Although Christmas is a magical time of the year, it's also one of the most wasteful. In fact, the UK is estimated to be 30% more wasteful over the festive period, with more than 100 million bags of rubbish being sent to landfill, according to the GWP group.
However, with a little effort it is possible to enjoy a more mindful and conscious Christmas, which is great for you, the planet, and your wallet with a few simple swaps.
1. Invest in a reusable Advent Calendar
I bought a fabric advent calendar over 27 years ago, when my son was a baby. Now a Nanna, I look forward to many more years of use but this time rather than filling it with chocolate coins and mini chocolate footballs, I'll be looking to introduce an activity based calendar. Alfie is a little too young to partake but it shouldn't mean us adults should miss out :)
If buying an pre-made advent calendar, check the ingredients to ensure palm oil isn't used, that all beauty products are vegan and animals aren't tested, and that they are free of plastic.
2. Christmas Cards
A quarter of us no longer write Christmas cards (me included), but there is a way to send seasons greetings without costing the planet.
- Send e-cards where possible, to save two thirds of the emissions (less if you avoid sending large picture attachments)
- Keep the cards you do send simple.
- Purchase cards with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark. This mark indicates that the card has been produced sustainably and ethically.
- Plantable cards are now growing in popularity.
- Avoid glitter, foil and singing/flashing cards
- Recycle your old cards (bear in mind that glitter or foil-covered cards are unlikely to be recyclable).
3. Wrapping Paper & Gift Tags
According to BIFFA, we throw away an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each Christmas. Not only is it bad for the environment, it also costly to dispose of.
Cheap wrapping paper can’t be recycled. It simply can't be made into pulp and therefore can’t be turned into new paper.
While there are various ‘100% recyclable’ wrapping papers available, this paper will nevertheless be impossible to identify from the non-recyclable paper as it moves along the conveyor belt in the Materials Reclamation Facility.
Recycling centers can however accept brown paper – even if it’s stamped with poster paint or covered in felt-tip pen. Brown paper is fully recyclable and thankfully easy to identify from other wrapping paper.
Why not use old magazines and newspaper to wrap your gifts? Alternatively, you could use cloth wraps, purchased or made from old fabric.
4. Christmas Decorations
- 7 million trees go to landfill each year in the UK alone.
- The carbon footprint of a 6ft real Christmas tree is the equivalent to 17kg of CO2.
- If you have an artificial tree at home you would need to re-use it for at least 10 times to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree.
Hire a Christmas Tree
As reported by Country Living, between six and eight million real Christmas trees head to landfill in the UK ever year. Hiring a tree not only helps reduce waste, but it's much better for the trees and environment too.
Check out Country Living's ultimate guide to renting a Christmas tree in 2022, including how tree rental works, the environmental benefits, how to choose the right tree for you and thoughts from tree rental converts...
Alternative to Christmas Trees
Why not forgo a traditional tree this year? Be a little creative and create a display you can be proud of.
- Use Branches And Ornaments
- Try A Hanging Christmas Tree
- Make A Christmas Tree With Gift
- Garland Christmas Tree Alternative
For more details and further ideas, checkout the Forbes 15 Alternative Christmas Trees For The Modern Homeowner
Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations
Most decorations are made of plastic and covered in glitter. It is possible however, to buy, or even make, Christmas decorations that are much better for the environment.
Glass baubles will give your tree that sparkle and pine cones can look really lovely as decorations on mantel pieces. Handmade wooden decorations can be purchased on Etsy that will stand the test of time.
Purchase our handmade Candy cane eco freshener ornaments for an immediate festive look and add a few drops of essential oil and enjoy the magic! We also partner with Felt Things that sell a range of querky handmade felt hanging decorations.
Replace single use crackers with reusable ones. You can find crackers made from natural linen that allow you to add your own personalised gifts. These are great eco-friendly Christmas decorations for the lunch table. Check out Etsy for more ideas.
5. Christmas Presents
A Present Free Christmas (Adults)
Bar humbug I hear you cry. For the past 3 years my husband and I have not swapped Christmas or Birthday presents. However not all family members will be happy with having a present free Christmas, my son included, so here are some alternative options…
For a Christmas Day family gathering I suggest a Secret Santa style approach. Ask each person, who would like to participate, to provide a list of three things he or she would like, and give a price limit, such as £30-£50. This prevents people from giving or receiving bad Christmas presents.
For your kids look at implementing a 4 present rule
- Something they want - the Santa present
- Something they need
- Something to read
- Something to wear
When purchasing a gift, try and purchase with intent rather than through habit. Check out the ethics of the retailer, where the gift is manufactured (carbon footprint), the ingredients, whether the product is cruelty free and plastic free. Does the retailer offset carbon? What are their green credentials? Do they use recyclable packaging? With only one present to purchase, you can afford to do some research.
Have a Homemade Christmas
Limit gifts to homemade items only. It could be cookies or a cake, it might be artwork or some jewellery. Get creative and reuse, recycle or repurpose things that you already possess to make something unique for those you love.
Buy Gifts That Have an Impact
These gifts are fantastic for your ethically minded friends.
Having an eco-friendly Christmas doesn’t mean it will be any less fun. Christmas is about spending time with family, eating good food and watching Christmas TV.
Have a wonderful eco-friendly Christmas!