How To Have A Sustainable Christmas

Updated: Nov 7

That’s right, I’m back again with another sustainable holiday guide, this time Christmas which we seem to be hurtling towards at break neck speed!

I am pleased to say that I’ve noticed many groups on my social media channels looking for advice on a sustainable Christmas.

Out of all of the celebrations we have through the year, this one is one of the biggest. We generally celebrate it for a month – at least – and this year, everyone is wanting to make it even more special, as collectively, we’ve not had the greatest year.

At this moment in time, we’ve not idea what things will be like come December 25th, but we are of course all hoping to be able to spend it with our loved ones. Whatever we do, hopefully can all do it in an environmentally aware manner!

I hate to say it, but stats on the environmental impact of Christmas turned my stomach. There are lots of resources out there that will explain these impacts, such as Greenpeace, OECD Environment Focus and Business Leader but I’ve made a quick rundown of some of the facts* here.

Image Credit – Ashleigh Nicole

It’s not all bad news though – there are lot of things we can do to make changes! Here are some top tips to help us have a more sustainable Christmas!

  1. Toys alone create approximately 125, 000 tonnes of plastic packaging, and due to poor quality of (some) plastic toys, or children simply getting bored, they often end up in the bin or the tip pretty quickly! Why not opt for second hand, which will create less “new” plastic, or look for a company that does plastic free packaging? There are many beautiful wooden toys out there too, and many of these are open ended, creating hours upon hours of fun! Another way to curb this plastic, is to ensure you are buying only what others are interested in, and limiting what you are buying – think quality over quantity! I always write a list of what I would like for my children (who aren’t old enough to ask) and distribute a few things to different family members to pick from. As for adults, only buy where it’s necessary. For the past couple of years, I’ve asked friends to only buy for the children, and again, asking what someone wants rather than buying what you think they may like cuts down on waste! We buy many of our gifts second hand, or from ethical companies. Shopping local is another fantastic way to help, as independent local businesses are often much more sustainable.

Enironmental Christmas presents

Our Son’s First Christmas Presents, many of these were pre-loved and bought from ethical stores

  1. Wrapping paper and cards have huge impact on the environment, with the amount of paper alone used being the equivalent of 33 million trees! A lot of gift wrap is not recyclable, and many of it just makes it way into the bin. Much of it is covered in glitter, or plastic, and then you have to account for gift tags, ties, bows etc, and that much of this will come packaged in…. plastic! A great way to combat this, that I absolutely love is to use brown paper and string, or to use cloth! You don’t even have to buy cloth in some cases – I use a few old scarves, and even cut up one of my husbands old work shirts! I have bought a few cloth squares over the years though. The beauty of this is that you can reuse it every year. We don’t send cards now either, but I understand that a lot of people like to, and it is a lovely tradition. Other than buying cards made from recycled paper, you can now get cards made on seeded paper, which is a wonderful idea!

Reusable wrapping options – This was the first year we tried it, and this is also all of the presents we bought that year, apart from one thing that we assembled for our little boy, rather than wrapping it.

  1. Food is something else we can be quite guilty of over buying during the festive season, and with an estimated 54 million platefuls of food being thrown out in the UK at Christmas time, something does need to change. We can be more mindful of this by buying exactly what we will need, including buying loose items such as veg, or ingredients from weigh shops, to ensure we have no left over waste; don’t buy in excess, such as buying several joints of meat when you only need one; and by buying locally sourced meat and veg! By doing these things, you are also cutting down on the amount of plastic waste. If you’re buying festive cakes, buying from local baker is a great idea, or baking them yourself. For confectionery, look for an ethical company that uses compostable packaging. It’s a good idea to avoid the traditional store bought chocolates because many of these companies fall within the top plastic polluters.

  2. Decorations is something else we look forward to come the festive period! Again, many of these items are made from plastic, and covered glitter. The good thing is that many of these decorations are stored away and reused year after year. If your decorations are starting to look a little worse for wear, and you’re wanting to freshen things up, first of all make sure they are being disposed of correctly. When buying new ones, look for good quality, long lasting ornaments, that are plastic free where possible. There are many people making wooden ornaments, or crocheting decorations in place of tinsel. You can also now buy paper based tinsel, which is fantastic! If you buy an artificial tree, it does create more CO2e than a real tree, and you do need to use it a minimum of 12 years to make it greener than a real Christmas tree. While a real Christmas tree is the greener option, you must ensure it is correctly disposed of. We have always bought a real tree, up until our son became active, and we knew it just wasn’t sensible for us. We already had an artificial tree in the loft, from before we had even met – so it’s over 11 years old – so we started using that one. We will go back to a real tree when we feel the time is right. Christmas crackers are another thing that are incredibly harmful, between the plastic and the glitter, but I have some good news – you can even buy environmentally friendly crackers!

The biggest things to take away here, and keep in mind are –

  1. Don’t buy needlessly

  2. Avoid plastic

  3. Buy for quality over quantity

  4. Shop local

Here is a little list of places I would recommend to buy alternative, environmentally friendly products!

  1. Babi Pur – An online family run business, this is a sort of one stop ethical shop for all sorts! You can buy toys, clothing, house hold items, and more from them!

  2. Tony’s – An amazing ethical alternative to the usual high street chocolate, they are delicious and all about breaking the supply chain! What’s more, their packaging is compostable!

  3. Cocoa Loco – Another vote for ethical, fair trade handmade chocolate! Their chocolate is incredible, particularly their hot chocolate stirrers!

  4. La Chocolatrice – Okay this is my last chocolate shout out, I promise! This one is local to me, based in Coxhoe, Durham and there is also one in Newcastle, and it is such good quality, delicious chocolate!

  5. The Clever Cactus – They are doing some fantastic Christmas bits this year, including Christmas crackers!

  6. Olive and Pip Patisserie – This one is another local one to me, this time based in Newton Hall, and they doing a delicious range of Christmas goodies including a hamper and a Christmas eve treat box!

  7. For a list of Eco friendly gift ideas, look here

This is just a small list, and it is super easy to find other alternatives too! From Etsy to Ebay and all that’s in between there many different options.

The list of things you can change is endless as well, I have named just a few things. There are tonnes of other tips and lists out there, from clothing to commuting, to energy use, there are lots of ways to become more sustainable, not just at Christmas but year round!


*Information sourced from OECD Envrinement Impact and Business Leader, based on figures from 2018 & 2019


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