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As we enter the ‘season to be jolly’ and express goodwill to all, Specifier Review’s Kirsty Hammond asks what about the environment?

Environmental issues have been a hot topic this year and rightly so. 2018 has seen a worryingly high number of natural disasters causing devastation around the world. From major earthquakes and volcanic eruptions wiping out whole cities, to mass flooding and the ongoing deadly wildfires in California, our landscapes are in danger of changing forever. The earth’s climate is changing at a rapid rate, resulting in extreme weather.

In late February and early March, the UK experienced arctic conditions and winds hitting 60mph as Siberian temperatures collided with Storm Emma, resulting in a severe storm, aptly named the 'Beast from the East'  that swept right across Europe.

At the opposite end of the scale, England experienced the hottest summer on record, with average temperatures narrowly beating the highest recorded during the heatwave of 1976, a stark reminder that climate change is happening and drastic action is needed if we are to save our planet.

With all this in mind, and my festive preparations in full swing, this has got me thinking, just how sustainable is Christmas and can I make any changes for my Christmas to be a little greener?

As the cold weather sets in, the heating gets cranked up

Kirsty Hammond Kirsty Hammond Editor of Specifier review

Gift wrapping

We really are spoilt for choice when it comes to packaging our gifts, with a wide range of patterns shapes and colours available, so it's really important to think long term rather than just the visual impact created on the day.

Although spoilt for choice, it's vital to consider the materials your wrapping is made from. Glittery, gold and silver options contain non-paper additives, not suitable for recycling so it is important to choose carefully.

Even better, don’t buy any at all. Rather than ripping open your presents, try to unwrap with care and reuse next year! (perhaps this one’s just for the adults!)

Not only are you doing your bit for the environment it will save you money too!


Christmas is known for being a time of over indulgence, diets go out of the window, eating and drinking to excess.

Why not ditch the car, embrace the great outdoors and enjoy a festive walk, not only is this helping the environment, the health benefits are proven, good for the waistline too.

You'll also be thankful when trying to squeeze into your favourite outfit for the New Year’s Eve party!

Christmas Lights

Be mindful, what is the point of leaving them on during the day, nobody can see them anyway?

Leaving them on overnight when you’re in bed is also a fire risk as well as wasting energy that you will then have to pay for.


Minimise the amount of plastic packaging, opting for loose vegetables whenever possible. This also helps cut down on the amount of stuff going into your recycling bin, which is always pretty full at this time of year anyway.

Planning is key to minimise food waste. Why not find some recipes and be creative with your leftovers. Soup is always a winner to warm you up on a cold winter’s day, making use of left over vegetables, turkey bones for stock etc.

A turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwich makes a nice tasty snack. Left over mash and sprouts make excellent Bubble and Squeak too!

For inspiration, I have found a leftover food recipe tool, featured on the 'Love Food Hate Waste' website.

You simply enter your leftover ingredients and it provides you with a selection of recipe ideas. 

Further tips on food recycling can also be found on the Recycle Now website.

Christmas trees

When I cast my mind back to being a child, putting up and decorating the tree was always a special day, eagerly anticipated and filling me with joy and excitement.

As a family, it was something we did together and it was the start of the countdown to the big day when Santa would deliver my presents.

Today, my feelings are much the same (apart from the Santa bit), and dressing the tree never fails to fill me with festive spirit. It's a delightful addition to the living room.

In fact, I think I suffer from Christmas tree withdrawal, as once the festivities are over and the tree has been taken down, it takes me a while to re-adjust to my surroundings, leaving the room looking bare.

With millions of real trees bought each year, it is important we consider how to dispose of them responsibly. Far too many end up in landfill rather than being recycled.

According to the government's waste agency, Wrap, the estimated weight of discarded trees in the UK is around 160,000 tonnes, so make sure you play your part and recycle responsibly. 

Greetings cards

The digital world we now live in has provided us with alternative ways of doing things. For example, when was the last time you sent a fax? For me, probably about ten years ago. Email is now the quick and effective alternative.

So what about the sending of the traditional Christmas card? Personally, I find it a bit of a chore. Not only is it a time consuming process, it's also rather costly, once you add up the cost of the card, stamps etc.

More importantly, it's also a drain on resources, with the amount of paper used having a negative impact on the environment.

With email being mainstream, the obvious solution would be to send an E-Card instead, avoiding postage costs, you also have the ability to jazz it up, adding animated images too. This topic was also explored last Christmas on The Hub in an article written by Russell Jones

Home comforts

As the cold weather sets in, the heating gets cranked up. After all, it's always nice to feel warm and cosy.

Many people have their heating set on a daily timer, which is great as there is no point wasting energy, heating the home when out at work, but the ability to set your heating to come on prior to home time ensures you always return to a warm home. 

For some people, over the Christmas period, your regular daily routine changes as you enjoy time off for the holidays.

Of course, you always have the option of overriding the heating timer when required but as I have recently discovered, this isn't the most flexible and efficient option available. I've always considered myself to be a bit of a gadget freek, excited by the latest innovations and new technologies, so when I first heard the term 'Smart Home Technology' I was naturally intrigued.

Smart Home Technology is exactly that, it does what is says on the tin, taking advantage of the advances in technology, providing us with  a wide range of effective tools designed to help efficiently control and enhance our home life experience.

When I reflect on the technological milestones that have impacted my life, the introduction of the internet...aka 'the world wide web' is probably one of the biggest, and then of course there was the introduction of the mobile phone.

When I think back to the launch of the mobile phone, I have an image of a high flying business executive, parading round with a brick sized device in hand.

At the time, this really was an amazing innovation and when you fast forward a few years, it's mindblowing to think about the role it now plays people’s daily lives.

For me, the mobile phone is an essential tool, in society it's perhaps regarded as common as wearing a watch. My mobile phone is a multi-use tool that I have come to rely on, whether I'm doing my banking, catching up with friends, emails or browsing the internet.

I no longer have a need for a camera or a map as GPS technology also means I'll never get lost. With so many useful apps on the market, designed to make our life easier, it makes perfect sense to use them to our advantage.

This is where 'Smart Home Technology' kicks in, learning that it's now possible to use my mobile phone to control the heating in my home, at the click of a button, wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, putting me in control and ensuring I'm not wasting energy, whilst saving money really is a no-brainer.

Final thoughts

I went to a seminar the other day at Mitsubishi Electric, where TV presenter George Clarke was talking about the need to ‘change the mindset’ across the construction industry to find better ways of building homes fit for a sustainable future.

His talk was really interesting and entertaining and the whole event was really thought provoking.

In addition to highlighting just how shoddy most of the new homes being built are, one of the other things that jumped out at me was the smart controls that Mitsubishi Electric has already in-built into its range of Ecodan air source heat pumps. These not only allow you to change and monitor your heating from anywhere in the world, they can also show you exactly how much energy you’ve been using and highlight areas or possible waste.

What we now need is all manufacturers to include these smart controls as standard, so that we can all play our part in minimising waste whether it’s the festive season or not.

Anyway, whatever you do, and however much waste you reduce or energy you save, have a fantastic Christmas and New Year!

Kirsty Hammond is editor and publisher of Specifier Review, which posts building product and project news