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Top tips for a sustainable Christmas

We love Christmas! Cold weather, mince pies, winter walks and lots of time spent with family and friends. It’s a happy season, with presents and decorated trees and lots of tasty food. It can also be a season that produces an awful lot of waste and uses a lot of energy.

Happily, there are plenty of easy things you can do to make your Christmas more sustainable, better for the environment and less expensive, while still maintaining the true spirit of Christmas – fun, love, support and helping people.

Image by Qualit-E, Creative Commons
Image by Qualit-E, Creative Commons

1. Get your Christmas tree from a sustainable source

Make sure you and your family get your Christmas tree from a sustainable source, which means from a forest that’s well managed. The Forestry Commission is selling Christmas trees from it’s own managed woodlands, and they’ll even give you a small Christmas tree that you can plant yourself, so you can replace the tree that’s been cut down for you with a new baby one.

Of course, most Christmas trees are cut trees, but you can get trees that are grown in pots which you can then plant or keep watered and use again next year – though don’t forget they might get too big to bring indoors! Or choose an artificial tree, which you can use year after year.

An even more brilliant idea available in some parts of the UK is Christmas tree rental – you just hire the tree over Christmas!

Glade Jul by Viggo Johansen
Glade Jul by Viggo Johansen

2. Make sure your lights are low energy LEDs

Most Christmas lights these days are LEDs, which generate lots of light while using hardly any energy. If your fairy lights are pretty old, it might be time to invest in some new ones!

While the lights might be pretty, don’t forget to turn them off overnight when everyone has gone to bed, and all the other lights too – you’ll save energy and money.

3. Shop local for your Christmas food

You can reduce the impact of your Christmas by shopping local for your food and reducing the food miles used to bring it from a farm to your dinner table. The fewer food miles, the less carbon emissions generated to transport the food – and you’ll also be supporting local businesses and local farmers.

Opt to go plant-based too, as producing fruit and vegetables has less impact on the environment than producing meat, and also means no animals are harmed.

4. Use recycled wrapping paper or an alternative

Bright coloured paper covering mystery boxes and packages under the tree on Christmas morning is one of our favourite sights – so how do you make this more sustainable? Opt for paper made from sustainable or recycled sources, or choose something like a bag which can be re-used by the recipient.

Christmas tree and presents, Image by Kelvin Kay, Creative Commons
Christmas tree and presents, Image by Kelvin Kay, Creative Commons

5. Opt for charity Christmas cards

Millions of pounds are raised each year for good causes by the purchase of charity Christmas cards, and most charities will have some on sale so you can find a cause you support and send seasons greetings at the same time. Don’t forget to recycle the cards afterwards.

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint further, how about sending electronic Christmas greetings, rather than actual cards?

6. Don’t forget to recycle!

While ripping off the wrapping on presents can be fun, and we know there’s a lot of packaging that comes with Christmas – not to mention all those glass bottles, tin cans and plastic containers – so make sure you recycle! Many places will have special Christmas collections so you won’t have mess lying around your house for ages, and sorting out what’s recyclable and what’s not isn’t a hard task. In fact, you can make it fun!

Check the collection times from your local council, and also make sure you’ve sorted out only what they can collect and recycle. While glass, tin cans and paper/cardboard are recycled most places, not every

7. Make your own sustainable decorations and presents!

When it comes to making your home look festive, there are loads of beautiful things you can make using things you find in the natural world and bits and pieces of things recycled at home.

You can create decorations yourself using pinecones, like this one from M&S
You can create decorations yourself using pinecones, like this one from M&S

Pine cones are a perfect decoration for Christmas trees, as they look like natural baubles and add a festive pine-smell to the air. Leave them as they are, add a tartan bow, or sprinkle them with glitter, then string a loop of thread around the top and pop them on your tree.

Another great idea is to transform old scraps of cloth into pretty festive decorations such as robins, trees, stars or even Santa himself if you are feeling creative!

We love the ideas on website – we’re going to make a few of these ourselves this year!

8. Use up those leftovers (or don’t cook too much in the first place!)

We all love having loads of tasty food over Christmas, but it can be tempting to make far too much and have lots of it thrown away, which is an awful waste. Think carefully how much food you’re really going to need, and plan how you’re going to use those leftovers. There are plenty of delicious ideas for everything from curry to soup.

If you’ve got more than you can possibly hope to eat, why not invite some friends over to help you polish it off? Or even plan a winter picnic. Hot turkey soup and ham sandwiches make the perfect snack when out roaming through a beautiful frosty landscape.

9. Choose Fairtrade

You can make a big difference to people around the world by opting for Fairtrade products for both your food, sweet treats and even Christmas presents! You can get everything from Fairtrade chocolate to Fairtrade clothing.

Fairtrade Christmas hamper from
Fairtrade Christmas hamper from

10. Bring festive cheer to your local wildlife!

When it gets cold outside, many animals find it tricky to get enough food. Happily, this is something you can easily help with, and what could be more festive than lots of pretty birds tucking into their home-made seed cakes outside your window while you tuck into your Christmas dinner!

11. Opt for a Secret Santa, set a Christmas budget, or have a gift list

It’s lovely to give and receive presents at Christmas, but there can also be a temptation to give lots of gifts, or give gifts that aren’t useful or wanted to needed. This can get expensive, can put lots of stress and pressure on people, and also lead to waste. So instead, why not give more thoughtfully.

One way to do this is to set up a Secret Santa for your friends or family. Each person will gift one present to one other person, within a pre set budget.

Another way is to set a present budget so that only a certain amount of money can be spent on it – and it’s a great way to get creative and hunt down something brilliant that doesn’t cost a lot.

And finally, why not have a Christmas gift list where people can ask for something they really want or need – that way the present will be something the other person will definitely use and love.

12. Regift!

Got useful things you don’t need? It might be worth seeing if your friends or family do to, and if they want things you have – then you can regift these items. You’ll be removing clutter and giving someone something they’ll be happy to have, the recipient will have something they needed, AND it’s stopped something going to landfill!

13. Travel less and stay longer

Christmas is often the time we travel a lot to visit friends and family, and spending time with the people we love is one of the nicest things about Christmas.

But transport is also one of the biggest contributors to emissions and climate change. So firstly, if you can, choose a sustainable form of transport like trains or busses. Secondly, if you can stay local or avoid travelling a lot, opt to do that – for example, can you see several people nearby in one go, rather than lots of longer trips?

And you can also stay longer if you do need to travel further; that way you make the most of the journey.

More sustainable Christmas tips and ideas

Check out these links for more ideas on how to make your Christmas more sustainable:


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