How to have a more sustainable Christmas

I love Christmas. Seeing my family, a big Christmas dinner (sans turkey for me though!), exchanging presents, alcohol and snacks in abundance, Christmas films and music. Even though it’s cold and miserable outside, it’s still a cosy time of year.

In the last couple of years I’ve been growing increasingly conscious of the environment, and how my lifestyle choices can impact the planet. I’ve been gradually making changes to reduce my carbon footprint - it only has to be small changes but these can really add up.

Christmas has a huge impact on the environment - from your Christmas tree to your dinner, from lights to shopping. If you want to minimise and reduce your footprint over the festive period, here’s a few ideas:

How to have a more sustainable Christmas |
A sustainable Christmas |

Christmas Tree

LED Lights

When decorating your tree or your house, use LED lights. They use about 50% less power than their incandescent, fluorescent and halogen counterparts and last a lot longer too.

Buy a real tree

Unless you reuse a plastic tree for 10-15 years (longer than they are designed to be used for) you will cause the environment more harm buying a plastic tree due to the manufacturing, packaging, transporting and decomposing of them, than if you were to buy a real tree.

When shopping for a tree, check out (UK) - all Christmas tree listed sellers on here must grow trees according to strict guidelines covering things such as protecting local wildlife and sustainable seeds.

Reuse or recyle your tree

Only about 10% of trees in the UK are recycled, which is a lot of trees going to landfill…

Many local authorities and garden centres will recycle your tree for you so it doesn’t go to waste.

An alternative to not wasting your tree is to buy potted and keep it growing to reuse the following year!

DIY a tree

If you can’t get a real tree, then there are plenty of other options to the fake, plastic trees using natural materials. Just search ‘diy christmas tree’ or ‘alternative christmas tree’ on Pinterest to see a whole range of ideas. This hanging christmas tree is one of my favourites.

How to have a more sustainable Christmas |

A sustainable Christmas |

Wrapping paper

Recyclable wrapping paper

Wrapping paper is one of the biggest wastes at Christmas - the amount of wrapping paper thrown away in the UK would stretch to the moon! A lot of wrapping paper (particuarly paper with glitter and metallic paper) isn’t recyclable either so just goes straight to landfill.

Try wrapping your presents with alternative options. This year I’m wrapping my gifts in brown paper decorated with string, foliage and stamps - it’s a pretty, natural look.

Other options could be tying presents in a fabric scarf for example (which also makes a lovely gift), or even newspaper!

Reuse wrapping paper, bows and ribbons

I’m a sucker for cute decorations on wrapping presents, but there’s no need for these to be one-use items. Save the ribbons and bows and any in tact wrapping paper and put them to one side to reuse next time around. Bonus: saves you shopping for the the following year!

Use tape sparingly 

Sellotape can’t be recycled, so use it sparingly when wrapping presents. You could also secure wrapping with ribbons or string or purchase recyclable tape.

How to have a more sustainable Christmas |

A sustainable Christmas |

Christmas dinner

Compost vegetable peelings 

If you have a compost bin at home, don’t forget to chuck your vegetable peelings and compostable food waste in there!

Avoid overbuying 

I know just how easy it is to go overboard with buying food over Christmas, but only buy what you need and no more. If no-one likes Christmas pudding but you always buy one just for traditions sake, leave it off the shopping list this year.

Reuse leftovers

A hideous amount of food goes to waste in the UK every Christmas - a study by Unilever found that 4.2 million Christmas dinners were wasted across the United Kingdom. The figure is the equivalent to 263,000 turkeys; 7.5 million mince pies; 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding; 17.2 million Brussels sprouts; 11.9 million carrots and 11.3 million roast potatoes. source

If you end up with a lot of leftovers, use them up! Make a turkey pie, bubble and squeak, a cheeseboard mac and cheese, soup! There’s thousands of recipes out there you could try with your leftovers.

Buy from local farm shops

Buy seasonal vegetables from your local food shop. This will reduce your carbon footprint as the veg will have travelled far less distance than some food at the supermarket will have - for example your vegetables could have travelled all the way from South Africa! I can guarantee it will be just as delicious too.

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A sustainable Christmas |


Remember carrier bags

With the 5p plastic carrier bag rule having been in place for a while now, there’s no excuse for forgetting to bring bags when you go shopping! ;) Use fabric tote bags and not just for food shopping but for gift shopping on the high street too!

Plan shopping trips

Reduce your carbon footprint by doing as much of your Christmas shopping in as few a trips as possible. By planning your shopping, you can avoid those unnecessary ‘oh I just need that one thing’ trips into town. When going shopping, use public transport and services such as park and ride to cut down emissions and congestion in cities.

Online shopping

Online shopping is reportedly better for the environment than shopping on the high street. There’s many disputes to this however, but the general consensus seems to be that it’s definitely the more environmentally friendly option - so stay in the warm and shop from your sofa!

Buy locally

Don’t forget about your local community and businesses when doing your gift shopping. Buying locally produced goods is not only supporting your local community but it also minimises carbon footprints. Every purchase from a small business means so much more to a person than purchase from a huge chain, and handmade gifts are so thoughtful.

How to have a more sustainable Christmas |

A sustainable Christmas |

Your home

Turn down the thermostat 1 degree

Turning down your thermostat by 1 degree probably won’t even be noticeable, especially with the extra bodies around when entertaining, but this saves a heck of a lot of energy and money too!

Turn christmas lights off when you’re not home

Christmas lights can be on for hours and hours over the festive period. Switch them off when you’re not at home or in a different room.

Unplug devices or switch off at mains

If you are out and about over Christmas, maybe away for a weekend visiting friends and family, going on holiday or just for a day out, turn off your electronics at the plug at the wall. It may seem like a waste of time, but by getting into the habit of turning things off and unplugging them rather than leaving TVs, games consoles, kitchen appliances etc on standby, you can save a huge amount of energy in the long run.

Keep curtains closed

Along the lines of saving energy, a great way of cutting down on heating bills and energy is by keeping curtains closed. It feels like it’s dark 90% of the time in winter in the UK anyway, and by leaving curtains closed in rooms it keeps the heat in.

I hope this post gives you a few ideas of how you can reduce your impact on the environment and have a more sustainable Christmas.

Have you got any more ideas for how to be more environmentally friendly over the Christmas period?