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15 tips for a more sustainable Christmas

Wondering how to have an eco-friendly Christmas? Read on for our 15 top tips which will ensure your celebrations are as planet-friendly as possible!

Published: December 1, 2021 at 12:01 am
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Whether it's cutting out single-use plastic gift wrap or shopping locally for presents, there are numerous ways of having a more sustainable Christmas this year. Read on for all the most important things to consider when planning planet-friendly festivities, from gifting, decorating, tree care and Christmas dinner.

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Our sister-title BBC Wildlife Magazine has also put this guide together on how to have a sustainable and wildlife-friendly Christmas

How to have an eco-friendly Christmas

1. Reusable wrapping

Tsutsumu – the traditional Japanese wrapping technique using furoshiki cloths
Tsutsumu – the traditional Japanese wrapping technique using furoshiki cloths

The average UK household gets through around four rolls of wrapping paper at Christmas, much of which inevitably ends up in the bin. You can find plenty of inspiration for sustainable gift wrapping in Zero Waste Gift Wrap by Christine Leech. This gorgeous book includes ideas such as tsutsumu – the traditional Japanese wrapping technique using furoshiki cloths, so you can give a gift and the piece of fabric that it’s wrapped in!

If you do choose paper wrap, check the label to make sure that it’s recyclable, and remember that any plastic-based sticky tape should be removed before recycling.

2. Eco-friendly tape

Most sticky tape is non-recyclable, as it’s made from a type of plastic called polypropylene. Green Planet Paper’s tape is an eco alternative – it uses a natural rubber adhesive that won’t pollute. It can also be written on, so it’s ideal for Xmas parcels.

3. Eco-friendly decorations

Paper decorations from Dunelm
White hanging paper snowmen, £5 for four; Light up paper star hanging decoration, small £5, large £8; Nordic Nomad coloured paper fans, £8 for seven; 5ft blue spruce garland, £18; 15 LED Star Burst lights in Warm White, £15, all Dunelm

When it comes to decorations, we’re big fans of designs that use sustainable materials. We’re pleased to see that Dunelm has made a huge effort this year to increase its eco credentials, taking steps including ditching all glitter from its Christmas ranges and removing all plastic packaging from its baubles.

In addition, check out the brand’s fantastic collection of paper decorations, such as these hanging stars and fans, which are designed to be used year after year.

4. Reusable gift boxes

Recycled cardboard house gift boxes, £14.50 for three, Cox & Cox
Recycled cardboard house gift boxes, £14.50 for three, Cox & Cox

For another alternative to wrapping paper, why not try gift boxes this year as a more sustainable option? They can easily be re-used or re-gifted by the recipient, and so are much less wasteful. These gorgeous house designs from Cox & Cox are ideal for that special gift, and, as they’re made from recycled cardboard, you can be confident that you’re making an eco-conscious choice. We think they look so stylish you could even use them as Christmas decorations.

5. Meat free Chrismas dinner

Vegan jewelled roast, £5.99, Waitrose
Vegan jewelled roast, £5.99, Waitrose

The climate impact of meat is enormous – according to Greenpeace it’s roughly equivalent to all the driving and flying of every car, truck and plane in the world. To reduce this impact, choose local and organic where possible. There are lots of delicious meat-free alternatives available too.

This festive vegan roast, £5.99 from Waitrose, is particularly spectacular. It’s a mushroom-based roast with sweet caramelised onions, chestnuts and a clove-spiced apricot centre, topped with a crunchy, colourful garnish of cranberries, crushed chestnuts, sunflower seeds and pine nuts. We can’t wait to tuck in!

6. Choose a potted Christmas tree

Northern Lights Christmas tree kit, £34.99, Beards & Daisies
Northern Lights Christmas tree kit, £34.99, Beards & Daisies

According to the Carbon Trust, if you have an artificial Christmas tree you’ll need to re-use it for at least 10 Christmases to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree, due to the energy-intensive production processes involved in making it. The most eco-friendly option is to buy a living potted tree that you can water and later plant in your garden. It can then be brought inside every year, helping to save £££s as well as the planet.

This year, Beards & Daisies is offering a lovely kit which, along with a mini tree to be grown outside after Christmas, includes a selection of reusable decorations. If you don’t have a garden and do need to dispose of a real tree, contact your local council as many offer a collection service and will ensure that your tree is recycled responsibly.

