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Students vs. Climate Change: why the holiday season doesn’t have to be wasteful.

It’s no secret that the upcoming holidays are an exciting time for all students. Be it that you love gift giving, food, or simply the time off lectures, no matter the holiday you celebrate, there are many reasons to love this season, but waste is not one of them. 

On average the UK produces up to 300 million tonnes of waste per year, with the majority being during the holiday season. From cutting Christmas trees down to decorate the living room, to the thousands of miles of tin-foil, wrapping paper, cello tape and old gifts that are thrown out for new, it’s important to remember the amount of waste this could be generating; from your own household. 

Now I know that as students, we don’t exactly have the money to always buy the sustainable alternatives, the plastic-free presents that are made from some kind of carbon-free tree sap or even just food with less air-miles attached to it. But it’s certainly not a reason to give up. 

You can try the age-old practice of keeping wrapping paper, which could save you in later years, try making presents or sticking with a Secret Santa present strategy to keep cost and waste down. Some of the best gifts and usually most meaningful are those that could be made out of recycled cardboard or plastic bottles – these could even be ideas for decorations such as garlands, tree ornaments or bottles filled with fairy lights as a way to spice up a dinner table. 

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Food, as well, doesn’t have to involve much waste if you decide on inviting friends over for a Christmas dinner or celebratory meal for the end of exams. The prep becomes less of a chore with more people to help and the meal will be guaranteed to have less left over; and even so, dividing it up and sending it home with guests means less for you to possibly throw out in a few days when the thought of eating it seems less appealing. 

Climate change may not seem so close, especially when Edinburgh is cooling down for the winter months, but the fact that students, as the younger, educated and emerging generation, need to be at the forefront for living more sustainably and with less impact to the environment, still stands. We may believe that sometimes our society is what’s holding us back from achieving this, or that ‘green consumerism’ is targeted at more wealthier incomes. Whatever the reason may be, it shouldn’t stop us from trying. There are so many ways we can live to help mitigate our impacts to climate change, even if that way is as small as saving wrapping paper each year or striving for zero food waste after a holiday dinner. 

Cardboard decorations could become the new norm, with competitions between families or friends to design the best. Old gifts could be spruced up to become new ones and trees could remain fake for just one more year instead of chopping more down. 

Being a student doesn’t mean being unsustainable or wasteful. 

Resourceful, is our middle name. 

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