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10 tips for a no-plastic Christmas

We all know that plastic in the environment is a huge problem. We’re all working hard to cut down on single use plastic in everyday life, but it can get extra hard at Christmas.

There’s just so much of it about! Packaging from Christmas food, plastic film around Christmas gifts and toys, decorations made of plastic… the list goes on.

Can you still have a traditional Christmas and ditch the plastic? Of course you can!

‘Single use’ plastic is bad news

Most single-use plastic ends up in our rivers and oceans where it can cause harm to wildlife and pollute the environment

One of it biggest sources of plastic in our environment are so-called ‘single use’ plastics.

These are things like plastic straws, the lids on disposable takeaway coffee cups, the plastic packaging our food often comes in, the plastic carrier bags we use for our shopping, the disposable cutlery we get with takeaway food and more.

In fact, it’s eye-opening to do a quick one-day audit of exactly how much single-use plastic you encounter in one day. The results will shock you.

The thing is, when you think about it this is a huge waste and a rediculous source of rubbish. Think of the resources that go into making something that’s going to be thrown away almost immediately. Each plastic item is derived from petro chemicals which means more oil being extracted from the ground. To transform it into plastic items, think about how much energy is used to make it and the polluting emissions and carbon footprint this creates.

And that’s even before we use it then chuck it away, where it can end up in landfill polluting our land, or in the oceans, where it will persist for hundreds or thousands of years.

How to have a no-plastic Christmas

It can seem almost impossible to stop using plastic when it’s everywhere, but it is do-able. It just requires a little extra preperation. Here’s how to do it:

1. Buy your vegetables from a greengrocer

Over Farm produce: The vegetables and fruits even have their "Food Miles" on display for the discerning shopper. By Jonathan Billinger [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Vegetables from supermarkets are often packaged in plastic, but they don’t need to be. If you pop to your local greengrocer, you can get exactly what you need without the extra packaging. Much better!

You could also look into ordering a special veg box for Christmas. Vegetable boxes are delivered directly to your door from farmers in the UK. Most are organic, like Abel and Cole, but there are also lots of local, regional schemes which can have the added bonus of supporting local buisnesses and reducing the carbon footprint of your food.

2. Avoid plastic-wrapped food

Christmas food typically comes with lots of wrapping and packaging, but there are plenty of ways to cut down on this.

Try to find food from local shops where it isn’t wrapped. We’ve mentioned the greengrocers and veg boxes above, but you can also hunt out treats at your local bakers, delicatessen, Christmas markets and more.

And when it comes to baked goods, if you’re feeling inspired by Bake Off then why not make your own mince pies, cakes and treats AND we think few things beat a present of home-made mince pies when visiting friends.

You can have an even lower environmental impact by ditching meat this Christmas too. There are some great tips for having a delicious vegan Christmas meal on the The Guardian website.

3. Bring a bag on your shopping trips

Lots of shopping means lots of bags to carry it home in. There are two solutions to this problem.

One is to order online and have it delivered or collect it. Most shops will give you the option to not having everything in bags, so you’ll just need to unpack the loose items from a crate when it arrives.

The second is to bring your own reusable bags when shopping. These are usualy more robust and nicer to use anyway, and you can even have fun making them.

In fact, decorating a resuable fabric bag is a great craft activity and the result can make a brilliant Christmas present for someone! You’ll find plain fabric bags in loads of places like some high-street shops and craft shops. Just grab some fabric paints and get arty.

4. Take your own cup

Keep Cup make reusable cups for hot drinks in a range of colours and sizes

There’s something so comforting and nice about having a hot chocolate or hot coffee when you’re out doing your Christmas shopping, but the waste from disposable coffee cups is a big contributing factor to our plastic waste.

Why not solve two problems at once and get a reusable coffee cup. These make great presents, and are designed to be used with the majority of coffee machines you find in coffee shops around the UK.

Keep Cup make fun ones in lots of colours, and you can even choose the colours you like – or that your intended giftee would like!

5. No plastic straws!

These are one of the most obvious forms of single-use plastic, and most people don’t need them. Did you know that around 500 MILLION plastic straws are used in the US alone? Think how many are used around the world and end up in the environment!

The Final Straw is a global campaign to get everyone to stop using them, and the Marine Conservation Society in the UK has lots of information, hints and tips to help you encourage others to stop using them too.

The good news is that more and more places are changing to using compostable paper straws, and you can

6. Glass bottles, not plastic

recycling codes and logos on plastic bottles

Where possible, try to go for glass containers and jars rather than plastic ones. These can be recycled and are less likely to end up as plastic waste.

You should be able to find glass bottle alternatives for things like fizzy drinks and mixers.

Another option if you REALLY like your fizzy drinks is to invest in a Soda Stream or similar product. These add fizz to water, and you can buy different flavour syrups so you can make your own lemonade, tonic water or cola at home. You only make as much as you need so there’s no waste, and you won’t be bringing lots of plastic drinks bottles home.

7. Use a refillable water bottle

Plastic water bottles are another big source of plastic waste, and they’re unnecessary. We know it gets said a lot, but it’s one of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.

8. Ditch the Christmas Crackers (or choose wisely)

Pulling Christmas Crackers, that familiar BANG, putting on a colourful paper hat and telling the terrible joke is a fun part of Christmas celebrations.

But so many of those crackers also have a little plastic toy inside, and chances are they’ll get played with for the duration of Christmas dinner then thrown away. That’s more plastic waste in the environment.

Try to find crackers either with no plastic inside, or with items that are genuinely useful and will be used again. There are also sets available so you can make your own crackers and add your own little gift inside!

9. Plastic-free wrapping

We love wrapping up Christmas presents in a pretty way – they look so nice under the tree! Using recycled and recyclable wrapping paper is a great first step, but you also need to be wary of those pretty decorative ribbons and bows which are often made of plastic.

Instead, why not use brown parcel string which had a lovely rustic feel. You can also add your own embellishments using natural elements like dried autumn leaves, dried cinnamon (which also smells so nice!) and sprigs of pine.

10. Homemade Christmas Decorations!

A set of paper snowflakes and paper chain in white on a purple knitted background
Make your own decorations out of Christmas for a more personal, crafty look – and you can recycle the paper afterwards!

What could be more fun that decorating your Christmas tree? How about making the decorations first too!

There are lots of helpful guides online, and finding things to make decorations out of is super simple. Paper, string, ribbon, twigs, cinnamon sticks and dried orange slices are all good places to start. We also love the idea of making lots of colourful pompoms and hanging those instead of plastic baubles!

Naturally Living Ideas: 32 Homemade Eco-friendly Christmas decorating ideas

Telegraph: Make your own natural Christmas decorations

And once Christmas is over for another year, don’t forget to reuse and recycle as much as you can! 


More helpful links

Looking for more ideas, recipes, guides etc? Have a look at some of these websites for inspiration.

Marine Conservation Society: 12 tips for a plastic-free Christmas

Friends of the Earth: 21 eco-friendly Christmas tips 





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