Australia, England & Wales, Global, Ireland, Scotland Climate action and sustainable development

All I want for Christmas is… sustainable local government celebrations


Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Making up for the missing local government references in Mariah Carey’s hit Christmas single, this blog post brings together the LGiU’s international local government community to look at our favourite local government Christmas initiative in Ireland, England, Scotland and Australia.

As November rolled around, local governments across the globe faced difficult choices in celebrating this year’s Christmas. Spiralling energy costs, tough questions over financial sustainability, and the continued pressure on services understandably have preoccupied local governments’ focus as we came into December.

Therefore, as local governments around the world “weigh up the costs” of Christmas events, this blog showcases the local governments who have managed to embed sustainable principles in this years Christmas celebrations.

While you would be excused for wondering what precisely is a sustainable Christmas, Frank Curran, Chief Executive of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council neatly defines the idea behind a sustainable approach to Christmas,

“Christmas doesn’t have to be a burden on the planet. With a little effort and imagination, we can reduce the environmental impact of the festive season.”

LGiU Ireland- Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council’s pedal powered Christmas tree

In the south-east of Ireland, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council are putting the environment at the top of their Christmas list this year by making greener, eco-friendly choices.

This year, pedal power will take the centre stage with a twinkling Christmas tree on the iconic bandstand on the pier from which lights up as people cycle a bike to ‘keep her lit’ for the festive season. Offering a timely reminder of energy use,

Moreover, complimenting a significant year for active travel in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Councillor Mary Hanafin, An Cathaoirleach for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, commented on how “this festive initiative is very much in line with our vision to cultivate a cycling culture which encourages all members of the community to cycle at all life stages and abilities”.

Where possible, all official Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Christmas trees are living trees and their lights are LED extra low voltage for safety only using 4.8watts of electricity. Whilst the illuminated Christmas walking trails in Marlay Park and Cabinteely Park are powered by electrical generators, these generators are fuelled by Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) Renewable Diesel.

Nollaig shona dhuit!

LGiU England- Surrey County Council’s sustainable Christmas trees 

In England’s south-east, Surrey County Council has launched a campaign calling on residents who have opted for a real Christmas tree to donate £3 with their purchase to ensure that new trees can continue to be planted locally.

The campaign is designed to minimise the environmental impact of the thousands of real Christmas trees bought and discarded in Surrey each Christmas. Residents who bought real Christmas trees were also encouraged to buy a potted, re-plantable tree for future use.

Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for Environment Marisa Heath said underscored the important role of trees in combatting climate change and enhancing natural habitats. The council has partnered with Surrey Wildlife Trust for the appeal, an organisation that supports the planting of 1.2 million new trees in the county by 2030, a tree for each Surrey resident. The campaign’s launch coincided with National Tree Week, which saw the council give away 1,000 free trees to residents and target 57,500 new trees planted across the county.

You can find out more from Surrey County Council here!

LGiU Scotland- Stirling Councils partnership approach to energy efficient Christmas lightning

From September onwards, spiralling energy costs spurred reports of Council’s looking to cancel or scale back Christmas lighting.

However, Stirling Council’s avoided these difficult questions through a new public-private partnership. Working with Stirling’s Business Improvement District (BID), this year saw new energy-efficient Christmas lighting installed that is designed to fit with the city’s local history and heritage.

Helping to reduce the city’s Christmas carbon footprint, this new lightning is the result of a combined investment of over £105,000 from Stirling Council and Go Forth Stirling BID. Cllr Margaret Brisley, Convener for Stirling Council’s Finance, Economy and Corporate Support Committee commented that “After a dark couple of years with the pandemic, it’ll be wonderful to see the city centre filled with families getting into the Christmas spirit with Stirling bright and beaming with new lights this festive season.”

Featuring bespoke chandeliers, crowns and wreaths that will illuminate key Stirling streets in a new vision aimed at encapsulating the city’s heritage, Stirling’s BID falls entails local businesses working together for investments in the local area through an organised local partnership with Stirling Council and other bodies to deliver improvement, working together to find solutions, with each understanding the priorities and concerns of the other.

With this year’s energy-efficient Christmas lightning fulfilling one of the areas identified in the 5 year Stirling BID business plan, Go Forth Stirling Project Director, Danielle McRorie-Smith said: “After some difficult festive seasons over the last two years, I’m delighted that we’ll be able to welcome visitors back into the city centre to mark the beginning of the Christmas period.”

Read more about Stirling Council’s Christmas celebrations here!

LGiU Australia- The City of Joondalup’s useful waste hierarchy

Local governments across the world are quick to promote eco-friendly tips to promote a sustainable Christmas.

However, this year, the City of Joondalup’s waste hierarchy stands out. Balancing the line between detailed and practical, LGiU Australia has three top tips for celebrating Christmas sustainably.

  1. Avoid food waste. According to the National Food Waste Strategy, Australian households throw away 3.1 million tonnes of edible food each year. To reduce your carbon footprint for this years Christmas dinner, the City of Joondalup highlights this useful Earth Cycle guide!
  2. Reuse. Having a quick look around your home and finding unwanted items to gift or reuse is a great way to avoid more items ending up landfill. This year the LGiU did exactly that by re-using items for a white elephant gift exchange!
  3. Dispose. It is impossible to avoid a degree of waste at Christmas. However, sorting your waste properly in January offers a crucial way to reduce your carbon footprint. This is why the City of Joondalup shared the Be a GREAT Sort website to help you understand what goes where.

Check out more sustainable tips from City of Joondalup’s waste hierarchy here!

For a wider local government reflection, the LGiU’s Chief Executive, Jonathan Carr-West, reflects on the last twelve months and the growth that has happened across the local government sector and across LGIU.


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