7. Reusable crackers

DIY Christmas Cracker - Furniture And Choice - www.furniturechoice.co.uk
See how to make your own sustainable crackers at Furniture And Choice

Single-use Christmas crackers often contain plastic toys, non-recyclable ribbon and other materials which are likely to end up in landfill. The good news is that many supermarkets and high-street stores have a focus this year on being more eco-friendly – look out for Dunelm’s reusable crackers, and those that boast recyclable materials and no plastic.

Or, if you’re feeling creative, check out Furniture and Choice’s online project on how to make your own crackers from toilet roll tubes. Visit Furniture And Choice for the step-by-step guide.

8. Shop local

Shortages of food during the pandemic led many of us to rethink our shopping habits, and continuing to shop locally not only supports local businesses but has many environmental benefits. If you can walk to the shops too, even better! Purchasing goods produced in your local community shortens the supply chain, reducing the need for transportation and lowering emissions. Many smaller businesses take more care to ensure that their packaging is sustainable so that’s a definite win for the planet.

9. Consider pre-loved gifts

Unwanted Christmas gifts play a big part in the amount of waste thrown into landfill each year. To help counteract this enormous eco problem, consider buying pre-loved gifts to give them a new lease of life, gift your time and skills – such as baby-sitting vouchers, cooking a meal or help with DIY – instead of an item, and donate or sell any unwanted gifts you receive so that someone else can make use of them. Local social media groups are a great place to start buying and selling.

10. Eco-conscious cards

Tree Wishes Christmas cards, £13.99 for 10, 1 Tree Cards
Tree Wishes Christmas cards, £13.99 for 10, 1 Tree Cards

The ultimate in green Christmas greetings, 1 Tree Cards offers a lovely collection of Christmas cards, which aim to have a positive effect on the planet. Every 1 Tree Card plants a tree through its partner charity, Eden Reforestation Projects. All cards and envelopes are 100% recycled and printed with vegan inks and renewable energy. Each card also includes a seed token, which the recipient can plant, to grow into bee-friendly flowers.

11. Alternative Christmas trees

5ft wooden tree, £45, Habitat
5ft wooden tree, £45; Mixed Glacier baubles £12 for 100; Denver solid wood dining bench, £150; Supersoft faux fur 60cm x 90cm shaggy rug in Cream, £12, all Habitat

If you fancy something a little different to the traditional Christmas tree this year, check out Habitat’s 5ft wooden design, priced at £45. It’s handcrafted from solid wood, with powder-coated rails – simply add your choice of lights and decorations for a simple yet elegant festive feature.

It’s a sturdy, space-saving option for smaller homes, and can be stored away easily for use time and time again without the hassle of trying to wrestle any foliage through the door or out of a loft hatch!

12. Reusable advent calendars

Wooden Christmas Tree Advent Calendar, Ginger Ray
Wooden Christmas Tree Advent Calendar, £24.99, Ginger Ray

As much as we all love a daily treat (or two) at Christmas, many chocolate advent calendars have plastic packaging inside. Ring the changes this year with this fun, wooden Christmas tree calendar, which can be used year after year.

It comes complete with 24 colourful, wooden, numbered baubles to hook onto the tree each day. As the tree fills up, everyone will know how many days are left before Santa comes to visit.

13. Avoid plastic bags

50s Xmas recycled shopping bag, £2.95, Rex London
50s Xmas recycled shopping bag, £2.95, Rex London

It can be easy to forget your reusable bags in the inevitable mad dash to the shops at this time of year. Limit your plastic use and ensure you’re never without one with this festive design from Rex London. Made from recycled plastics, with strong nylon handles and a fun retro Christmas print, it’s the perfect size for all manner of Christmas shopping. There are other quirky patterns to choose from too.

14. DIY decorations

If you’re trying to avoid buying tinsel and glitter this year, consider making some decorations from natural materials. Children will love to get involved in this one too, so it’s a great idea for a rainy weekend. Collect some fallen pinecones or holly from your local park or woods, paint or spray with eco-friendly, water-based paint and add a length of twine for hanging.

Edible gingerbread decorations are another of our favourite ways to adorn a tree – if you can resist eating them long enough to hang them that is!

15. DIY Christmas cards

If you’re organised enough to have kept hold of a few cards from last Christmas, there are plenty of ways to give them a new purpose. Cut out pictures and greetings to use as gift tags or collage them onto card banks using a non-toxic glue stick to create new designs.

Get kids involved as friends and relatives will love to receive one of their handmade creations. You could also stick cut-out card images onto the front of plain brown paper gift bags and gift tags to give them a fun, festive touch.

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Check out our Christmas hub for more festive inspiration!

Authors

Lisa Hibberd is an experience freelance journalist specialising in interiors

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