25 Conscious Christmas Hacks: How to Have An Eco-Friendly Festive Season
Beyond simply the gifts we buy, there are countless other ways we celebrate Christmas that can have a devastating impact on the environment too.
From deforestation caused by our obsession with the perfect Christmas tree to the single-use wrapping paper, crackers filled with useless plastic toys (be honest, we use these once and then they slip into the sofa somewhere). And a dizzying amount of food waste – this single day leaves our planet with a killer post-Christmas hangover all year round.
But there’s no need to be a scrooge – Christmas can still be filled with all the things we love, without the environmental headache. Try out some of our simple, easy hacks for the most conscious Christmas yet.
Eco-friendly Christmas trees
8 million trees are cut down each year for UK households at Christmas, reducing the CO2-absorbing power of rich forests around the world, and travelling thousands of miles to reach us. However, the non-recyclable artificial tree alternative uses toxic PVC. It’s an age-old debate – what’s better for the environment, real or fake Christmas trees
1. In short, it’s generally best to opt for real fir trees as they will biodegrade when recycled, whereas plastic trees will live on in landfill. To reduce the impact of your next Christmas tree, source an organic tree to cut back on nasty pesticides, and ensure the supplier is sourcing from local, responsibly managed forests to reduce the air miles.
2. Make sure that after the Christmas joy has died down, you recycle your tree to ensure it will be shredded and returned to the Earth – most councils will pick up trees from the roadside for free throughout January, so check out your local recycling scheme.
3. Tree rental is another easy conscious Christmas hack – simply hire a real tree for however long you need it, then it will be taken back to the farm to be replanted – this is especially great for short-term events like Christmas pop-ups, for offices that close for Christmas, or if you are going away for part of the festive period.
4. If you are planning on buying an artificial tree or you already have one at home, you should aim to use it for at least 10 years to offset the impact of the plastic it is made from, according to the Carbon Trust.
5. Check out Eco Age for an extensive guide to sourcing an eco-friendly Christmas tree, including suggestions for sustainable forestry companies.
Zero-Waste Gift Wrapping
We use 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging for gifts every Christmas in the UK alone – that’s about 25,000 elephants worth!
6. There are some great eco-friendly wrapping paper options including this Fairtrade, handmade recycled cotton gift wrap from Oxfam or try this 100% recycled unbleached paper gift wrap from Re-Wrapped.
7. Our favourite eco-friendly gift wrapping option is FabRap – they create absolutely beautiful handmade fabric ‘wrapping paper’ from 100% sustainable organic cotton, that can be reused again and again.
8. For a gift bag to transport your presents, Wrag Wrap also make reusable fabric gift bags in cute Christmas prints for any size of gift, including bottle bags.
9. If you’re just on a last minute run to the shops and zero-waste isn’t an option, look for gift wrap that’s matte, without any gloss or glitter – this usually comes in sheets rather than on a roll – this will be fully recyclable. You could even go old school and simply wrap your gifts with newspaper or brown paper – cheap and cheerful!
10. Another easy hack is leave out the plasticky satin and laminated tags – just write your message directly onto the paper with a marker pen, and add some oomph with some natural twine and a sprig of holly. Opt for paper tape rather than traditional sellotape to dodge the plastic – Eco-Craft have one that’s 100% biodegradable.
11. For any presents you receive, make sure to hang on to gift bags, fabric ribbon and wrapping paper without any tears – these can easily be stashed away to reuse for next Christmas.
More Conscious Christmas Hacks
12. Christmas Crackers | The ultimate in ‘single use’ – Christmas crackers are discarded after a single ‘crack’ and are filled with useless plastic toys and gimmicks – this year try these reusable fabric crackers from Every Origin and complement their cheesy jokes by filling with your own yummy treats.
13. Offsetting Flights | Seeing your loved ones at Christmas is a non-negotiable, despite the boggling carbon cost of flying. If travelling by train (or Greta Thunberg style, by boat!) is not an option, use Atmosfair or MyClimate to offset your flights by funding reforestation projects.
14. Carrier Bags | If you’re hitting the high streets or shopping malls for your big gift shop this year, remember to bring own canvas bags or bags-for-life to avoid the plastic carrier bag trap. We love this £10 organic cotton tote from WAWWA.
15. Reusable Cups | We all love a cosy Christmas coffee or even better a mulled wine during December, but we don’t love the single use cups they come in. Bring along a keep cup when you’re out in Winter wonderland – it’s better for the environment, and often gives you a handy discount too!
16. Shop Local | In the UK alone, 150 million miles worth of carbon emissions are created just to get our food to the table on 25th December – that’s 6,000 times around the globe! Visit a farmers market, butcher or greengrocer this year to ensure your food is locally sourced.
17. Christmas Cards | Reduce your waste by opting for cards that come without plastic wrapper, and buy cards made from 100% recycled paper, like these ones from Paper Isle. You could even try sending an ecard or email newsletter to dodge the material cost altogether – especially for hefty corporate Christmas card sending!
18. Christmas Food Waste | Every year in the UK, we bin over 230,000 tonnes of Christmas food – equivalent to 74 million mince pies or 2 million turkeys! This year, buy only what you need by meal planning and sticking to a strict shopping list, make sure to compost any uneaten treats, and check out these recipes for using up your Christmas leftovers.
19. Vegan Christmas Dinner | Going vegan could be one of the single biggest ways to reduce your environmental impact. Try out a meat-free turkey alternative like Tofurkey or nut roast, and swap out dairy-heavy desserts for soya, almond or oat based options.
20. Zero-Waste Food Shop | Head to your local zero waste shop to bulk buy festive snacks – stock up on nuts and dried fruit using tupperware boxes or glass jars.If there’s no independent options, Waitrose and Holland and Barrett often have a fill-your-own section for dried goods.
21. Christmas Lights | Opt for LED lights and energy saving bulbs to eco-fy your Christmas lights this year. Make sure to turn off your fairy lights when you’re not home and during the night to cut the carbon cost.
22. Christmas Wreaths | Avoid shop-bought plastic wreaths and attend a wreath-making workshop to make your own from foraged natural materials, bringing the outside in.
23. Tree Decorations I Who cares about shiny new matching baubles? The best thing about decorating your Christmas tree is the nostalgia of rediscovering all your old childhood decorations – hang on to everything, and create a tree that’s unique to your family.
24. Table Decorations | Switch out single use serviettes, plastic sequins and confetti for some reusable, sustainable decorations for the Christmas dinner table – we love these mini cork pop-up trees and these handmade fabric napkins, both from Every Origin.
25. Christmas Parties | If you’re hosting a festive get together, swap single-use plastic cups and paper plates for real crockery, glassware and cutlery to save on waste this Christmas.