Konnie Huq’s eleven top tips for a green Christmas 2021

If you’re wondering ‘How can I be eco at Christmas?’ this is for you, says TV presenter Konnie Huq

Like me you’re probably becoming a lot more tuned-in to how our choices can affect the planet – particularly after the COP26 climate talks. But where and how to start reining in the carbon footprint?

Christmas of course. Christmas is when we tend to consume, buy, give and eat more of everything. And I like to remind myself that the small changes we each make to reduce our own footprints can add up to a big difference.

So here are my recommendations for a few simple things we can all do to have a greener Christmas – from eco Christmas gifts to reusing your leftovers and recycling Christmas lights. Let’s go.

1. Buy sustainable Christmas decorations: We in the UK tend to switch on Christmas lights for an average of 10 hours a day. Yet LED bulbs use up to 90 times less power. So why not light up your green Christmas with LEDs?

2. Recycle your Christmas lights: It seems UK households throw away enough Christmas lights each year to wrap around the Earth 12 times. Puts Santa in the shade, no? If you’re wondering where you can go to recycle Christmas lights, the answer is the Recycle Your Electricals locator. It’s easy – just pop in your postcode.

3. Turn off Christmas lights at night: This will reduce your energy use and therefore the amount of CO2 you’re responsible for. And it will save you money on your energy bills.

4. Switch to green energy: Why not check your energy provider to make sure you’re on a green tariff – and support the shift to energy coming from sun, wind and wave power?

5. Switch to rechargeable batteries when gifting electrical items: Hundreds of tonnes of batteries go to waste every year. Meanwhile, rechargeables can be charged up to 800 times and also save you money. By the way, when you’re disposing of batteries, be sure to separate any single-use batteries for recycling – they’re a serious fire hazard if we just chuck them in with the general rubbish or recycling.

6. Give an experience: Instead of buying more stuff, why not give an experience? Buy someone a memory, bring people together and help them remember Christmas 2021 – the first green Christmas of many, I hope.

7. Re-gift: There’s always one gift you receive that you don’t necessarily need. This is where re-gifting makes perfect sense. Passing on that smart-but-surplus toaster to someone who will use it is much less wasteful than hoarding it at home, or throwing it away.

8. Give jewellery made from materials salvaged from recycled electrical waste: Discarded electricals are the fastest-growing waste stream in the UK – and globally. And yet electricals are made with precious metals that can be salvaged and used again – gold, silver, copper and platinum, for example. Recycling these metals is better for the environment than blasting virgin ore out of the ground – partly because recycling produces less CO2 than mining does. To get you started, here are a few jewellery designers who use recycled metals:

9. Give your Christmas wrapping paper a new job: Turn that used wrap into drawer-liners, box-liners to protect fragile stuff, bunting, or even to decorate shelves.  

10. Low-carbon Christmas dinner – yes really! For some people, not eating meat at Christmas might seem like too much of a break from tradition. But vegetarian food has much lower carbon impacts than meat, and there are some fantastic vegetarian and vegan recipes. Or, if you don’t want to go fully plant-based, choose local, organic or free-range meat. Not only does organic meat reduce pollution and conserve water but it can have nutritional benefits too.

11. Finally, don’t throw away the leftovers: Christmas = leftovers. Bubble and squeak on Boxing Day is a brilliant way to use up your left-over meat and veg. 

a man putting up christmas lights
Anything with a plug, battery or cable can be recycled – including christmas lights.

My family and I love Christmas. We also love tech (particularly my husband), so we often buy each other electrical items as gifts. We’re not alone in this – consumer spending on small household electricals goes through the roof over Black Friday and Christmas. Come January, this leaves mountains of redundant goods that either get hoarded at home or end up in landfill.

Give-Back January is the perfect antidote – it’s all about donating or passing on what you no longer want.

That’s why our family will be hunting out all our old pieces and boxing them up to be donated in the new year. Come and join in!

Good luck. Together let’s make 2021 the most sustainable Christmas yet. 

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