Trees are an absolute essential to human well being. They aren’t just pretty, trees supply us with oxygen, keep our cities cool in summer, absorb pollution, act as a wind break to keep us warmer in winter, help reduce soil erosion and reduce noise. Yet Scotland has just 4% of its indigenous tree population left. Mature trees are the most beneficial to our environment, yet we are losing them at an alarming rate.
Luckily, there is loads you can do to help this festive season.
You can start by reducing the amount of paper you use. We know that’s easier said than done this time of year, but it is possible. Consider using boxes instead of wrapping paper – they can be reused for gifts next year, or used as toy storage throughout the year, and children will often have more fun with them than the toys you’ve put in them! if you’re a creative type you can decorate the boxes using last year’s Christmas cards or personalise them with paints or pens.
If you do give in and buy wrapping paper, look out for the ones made of recycled paper. it can be a little more expensive, but is usually more durable and thicker so you use less of it, and it isn’t made of virgin tree pulp. Keep hold of the cardboard tubes in the middle too – you’ll be needing those tomorrow.
If you treat yourself to a takeaway coffee regularly, you’re using a lot of trees with the cardboard cups and sleeves, and it often isn’t recycled. Ask santa to buy you a plastic or ceramic takeaway cup to use instead. Often big coffee chains will give you a discount for bringing your own cup.
Don’t use paper napkins this Christmas – cloth napkins look so much prettier, and you can throw them in the washing machine and use them year after year. The same goes for kitchen paper. It may seem like the easy option when you’ve it a house full of people spilling things, but a cheap pack of muslin cloths or jaycloths can be thrown in the washing and used all year round – for spillages, window cleaning, keeping in the car, even as emergency hankies.
Switch to paperless bank statements and bills. Every household that switcheshe to paperless bills saves a tree per year. If we all did that, the results would be phenomenal. plus it’s all less paper to have to shred and recycle or file away- and that means less housework.
Switch to e-books. It took an estimated 8.4 million trees to print every copy of the seven Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. (Yes, someone actually calculated that). Most books don’t do as well as the Harry Potter saga, but the Green Press Initiative and Book Industry Study Group claim that paper companies harvest as many as 30 million trees annually for the books sold in the U.S. alone. The number of trees used for newspapers is uncertain, but must be in the millions, since 24 billion copies are published a year, and only 30% are recycled. Then there are the 350 million magazines; again, the tree usage is uncertain. Needless to say, purchasing digital copies of your favorite books, magazines, and newspapers for your e-reader is a great way to save trees, and one of the easiest aspects of going paperless!
Eat less beef. The production of meat in general requires tons of resources. Factory farms need space, water and food for animals they raise for food. Beef products are particularly hard on trees, since Amazonian rain forests are being cut down to make way for cattle ranches.
Encourage your children to draw on both sides of paper. You’ll have less “artwork” cluttering up your house, and you can flip pictures on the fridge over for a new look.
Is your Christmas decorations box full of last year’s Christmas cards? Cut round the designs on the front and you have unique, ready made gift tags with no added paper waste. If you didn’t save last year’s, don’t worry, just save this year’s and you’ll have all your tags ready for next year.
The average household uses at least 1 roll of toilet paper per week. Don’t panic, we aren’t about to ask you to reuse that! But recycled toilet paper is available, and isn’t a lot more expensive. One roll of toilet paper per week adds up to 52 cardboard tubes per year. You can use these for all sorts of things, including using them to grow and transplant seedlings, for craft activities like making your own Christmas crackers, and you can even sell them on eBay for crafters, gardeners or those with hamsters, gerbils or other rodent pets. If you have a few already, hang on to them. You will need some tomorrow!
Most councils now recycle paper and cardboard. You can shred paper with personal information on before recycling if you’re concerned (or you can add shredded paper and newspaper to your compost heap). It has never been easier to recycle paper products from home. You can find details of your councils recycling services here
There are lots of charities working tirelessly to help protect our trees, and they need our help. Check out the work of Stand for Trees
Or look at the many varied ways you can help the Woodland Trust
The Rainforest Action network aims to educate people about tree conservation and help everyone find a way to be part of saving our forests.
And Greenpeace has projects around the world aimed at helping preserve our trees.
You can also check out Volunteer Match to find local ways you can help.
Image by Debra Torrance
Written by Victoria Pearson