HOW TO have a green Christmas

PUBLISHED: 15:12 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 February 2013

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Cotswold Life has teamed up with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to give a practical view of how we all can appreciate and celebrate the wildlife and landscapes in the Cotswold area each month.

Christmas is coming, excitement is growing and lots of letters to Father Christmas have been written. However even for the most environmentally minded of us it can often be a time of mind-boggling waste.

But rather than put waste to one side - literally - this is a time of year when being waste minded can make a huge difference. In the run up to Christmas a massive one billion Christmas cards will be delivered by the Royal Mail - that's 17 for every man, woman and child - and could end up in bins across the UK. On the food front there will be lots of eating and being merry, except that not everything we buy will actually get consumed. Around 24 million jars of mincemeat, pickle and cranberry sauce will be thrown away after Christmas, while 750 tons of Brussels sprouts will be bought but not cooked.

Paper and packaging are also obvious sources of extra waste. Around 83 square km of wrapping paper will be used over Xmas - the combined area of Gloucester and Cheltenham. We're also expecting 125,000 tons of plastic packaging to be thrown away, which is the equivalent weight of 50,000 polar bears.

Overall, more than three million tons of waste will be produced in the UK this Christmas, which is the equivalent of between 350,000 and 400,000 double decker buses of waste stretching all the way from London to New York. If this all ends up in landfill it's going to be bad news for Gloucestershire's environment and wildlife.

But don't worry, there's lots you can do at Christmas time that's sustainable and easy. Here are our top tips for a green Christmas:

1. Make room for new presents by recycling things you've grown out of - toys, CDs, clothes, books and shoes can all be recycled at many civic amenity sites or supermarket recycling facilities, or given to charity shops

2. Make space next to your bin for a recycling container - then it's as simple to recycle paper, bottles, jars and cans as it is to throw them away this Christmas

3. Give presents made from recycled materials such as tumblers made from wine bottles - lots of ideas at

4. Buy rechargeable batteries for all your children's toys and electrical goods

5. Think before throwing away plastic or cardboard packaging from presents as much of it can be recycled

6. Cut out packaging waste altogether by 'Adopting a Species' for a special friend or relative and supporting the Trust's work protecting local native wildlife. Visit for more information

7. Ask Father Christmas for a compost bin and start composting on Christmas Day, or give compost bins as gifts to family and friends - call the Compost hotline on 01452 389969 for more information.

8. Make 'recycling more stuff more often' your New Year resolution

9. Recycle your Christmas tree - lots of DIY retailers and garden centres will be running recycling schemes

Adopt a species this Christmas

Adopting a species is a lovely alternative Christmas gift that will make a real difference for Gloucestershire's native wildlife. The Trust has identified six priority species that could all do with a little extra help, and the money raised from 'adoption' will help maintain the habitats and nature reserves these species need to survive in Gloucestershire.

Dormouse - 10 - Extinct in seven other UK counties, but we have strongholds here in Gloucestershire in places such as the Trust's Midger, Lower Woods, Lancaut, Ridley Bottom and Dowdeswell Nature Reserves.

Stag beetle - 10 - This impressive beetle can measure up to eight cm long, including 'antlers'. It's nationally scarce and is found in only five places in Gloucestershire.

Water vole - 15 - 'Ratty' from Wind in the Willows, once abundant in Gloucestershire but, after an 83 per cent decline in the past 20 years, could be extinct in our lifetime if habitats and conditions aren't managed very carefully.

Brown hare - 15 - This is a species that is declining nationally, but there are good populations in the Cotswolds and Severn Vale.

Otter - 20 - This species was extinct in Gloucestershire for more than 30 years, but is now returning to some of the county's waterways, including those at the Trust's Ashleworth Ham and Frome Banks Nature Reserves.

Barn owl - 20 - Despite the big decline in barn owl populations in recent decades, these beautiful birds can be seen swooping over Coombe Hill, Snows Farm and Greystones Farm Nature Reserves.

The adoption packs for all six species contains an adoption certificate, species fact sheet, photograph, craft activity and colouring sheets. You can adopt online at or by calling 01452 383333.

Garden wildlife diary

Garden activity might be a bit quiet this month but it doesn't mean you can't still plan for next year. It's a good time to check out seed catalogues and nurseries for early vegetables and nectar rich flowers - why not give someone some seeds for Christmas to help get them started?

Remember to rake up any remaining leaves and store them to make leaf mould, a really good natural soil improver. Alternatively pile the dead leaves under shrubs and trees to rot down in situ. This also provides a great place for blackbirds to forage for food, although you will find the birds toss the leaves all over the place and they might need replenishing after a while.

Winter is a good time to plant new trees or hedges, although avoid doing this during a prolonged frosty period as the ground won't be favourable for tender roots.

If you're collecting holly, ivy and mistletoe to decorate the house, don't forget to leave some berries for the birds, especially thrushes and redwings.

Your garden birds might be struggling to find food at this time of year, so while you're filling up on Christmas goodies remember to keep those bird feeders and bird baths well stocked. Try to put a variety of food out, including old fruit for the blackbirds and robins, and why not make your own fat balls with some of the Christmas trimming? Also, a good idea for a Christmas present is to give a bird box or bat box as a gift and help encourage friends and families to garden with wildlife in mind.

If you have a real Christmas tree remember to buy it from a reputable, sustainable source.

Countryside diary

Woodland management be continuing apace through December, regardless of the weather. Coppicing and tree thinning will be happening in woodland reserves all around the county.

In these same woodlands dormice will be hibernating at or below ground level. It was once thought they only hibernated in coppice stools, but radio tracking has shown that they are not too discerning and can be found in piles of wood-chips, drifts of pine needles and leaves, and even underneath firewood piles.

This is a good time of year to see barn owls. They will be hunting much earlier in the day now that the clocks have changed, so could be spotted late afternoon hunting for small mammals over rough grassland and even road verges, though here they are at risk of collision especially with high sided vehicles.

In December we're in the middle of the Bewick's swan migration period, when the swans return to the Severn Vale from the arctic tundra to spend their winter months here.

If you're a landowner cutting hedges in December, bear in mind this can reduce food supplies for birds. However if hedges are cut in a flat topped 'A' shape rather than straight up and down the hedge remains bushier and denser for longer providing better habitat for a range of species - birds, small mammals and invertebrates.

Places to visit in December:

To see Bewick's swans and other winter wild fowl it's well worth visiting the viewing hides at Ashleworth Ham and Coombe Hill Nature Reserves in the Severn Vale.
More details and directions at or call 01452 383333.

Membership of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust costs from just 2 a month. Join on-line at, phone 01452 383333 or visit the Trust's Conservation Centre at Robinswood Hill Country Park, Reservoir Road, Gloucester, GL4 6SX.

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