Green ideals crumble in flood of festive indulgence

Green intentions do not always translate into action, but never is the gap greater than in the traditionally excessive festive period, a study has found - with lessons to be learnt for business, authorities and consumers alike.

The survey of 500 consumers found no lack of eco-awareness in the run-up to Christmas: nine out of ten people said they recycle household waste and switch off lights to save energy, for example. More than four in ten claimed to avoid over-packaged goods, and nearly half declared they chose local produce over imports when shopping.

But when it came to putting eco-ideals into practice during the Christmas season, the usual obstacles seemed to magnify.

While 70% said they normally try to minimise food waste, 75% considered it important to have more food and drink on hand at Christmas than they needed.

Although over 65% said they normally try to avoid wasteful heating habits, almost all respondents (98%) believed it important to keep their home “really warm and cosy” at Christmas.

When it came to Christmas shopping less than 15% said they would buy eco-friendly or ethical gifts, choose ‘experience’ presents or make their own Christmas decorations.

Even if some respondents may have embellished their eco-credentials somewhat and said they recycle, save energy and resources more than they actually do, the results indicate aspirations to lead a green lifestyle at the very least.

The survey also asked consumers about obstacles lying between them and a green Christmas, and points to ways of eliminating these.

“Even though some people may over-claim the extent to which they behave responsibly, this study clearly shows that people feel an obligation to help the environment and know what they should be doing,” said Chrissie Wells, director of Leapfrog research group which conducted the survey.

But “when it comes to real confidence that the consumer will be able to avoid wasteful behaviour during the Christmas period, a very different picture emerges – and one which gives clues to some things that retailers and councils might do to help,” she said.

Consumers want more and cheaper quality ‘green gifts’- 55% said the price was the main factor putting them off eco-friendly presents, 37% said they were hard to find and over 30% said they were simply not very nice.

Most goods are over-packaged, making it difficult to avoid packaging waste, according to over half of the respondents.

As for services provided by the council at Christmas, over half said that recycling boxes are too small to cope with the flood of waste produced at Christas and more than four in ten complained it was too difficult to dispose of Christmas trees.

Goska Romanowicz

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