Christmas is just around the corner and preparations are in full swing for the special day, but while it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it’s not the most environmentally friendly. But this year, more and more of us are interested in making sustainable festive choices, like investing in reusable wrapping paper or opting for LED Christmas lights.
By making small changes over the festive season, you can play your part in encouraging those around you to become more conscious of their environmental impact. So, if you are on the lookout for ways to reduce your environmental footprint during the festive break, check out our top tips to have a greener, more sustainable Christmas…
Go re-usable: by investing in a reusable advent calendar, or making your own, you can enjoy it season after season and make the lead-up to Christmas more sustainable. Plus, you get to fill it with what you like (that way, you won’t have any unpleasant surprises).
Alternatively, seek out an advent calendar created by a local independent company. Some available include: a book advent, home-made wax melts, or beauty products.
When thinking about the gifts that you’re going to buy for Christmas, consider what kind of presents may be more long-lasting than others, and thus reduce the risk of simply being discarded after a short while. Thoughtful, long-lasting presents may include a photo album, a plant or something the recipient has specifically said they want and is likely to use time and time again.
Alternatively, you could buy an experience rather than a material thing for Christmas, such as a trip to the zoo or a theme park. A fun memory is a present that can last a lifetime, after all.
When purchasing gifts keep an eye out for third party certification to determine if a product is environmentally friendly. This could include: Fairtrade, Soil Association (organic), Rainforest Alliance, Cruelty Free, Vegan Society, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Palm Oil Free.
Go Local! Lockdown has sparked an array of home-made creations from local independent businesses. Why not search or ask on local Facebook groups to find sellers near you. Some personal favourites: Hayley Brown Designs and Melting Moments Soy Wax Melts.
Choosing a recyclable wrapping paper will help to minimise the high levels of waste produced around the festive season. Want to know if your wrapping paper can be recycled or not? Use the scrunch test! Simply scrunch up the paper in your hands and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up, then it can be recycled but, if it unfolds, then it likely contains non-recyclable elements. Remember if your wrapping paper contains glitter or foil, it can’t be recycled. Opt instead for recycled wrapping paper (website Re-wrapped has plenty of festive designs to choose from), brown paper or tissue.
Original Sellotape is not recyclable, and people often make the mistake of leaving tape on when recycling wrapping paper. But, you can now purchase plastic free, paper based and plant–based tape that can help you reduce plastic waste, as it’s fully biodegradable and compostable. It can be purchased from £2, suppliers include: peace with the wild; the plastic free shop and naturally wrapt.
If you fancy reducing your use of wrapping paper all together, why not invest in some reusable gift bags? That way, you can reuse them each year, or give them as part of Christmas gifts.
A quarter of us no longer write Christmas cards, but there is a way to send season’s greetings without costing the planet. An unbelievable 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK households each year, according to Imperial College researchers. Look for cards with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark. This guarantees the paper has been produced sustainably and ethically. Or cards made of recycled material. Remember to avoid glitter and foil to ensure the cards can be recycled after Christmas and that, in the case of glitter, you don’t introduce microplastics into the environment.
Alternatively, E-cards (sent online) are an increasingly popular alternative. They cut your carbon footprint, save trees, and save money.
There are many options for an eco-friendlier tree. If you’re purchasing a natural tree look out for the FSC certification, if you want one that’s certified as organic and pesticide-free, get one that’s approved by the Soil Association. Or why not grow your own – there is something special and nostalgic about re-using a living potted tree each year.
If a fake tree is more your style – keep re-using it and ensure it is disposed of carefully at end of life. If you are looking to purchase a fake tree, first keep an eye out for a pre-loved one such as on Facebook marketplace.
An outfit shouldn’t be just for Christmas. Re-use an outfit you already have or look at purchasing a pre-loved outfit. Or why not spend some time jazzing up something old and unloved into your own handmade Christmas jumper.
Buying local can make a huge difference to your food’s carbon footprint. This Christmas why not check out your local butcher and greengrocer. And where possible try choosing organic and free range and support small-scale farming wherever possible. There are some great local farm shops, such as Sunnyfields in Totton, which can provide all you need, including veg grown on their own farm.
Limit your food waste by planning ahead. Jot down a shopping list buying only what you need, and try to choose loose items or items with less packaging.
It’s not just food, drink choices can be made more sustainable to; look out for organic and vegan wines and spirits. Not only are these more environmentally friendly they are hangover friendly too as they frequently contain less sulphates and other preservatives.
Tip: Eat the food in your freezer in the run-up to the main event, leaving plenty of room for leftovers. Surplus turkey and ham can be sliced, then wrapped in parchment and frozen. You can even freeze leftover Stilton and save it to use in a warming winter soup.
The ever-popular Christmas cracker can also be a huge contributor to waste in the UK. Most cannot be recycled, and the plastic toys normally end up in the bin before the meal is even over. For the biggest impact scrap the crackers entirely. Keep an eye out for recyclable and plastic free crackers. Or replace your single-use Christmas crackers with reusable ones. Fill your very own crackers with what you like, including personalised little gifts and notes.
Over Christmas energy usage and bills rise significantly. By swapping Christmas lights to LEDs you can reduce the energy usage by up to 80%, and even more if you use timer plugs. More savings can be made by turning down the thermostat by one degree. Get cosy with extra blankets, hot water bottles and candles instead of constant heating.