Tips for an environmentally friendly festive season from service improvement officer Jenny Lowes.

Jenny, who has worked in recycling and waste management for 21 years, is passionate about reducing, reusing and recycling and making sure we live the greenest way possible.

I’m totally committed to a Green Christmas this year – trying to reduce the unnecessary waste of unwanted gifts and reduce my carbon footprint, as well as the obvious benefit of saving a bit of money, too.

Without giving too much away to any family members reading this, so far I have bought:

  • A second hand phone and smart watch for the kids. They don’t mind ‘new to us’ things and it’s so much cheaper. The old ‘dropped too many times’ phone will be recycled securely at the household waste recycling centre (HWRC).
  • Gift vouchers for both sets of parents for a spa day, a day out voucher and a couple of Sunday lunch vouchers.
  • Stocking fillers of beeswax wraps to replace cling film and shampoo bars along with insulated packed lunch bags.

I haven’t gone for the home compost bin gift this year, but I have previously given one as a wedding gift. It wasn’t on the wedding list, but the last time I saw the couple they were very happy with it and still using it! If you’re thinking about buying one as a gift we do sell them at some of our household waste recycling centres. Find out more about home composting on our website.

I’ve noticed with everyone trying to reduce their plastic usage there seems to be less pointless crackers with bits of unwanted rubbish inside. Yes, they can be fun and the kids love them, but maybe it’s time to change and either spend more and get ones that have something useful in them or buy some that you know can be recycled or even, dare I say it, give them a miss this year…

It may be too late by the time you’re reading this, but remember for next year to try to avoid glittery Christmas cards and shiny gift wrap, as these cannot be easily recycled.

If you’re replacing broken battery-powered appliances or toys, take them to the household waste recycling centres for recycling, but don’t forget to remove the batteries for recycling first. All shops that sell batteries now must supply a bin to collect them for recycling and all our household waste recycling centres have containers for them. I have heard of fires in waste vehicles and at waste sites that have been started by discarded batteries, so it’s really important that we get into the habit of removing them and keeping them separate for recycling.

We all know there will be loads of cardboard to recycle at Christmas. As long as you can pack it flat it can be recycled at the household waste recycling centres, which are open except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (and every Wednesday).

Over the Christmas holidays our fridges and freezers need to be working at their best. There are always so many leftovers, but no one wants to be throwing food away. So make sure your fridge is set to below five degrees. Getting this right can make your food last up to three days longer. Use this simple tool to find out how to set your fridge to the right temperature. If you visit any of our events attended by the Rotters, we always have fridge thermometers to give away – now this would be a useful cracker content.

It’s always surprising that not everyone knows what can be frozen and where things should be kept so they last longer. The Love Food Hate Waste A-Z Food Storage tool is very useful.

I’m going to finish by being a bit controversial and admit that I do buy some fruit and vegetables with plastic wrap. I do try to buy fruit and vegetables loose when I can, depending on where I’m shopping. Things like bananas, cauliflower and oranges I will buy loose as they pretty much have their own packaging built in. However, I do buy wrapped cucumbers as they last four times longer in the wrap than without and sometimes that cucumber just doesn’t get eaten quickly enough and not even the guinea pigs want that mush at the bottom of the fridge!

So, ultimately it’s all about a balanced approach. Try to buy local, work out whether you really need it and the best advice for this time of year is to love your freezer – they are great at pausing time – and there is so much that can be frozen and you can then enjoy your Christmas food all over again later in the year.