How to have a Green Christmas


Christmas is a time of giving, which mostly means mass consumption and masses of waste. It’s also a time of charity and thinking of others so why not think of the planet this year?  You can save money, waste and the planet all at the same time with some of our handy tips.

“The amount of wrapping paper used for presents is enough to wrap around the equator 9 times[i]

Try to avoid shiny or glittery wrapping paper as this is not recyclable and the glitter contributes to micro plastic pollution. Sustainable alternatives are recycled gift wrap, or re-usable options like wrag wrap or make your own out of scrap fabrics instead.

1 billion cards ended up in the bin in 2016 rather than being recycled.[ii]  Why not consider E-cards this year which saves a lot of time and effort and could include a charitable donation? Or otherwise look for charity cards on recycled stock or labelled with the FSC mark. After the festive season remember to recycle them at Sainsbury’s for the Woodland Trust or cut them up to make gift tags for next year.


Why not try making your own decorations? Foraging for holly, pine cones and evergreen leaves is free and if you combine them with candles, oven-dried fruit slices and a little creativity it’s amazing what you can come up with. Check out some ideas here.

Reusable crackers can be bought online, but you could also make these yourself with some cardboard tubes, fancy paper and ribbons. Fill them with your own jokes and a few treat and they will be a real surprise on the Christmas table.

There are various alternative to the disposable advent calendar. You could invest in a beautiful drawer calendar which you fill with treats every year. (This would even work for more than one child) Or make your own calendar with numbered socks or envelopes with fun family activities for each day instead of chocolate. Another ethical alternative is a reverse advent calendar, whereby you put a small gift of food or toiletries into a box which is then donated to a charity or foodbank.

“6 million or 250 tonnes of Christmas trees are discarded every year”[iii]

A potted Christmas tree can be reused again and again. But if that’s too expensive then why not do what the Scandinavians do and find some nice branches to put in a pot and decorate instead? If you have a cut tree then you can take to your local waste site for it to be composted. If you can’t get to a site then chop it up and put it in your garden waste bin for collection.

And don’t forget the lights… “Approximately 500 tonnes of old Christmas tree lights are thrown away each year, yet many people do not realise that they can be recycled[iv]


Rather than more ‘stuff’ consider experiences instead like; theatre tickets, cinema passes and spa vouchers. Or, if you are short of money why not offer your time or skills instead? An offer of a tasty home-cooked dinner or a promise to walk the dog for a month would be appreciated by many family members.

A secret Santa arrangement might work for your family, choosing one person to buy for rather than lots of stuff for lots of people! This can save on money, time and waste too. Make sure to look out for items that have minimal or recyclable packaging. Lush do some great gift sets.

If you want to give something back then there are lots of great sites like Good Gifts and Oxfam unwrapped where you can buy a goat for someone in Afghanistan for instance.

Buying second hand items at charity shops also means giving back and creating less waste at the same time. We have adopted the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod where we gift second-hand books to the family which are traditionally read in bed on Christmas Eve with some chocolate.

If you have the time then everybody loves a hand-made gift.  Yummy baked goods always go down a treat and the kids can get involved too. Find some inspiring ideas here.

“Within three months, 41 per cent of the toys children receive will be broken. Most will go to the tip.”[v]

There are many ethical and green gift options around these days so you don’t have to opt for the mountains of plastic on the high street, I have put together a Pinterest board of some of the best gifts for kids here.


Try not to use disposable items such as straws, plastic cups and paper napkins. If you are having a party why not invest in some special cloth napkins or make your own from old shirts? Guests could be asked to bring their own glasses or you can borrow them for free them most supermarkets.  

“Recycling all glass instead of disposing it to landfill would save the CO2 equivalent of taking 1,300 cars off the road for a year.”[vi]

Avoid food & drinks in plastic bottles or pots and choose easier to recycle materials such as glass or tins  instead. Produce from local greengrocers, farmers markets, veg box schemes or butchers will help to avoid all that excess packaging.

Making your own mince pies, xmas cake & pudding also avoid packaging and will always taste so much better or even make great gifts. Remember to use silicone baking sheets and eco wraps for cooking & left overs rather than tin foil and cling film.

“Over 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million Brussel sprouts are thrown away every Christmas”[vii]

We all over-indulge at Christmas so freeze left-overs and re-use turkey for sandwiches and curries that will see you right through until the New Year.

Lastly, try to buy only what you need and not get seduced by all the offers and marketing in the shops. This is easier said than done, I know, but having a list of what you need often helps. Find more zero waste ideas on my Pinterest board here. Let me know if you have any other ideas x

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