5 Tips for a more sustainable Christmas

5 Tips for a more sustainable Christmas


7 minute read

It’s a time for giving, indulging, and celebrating. The Christmas holiday is a time of abundance. It’s also hard to avoid single-use plastics and those gimmicky gifts that could end up in landfill. A sustainable Christmas isn't just possible, it's actually easier on the wallet!

We’ve put together a handy guide to keeping the Christmas spirit alive and the environment happy. 

 

1. Eco-Friendly Christmas Cards

There is an abundance of options to go greener when it comes to traditional Christmas cards. An e-card can be a perfect way to save cardboard, but it’s fair to argue that it might lack that personal touch. Fear not! You can still send a heartfelt greeting to distant friends and relatives without costing the planet.

  • Opt for sustainable Christmas cards that are made from recycled materials and are recyclable or biodegradable. Look out for cards using non-toxic, plant-based vegan ink. 

  • Reuse old cards by cutting out images and creating new ones. If you’re feeling really creative you can have a go at making cards from scratch with reused materials

  • Make a donation. This is becoming more popular as an option with many people choosing to donate the money that they would normally spend on cards and postage to a worthy cause. 

  • Purchase cards that support a cause. If a donation still feels a bit impersonal, you can opt to buy cards that pledge the money raised to charities across the globe, that plant a tree with each purchase, or similarly contribute to a global, national or local cause. 

  • Send plantable cards! There are many companies now offering sustainable Christmas cards with seeds in. Once you've finished with the card it can be torn up or left whole, and potted inside or outside to grow wildflowers! 

 

2. Zero-Waste Gifts

There is a misconception that eco-friendly or zero-waste products are more expensive than the run-of-the-mill plastic products that are churned onto the shelves of shops each year. This does not necessarily have to be the case! 

  • The idea that gifts should be new, expensive and bought from a shop is outdated! Baked goods, handmade sweets, potpourri, or handmade jewellery are just a few ideas for a special and unique way to show you care.

  • If you do want to splash the cash, shop locally and support your local businesses. 

  • Consider buying experiences as a special gift. Parachuting, a fancy meal, or a yearly subscription to Truthpaste!

  • Wrap it up with reused paper! Much of the wrapping paper available in shops cant be recycled and ends up in landfill. Find some cool alternatives such as a reusable bag, reusable fabric wrap, upcycle old Christmas decorations or use brown recycled paper and decorate with sprigs of festive flowers!

 

3. Choose a sustainable Christmas tree

Is it best to buy a real Christmas tree or opt for a reusable plastic tree? There are some considerations.

  • According to The Carbon Trust, real Christmas tree's can have a significantly lower carbon footprint than plastic trees. Plastic trees are a convenient and reusable alternative, however, they are often made in countries like China and shipped long distances. Then the disposal of the plastic tree needs to be considered. They are often made of a mix of plastic and metal and cannot be recycled. It is estimated that an artificial Christmas tree needs to be used for at least 10 years to have an environmental impact equal to natural Christmas trees that a responsibly sourced and disposed of. If you already have an artificial tree, the best thing to do is to keep using it for as long as possible.
  • Opt to buy a real Christmas tree, but make sure it is locally sourced and not travelled far to your home. Real trees look nicer, they smell lovely and you can even plant them to make your garden look lovely afterward. If you don't have a garden, make sure it is properly disposed of. There are many organisations, and most councils are able recycle trees and turn them into chippings, compost it, or even use them for flood barriers around the UK.

  • If you do opt for a real tree, the most sustainable option is to rent it! Trees that are discarded and burnt or composted will release it's carbon back into the atmosphere. There are many small businesses offering tree's for rent. Each year your tree will be planted back and allowed to grow. 

  

4. Eco-Friendly Biodegradable Christmas Decorations

If you grew up in the eighties, you might remember the visual assault of too much tinsel, shiny gaudy garlands, and multicoloured lights. We’ve (thankfully!) moved on a bit since then, but if you must cover your home in glitter and glitz, here are eco-friendly Christmas decorations to keep your carbon footprint small.

  • Make your own! Wreath-making workshops are a thing now. Have a look to see if there is anything happening locally to you, you might even make some new friends! Reuse and recycle. Baulbauls with no string? Broken garlands? Odd bits of tinsel? See if you can arrange them all as a Christmas table decoration, candle holder or tree topper!

  • Go natural. Deck the halls with bows of holly. Literally. A cheerful poinsettia or amaryllis plant will add festive cheer to the room. Pinecones make lovely tree decorations and you can always set the mood with some lovely soy candles.  

 

5. Waste-free Christmas Dinner

In the UK, alone, we generate around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year. This seems criminal given that  8.4 million people in the UK are in food poverty. This year, plan ahead and try not to overindulge! A few ideas for a sumptuous but sustainable Christmas dinner!

  • We do love to preach the virtues of organic produce. Go organic for your Christmas lunch and not only can those roasted veg and Brussel sprouts taste better, they will be better for you and for the planet! Shopping locally and buying loose fruit and veg will not only save on plastic bags, but will be kinder on the bank balance too! 

  • Let's talk turkey. There is an increasing number of wonderful veggie and vegan options out there now. Be adventurous and give one a go this year. If you really insist on a bird at the table, if you can, get your meat from an organic and ethical retailer. 

  • Love the leftovers! Get creative with the leftovers by making pizzas, curries or soups! Surprise yourself with a completely new dish!

  • Remember to rinse all your boxes and containers before sending them to the recycling to avoid contamination

Whatever your Christmas involves this year, just a little planning and forethought can help reduce the cost to the planet. Importantly, it should be an enjoyable experience. A time for reflection and for being mindful of others. Making your Christmas just a little bit greener is a gesture that everyone can benefit from and will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside too!

Happy Christmas! 

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Resources

Gov UK (2020) Recycle or relate your tree for a greener Christmas

The Independant (2020) The Great Chrismas Tree Debate: Are real or fake firs better for the environment? 

GWP Group (2021) Christmas packaging facts: the definitive list 

Wrap (2021) Food Surplus and Waste In the UK

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