The business guide to ensuring you have a green festive season


If you can’t go ‘all out’ at Christmas, then, when can you?

We all know that the festive season is a time for excess, whether this is in terms of the number of gifts you buy for your loved ones, the volume of mulled wine, mince pies and other treats you consume, or the amount of Christmas decorations you excitedly hang up in your home or workplace. However, this unfortunately means that a lot of waste is being produced by both businesses and consumers – in fact, statistics show that we generate around 30% more waste during the festive period! This is a daunting figure, and it shows that every business should make a conscious effort to ensure their Christmas is as ‘green’ as possible this year.

Why should this matter to you? Sadly, waste is having a detrimental effect on the health of our planet. We all know that when waste is thrown away and not recycled, it ends up in landfill where it releases harmful greenhouse gases into the air. This is gradually raising the temperature of the Earth, causing sea levels to rise and the polar ice caps to melt, which threatens various habitats. However, did you know that a lot of the waste that we send to landfill also ends up polluting the Earth’s seas and oceans when it’s blown away from landfill sites?

Even though businesses are recycling more of their waste than ever before (with UK businesses having a 39% recycling rate in 2017), more needs to be done if we want to save our planet before it’s too late. According to a recent report published by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if the Earth’s temperature rises by just half a degree within the next 12 years, it could lead to a ‘climate change catastrophe’, significantly increasing the risk of drought, floods and other natural disasters.

Fortunately, reducing the amount of waste we send to landfill and recycling more is just one of things we can to reduce our carbon footprint – and with Christmas generating so much waste, the run up to the big day is the perfect time to start…

Why does the festive season produce so much waste?

There are a number of reasons why the festive season creates so much waste for both businesses and consumers alike. The most obvious is that it’s the biggest time for excess. People eat more, drink more, do more, buy more, travel more, and therefore do more damage to our planet. At Christmas, people panic and buy too much food, and a lot of this ends up being left uneaten and eventually thrown away. Christmas cards and gift wrap might also be put in the bin instead of recycling, and many people don’t reuse their festive decorations or dispose of their real trees in an environmentally-friendly way. In terms of our carbon footprint, a study by British Airways also found that people typically travel 92 miles to deliver gifts to friends and family each Christmas, and a further two billion to deliver cards.

Here are some shocking statistics around the amount of waste being produced at Christmas:

  • 6 million Christmas trees are said to be disposed of every year.
  • The estimated weight of the real trees that are thrown away after Christmas is 16,000 tonnes.
  • One billion Christmas cards are thrown in the bin instead of being recycled each year.
  • 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away during the festive season.
  • 300,000 tonnes of card packaging is used during Christmas every year, which is almost enough to cover London’s famous landmark, Big Ben, 260,000 times!
  • After Christmas, 13,350 tonnes of glass waste is thrown away in the UK.
  • The beer drank by Brits over Christmas is estimated to be able to fill 57 Olympic sized pool
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4.2 million Christmas dinners were wasted in the UK in 2014.

  • The UK is estimated to use 300 billion plastic cups and straws at Christmas parties.
  • In 2017, it was estimated that 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging would be thrown away and not recycled in the UK at Christmas.

Sources: House Beautiful, ReFood, The Guardian, Find Me a Gift and Sunday Post.

 Though everyone needs to work together to reduce the amount of waste we produce at Christmas, as a business, there are some things you can do to reduce your environmental impact and have a greener festive season. Though it might seem daunting, one easy place to start is with your Christmas tree and decorations

Your Christmas tree(s) 

One of the biggest debates that arise during the festive season every year? Whether you should invest in a real or artificial Christmas tree. This is because both of them come with their own advantages; as an example, many people feel that nothing gives the same authentic feel as the festive pine fragrance and natural look of a real tree. On the other side of the coin, it’s a simple fact that an artificial tree will be easier to maintain because they don’t need to be watered and they don’t drop needles on the floor.

Despite the fact that there are clear pros and cons of each tree in terms of their look, feel and the level of maintenance required, do you know which option is actually the most environmentally friendly for your business?

Are artificial Christmas trees environmentally friendly?

In terms of reducing your business’s carbon footprint, it may seem like an obvious choice to opt for an artificial Christmas tree because it can be reused time and time again. If you’re a smaller business, it’s an easy task to pack up your tree at the end of the festive season and decorate it differently (if needed) in the following year. Many Christmas tree hire companies, such as phs Greenleaf, will also reuse their artificial trees and decorations for as many years as possible.

According to The British Carbon Trust, a real Christmas tree has a carbon footprint of 3.5 kg of CO2 if it’s chipped or burnt for firewood. This rises to 16 kg of CO2 if the tree isn’t recycled and it ends up in landfill. This is compared to a carbon footprint of 40 kg of CO2 for a replica Christmas tree. Because of its larger carbon footprint, a fake tree should be reused for 12 years to be as sustainable as possible.

Unfortunately, if you do need to dispose of your artificial tree, it can’t be recycled due to the fact that they’re constructed from a combination of materials. Rather than sending it straight to landfill, donate your tree to a charity so it can be reused or re-purposed – and do the same with your tree’s decorations.

Are real Christmas trees environmentally friendly?

As statistics show, real Christmas trees have a considerably lower carbon footprint than artificial ones. However, you should be further reducing your business’s impact on by recycling it, instead of throwing it away. Although consumers and businesses alike are recycling more and more of their waste, a large amount of people are still sending their real trees to landfill – according to figures, 250 tonnes of trees are thrown away after Christmas, when they could be used for other means!

The main way that real trees are recycled is by being shredded into chippings. These can then be used in local parks and woodland areas. Though this is the most common use for real Christmas trees at the end of the festive season, they can also be burned for firewood (as long as this is done safely, as it can present a fire risk). To make the process of recycling easier, there are a number of companies that will collect your real tree and chip it for you.

Where you source your real Christmas tree from is also something you should take into consideration. This is because deforestation is also having a devastating effect on our planet as­­­ we need trees to absorb harmful CO2 from the atmosphere. At phs Greenleaf, we don’t just collect and recycle our customers’ real Christmas trees at the end of the festive period; we also source them from sustainable tree farms that have replanting programmes.

Your festive decorations

When it comes to your other Christmas decorations, one way you can ensure your business has a more eco-friendly festive season is by simply reusing them year after year or donating them to charity when they’re no longer needed. As the official government website dictates, businesses have a responsibility to prevent, reuse, recycle or recover waste (in that order).

You can also make your festive season greener by making your own natural decorations! Wreaths can be easily made from materials such as ivy, holly, and even fir tree chippings, giving them a wonderfully authentic festive feel. If they’re not covered in too much glitter, they can also eventually be recycled.

With Christmas largely being about having fun and spending time with others, this could also serve as a great team-building activity for your team!

Additionally, another way to add natural elements to your building’s decorations is with festive plants (and even those with a Christmassy colour theme). Some examples include the Christmas Rose, Green Ivy, Azaleas, and Poinsettia.

Bringing greenery into the workplace doesn’t just look pretty; plants are also beneficial for maintaining the health and happiness of your employees. Most notably is the fact that they are highly effective at removing bacteria, mould, dust and CO2 from the air. Prolonged exposure to these can cause a whole host of symptoms that can cause you to feel unwell, such as headaches, dizziness and nausea.

Plants are also proven mood and productivity boosters, so they will keep your staff and visitors feeling happy long after the festivities have ended!

To find out more about how phs Greenleaf can help you have a green festive season, contact us for more information on our range of Christmas services for UK businesses.

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