especially if it has been heated up or sitting in the heat at some point — the more plastic can harm our health. The plastic crisis has got so bad that micro-plastics have even been detected in human breast milk.
Chemicals in plastic have been linked to a long list of terrifying health conditions including cancer, hormonal issues, infertility, diabetes and behavioural problems in children.
In this, the season of giving, give yourselves, your family and friends, and our environment an invaluable gift: a plastic-free Christmas.
Here are ten tips to help you to achieve this:
1. Choose home-made over shop-bought food: most pre-prepared or processed foods from shops and restaurants will be packaged in plastic containers. To avoid the unnecessary plastic, find a good recipe and try cooking from scratch. Get family and friends to pitch in and help. Ingredients such as vegetables, flour, butter, oils and spices can be commonly found in non-plastic packaging. When faced with a choice of packaging, choose glass or paper over plastic. Brave enough to cook with your children? Help them to make their own baked goods, such as cookies for Santa, from scratch too.
2. Buy home-grown: buying your vegetables directly from farmers not only reduces your meal’s carbon footprint, you can also bring along your own bags and containers. You are also less likely to encounter plastic packaging.
3. Use sustainable decor: you can make your own Christmas decorations using household items or nature. Spray-paint palm fronds or leaves, for example. Support our local artists and artisans by buying locally made wreaths and table decorations made from Bermuda-sourced items.
4. Serve on reusable dishes and dinnerware: plastic foodware ends up in landfills, the incinerator, the ocean or scattered around our green spaces, where they threaten wildlife and look horrendous. Invest in or give the gift of reusable plates, cups, serving platters, utensils and napkins, which can be used year after year and later for summer picnics.
5. Make your own fizz: if you like your water fizzy, don’t buy it in a bottle. It’s easy to make it yourself. Invest in or add a SodaStream to your Christmas wish list.
6. Provide or bring reusable containers for leftovers: going to family or friends’ home for Christmas? Bring your own glass or metal containers to take home some delicious leftovers. There are also some great beeswax-coated fabric wraps for sale — another Christmas gift idea — that can take the place of plastic wrap or tinfoil.
7. Compost: if you don’t have one yet, ask for a composter for Christmas. Then you can compost any scraps from cooking as well as any compostable decor. This will reduce the number of plastic bin bags you need to use.
8. Give reusable or sustainable gifts: life is more expensive than ever this year. When thinking about the perfect gift, ask yourself this: will they still be using it this time next year? We’ve already mentioned a few ideas — SodaStream, a composter, beeswax wrap, reusable foodware. More ideas include metal straws, reusable water bottles and coffee cups, soaps and creams in glass or bamboo containers, attractive glass jars or tins for food storage. For children, consider books, puzzles or wooden toys over plastic ones.
9. Second-hand gifts: with so many high-quality second-hand items available at shops such as Orange Bay, ReStore and The Barn, or via various Facebook groups and Emoo, you might find a pre-loved or even antique item that looks just as good as new for a fraction of the price — and the packaging — of a new one.
10. Gift bags and boxes: Invest in gift bags, boxes, string or ribbon that can be used again and again instead of expensive wrapping paper that is thrown away after just one use. Wrapping paper comes wrapped in plastic and often contains plastic too.
If taking on all ten tips is overwhelming, simply try one or two to start with. Changing habits is hard, but a little change makes a big difference.
Erich Hetzel is a local environmentalist and member of Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce (BEST); Katie Berry is a local environmentalist and a Beyond Plastic champion
Beyond Plastic Bermuda is a joint campaign by BEST, KBB and environmental advocates to educate and help our island move away from plastic. For more information and ideas, please visit our website, beyondplastic.bm or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org