Did you know that for many of us, Christmas day and the holiday season is our most environmentally and socially impactful time of year? Travelling, food, decorations, presents and more all have an impact on the world we live in. This year, let's do it differently in Leeds.
The 'traditional' holiday season
Christmas day, for many, is a day of celebration as families travel long distances to get together to give presents, eat lots of tasty food, wear new clothes, admire decorated homes, and do whatever weird and wonderful family traditions they have. Meaning that Christmas has become a day often driven by hyper-consumerism, which on its own can add up to between 3% and 10% to our annual carbon emissions. Moreover, 1 Million Women found that if a million people reduced their Christmas waste by just 1 kilogram then 10 billion litres of water waste would be prevented and 8 million kilograms of carbon dioxide pollution could be saved.
That's why we believe this can all change if we celebrate with people, nature and climate action in mind. So, this year let's have a low-carbon, nature friendly, people friendly Christmas!
A Climate Action Leeds Christmas
We recognise that we need large systemic changes to make an impact significant enough to have a truly zero carbon, nature friendly, socially just society, but there is still lots we can do as individuals.
We believe that every little action counts and helps create the world you want to see - and if we all make these changes together, our impact is multiplied! As Christmas is a time for coming together with our families, friends and communities, it's an excellent opportunity to amplify our climate justice message.
Travelling to see our loved ones is something to be treasured, and we are not suggesting this should stop. However, transport is one of the largest contributors to Leeds' carbon emissions making up 40% of overall emissions in 2016 - but fear not there are things we can do to change this.
If you're staying local, or in the UK try leaving the car at home this year by choosing the bus, coach, train, ride sharing, or wrapping up warm and cycling. Travelling abroad this year? Why not consider skipping the stress of airport security and baggage allowance and embrace slow travel by taking the train instead of flying (unless the flying vehicle is reindeer powered!).
Food is a big part of Christmas - I for one am very excited for my Christmas dinner - but it can be one of the main sources of waste. To avoid food waste and excessive food purchases we can plan well in advance. We've all also seen the mountains of peelings from the potatoes, parsnips, carrots and sprouts, but these don't have to go to landfill. Start composting your scraps if you don't already. In Leeds we are lucky enough to have the amazing Plate2Plate Compost and ShareWaste compost locations.
Another thing to mix up this year's Christmas dinner could be to swap out your meat dishes for equally tasty plant-based alternatives. This doesn't have to mean losing the turkey altogether (unless you want to) because you could swap your starters or side dishes - find some inspiration and ideas on BBC Good Food.
Lastly, go local. In Leeds we're spoilt for choice for local veg with the Kirkstall Valley Farm, Market Garden Leeds, Veg2table Leeds and others all offering veg boxes packed with delicious, locally grown groceries perfect for your low impact Christmas dinner.
We can't forget presents! Gifting doesn't have to be about giving someone the most expensive, biggest thing you can, it should be about making them smile. We can still show the people will love we care by giving second hand from vintage stores (such as Blue Rinse) or the many charity shops in Leeds - giving back to people in the community too.
We can also gift local! Try supporting your fellow Lioner (the funky name for someone from or living in Leeds) by gifting presents bought from a vast array of independent stores right here in the city, including Han Makes, Zacrosso, Our Handmade Collective, Adam & Eco and others. Or we can avoid resource intensive 'thing' based presents by gifting experiences at local independents - something that won't be forgotten at the back of a wardrobe. Some of my favourite experiences I've been gifted include:
Tickets for live music at local venue Brudenell Social Club
Gift a voucher for a shared favourite coffee shop (mine is Fika North)
A cookery class with Migrateful
We can also talk with our family and friends about climate change and action. We understand this is a difficult conversation to have but it is an important one too. Try encourage your family to get involved with something fun and local like our community hubs or show them our 'What can I do?' page. If you're nervous about broaching the topic then check out this guide from Greenpeace and remember these five key bits of advice:
Listen to them first. What are their values? Use these to guide your discussion and appeal to them. Ask them what they think? What are they already doing?
Avoid information and fact overload as people switch off when having facts thrown at them. Frame it as a narrative of change and why it needs to happen instead.
Acknowledge the value-action gap. People often recognise there is a problem but struggle to take action, and for some there is internal conflict between belief and action. Help people understand this is normal and explore its complexities with them.
Tell your story from the heart. Talk to them about your experience and your feelings
Avoid scare tactics. Instead paint a vision of optimism and how we can create a desirable future
Together we can make Christmas and the holiday season a low-carbon, nature friendly, people friendly affair by starting to take these small actions together and being the change we want to see in the world.
Remember 'think big, act small and start now' while keeping people, nature and climate action in mind this year.
by Sam Townson