How to be sustainable at Christmas with GUEST

This time we asked Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team for tips


Last week we heard from Glasgow University Fashion Revolution (GUFR) on how to have an eco-friendly festive season. This week we caught up with Molly from GUEST (Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team) for more sustainability advice. 

What ways can students be sustainable in the run up to Christmas?

“There are so many different ways to have a sustainable Christmas, often without spending any extra money or time. The main things to keep in mind is just how much waste is produced at Christmas – leftover food, unwanted presents, wrapping paper, Christmas crackers, surplus clothing, decorations…. Even if you can reduce waste in one of these areas you’re making a difference.

“One of the biggest things in the run up to Xmas is the party season, and we often see people going out and buying a new outfit for each event. Instead you can borrow something for a friend, buy something second hand or even just rewear something you already own! 

“Secret Santa is also great for your pocket and the planet – buying one gift instead of for the whole group reduces consumption and avoids you forking into your student loan for presents.”

What zero-waste gifts would you recommend?

“First of all, I would say ‘zero-waste’ gifts are almost impossible to find – unfortunately the likelihood is that somewhere in the production cycle waste has been produced, even if it seems like an ‘eco-friendly’ present.

“It’s therefore about reducing waste and avoiding overconsumption, and most importantly avoiding the gift going straight to landfill, which one in ten unwanted presents do. One of the easiest ways to reduce waste, particularly packaging waste, is to give the gift of an experience rather than a physical present – for example a subscription, or tickets to a concert or the theatre.

“Alternatively you can make something handmade, or head to charity shops or antique stores to find a rare vintage gift that’s one of a kind rather than mass produced.”

Which local businesses would you recommend?

“Our communications promoter Izzy recommends making a homemade hamper with local produce – if you make it big enough it can even be a great gift for a whole family, and friends outside Scotland will love receiving Scottish snacks.

“You could even purchase some of the contents at a local eco-supermarket such as Society Zero (Queen Margaret Drive), Ecomart (Dumbarton Road) or Locavore (Dumbarton Road).”

‘What things would you avoid doing at Christmas?

“Avoid keeping your Christmas lights on when you’re not in! Turning them off or using a timer saves you money and is better for the environment. 

“Recycle or reuse your wrapping paper where you can, but try not to use glittery paper – most of this can’t be recycled!”

What recommendations can you give for the day itself?

“One of the most wasteful things about Christmas is all the unwanted plastic produced to fill Christmas crackers – do you know anyone who actually keeps the gifts from inside them!?

“Instead you can buy empty crackers and fill them with sweets, or better yet a homemade gift that won’t go to waste? However, as our promoter Izzy can attest, avoid putting little glass bottles of alcohol in them!

Any other comments about Christmas?

“These are just some tips for Christmas, and there are certainly more exhaustive lists online. Also, don’t spend your Christmas wrapped up in eco-anxiety; make the small changes you can but don’t fret too much about being perfectly sustainable, because nobody is.”

Finally, what is GUEST and how can students get involved?

“We are a team of student interns working to improve environmental practice on campus and beyond through working closely with staff, students and the local community.

“We are not a society but you can still get involved with us through attending our events, keeping up with us on social media @UofgGUEST, listening to our podcast green15 and looking out for our recruitment process towards the end of the semester. 

“One of our current social media campaigns is #ecoXmas, where we’ve been sharing some of our favourite tips for a sustainable festive season, so for further inspiration check out our Instagram!”

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