How To Have A More Sustainable Christmas

Christmas is just around the corner, and while it’s one of the busiest and most celebrated holidays in the UK, we can’t help but think about the impact it has on the environment. 

Our total consumption and spending on food, travel, lighting, and gifts over three days of Christmas festivities could result in as much as 650 kg of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) per person – equivalent to the weight of 1,000 Christmas puddings! This is 5.5% of our total annual carbon footprint.

So, while we feast, drink wine, and be merry through December and into January, let’s take a look at the toll Christmas has on the environment and ways we can be more sustainable this year.

Use recyclable wrapping paper

In 2016, we threw away no less than 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, which is enough to wrap around the Island of Jersey. I know, we can’t believe it either! 

Despite this, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, as we’ve got some eco-friendly alternatives to ensure that making your gifts look good isn’t at the detriment of our planet.

It may seem obvious, but reduce, reuse, and recycle. To help reduce the amount of presents you buy each year, you could establish a gift rule amongst friends and family, whether it be only buying one gift, or doing a Secret Santa with a set budget. This will ultimately help reduce the amount of wrapping paper you use too.

Save those pennies and the planet by keeping any tissue or wrapping paper from gifts that you receive and reuse them the following year! Instead of buying wrapping paper made of plastic, buy fully recyclable wrapping paper or simply use brown paper, so that all your loved ones need to do is pop it in the recycling after they’ve opened their gifts.

Top tip: If your wrapping paper is recyclable, it’s important to remove any tape, ribbons, or bows from it before popping it in the recycling. If any of these items are left on the paper, they will no longer be recyclable and will end up in landfill.


Buy environmentally-friendly Christmas cards

If we placed all our Christmas cards alongside one another, they would stretch around the world 500 times! And the majority of these are made of environmentally damaging materials that aren’t biodegradable or even recyclable.

So, for this reason, we should make the switch and buy eco-friendly Christmas cards! You can check out some online zero-waste stores that sell them or, even better, meet up with friends and chat over an almond milk flat white, or make them some homemade gifts! We also recommend saving the ones you receive and making them into tags or labels that you can use the following year to help reduce waste.

Make your own Christmas decorations

We’re dreaming of a green Christmas… In the UK the only snow we get this time of year tends to be in the form of those packaging Styrofoam balls when we open some of our gifts or Christmas decorations. 

Before you buy decorations for your Christmas tree, stop and think. Do you really need to buy? What have you already got at home that can be repurposed? You can make really beautiful and eco-friendly Christmas decorations at home with items from your kitchen cupboard or even your garden. 

We recommend heading out for a walk and doing some foraging! Pick up some sticks, leaves, and branches and make a wreath or tree decorations. You can even use items you have in the house like leftover fresh herbs, cinnamon sticks, and oranges. The opportunities are endless when it comes to DIY Christmas decorations!

Choose solar-powered Christmas Lights

It is without a doubt that Christmas lights are part and parcel of most living room decorations during December and January.

Unfortunately, however, Christmas tree lights tend to be switched on for an average of ten hours a day, which produces enough CO2 to fill five party balloons, if they are incandescent bulbs. 

Despite this, you can still enjoy Christmas tree lights whilst being eco-friendly. For example, a 70-count string of five millimetre Wide Angle LEDs uses only around five watts, whereas a 100-count string of incandescent mini lights would run at 40 watts. Less is always more after all! 

You can also opt for solar-powered Christmas lights to save on electricity whilst decorating your home for the festive season. They charge during the day and turn on automatically at night, so you don’t have to worry about turning them on.

Buy a real Christmas Tree

Many people have short-lived debates over buying fake or real Christmas trees, but this decision has consequences for the environment. Each year, we buy around eight million real Christmas trees, with over five million households opting for artificial trees.

Here is some information about both artificial and real Christmas trees:

Artificial trees

Artificial trees have a carbon footprint equivalent to around 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions, and the main material in artificial trees is plastic, which of course contributes to the plastic pollution problem worldwide.

As artificial Christmas trees are non-biodegradable, they are sent to landfill or are incinerated. Often, artificial trees are produced in South Korea, Taiwan, or China, and are shipped thousands of miles to get to your home.

Real Christmas trees

Real Christmas trees are grown over seven to ten years and are biodegradable. Not only do they benefit the environment by having a lower carbon footprint due to shorter travel, but they also help protect and stabilise the soil.

If you’re looking to buy a real tree for a green Christmas, Friends of the Earth advise you to look for one locally produced or grown in the UK with an FSC certification. Be sure to recycle your tree in the new year with your local council or compost it in your garden.

Buy second-hand gifts

Consumers throw away approximately £42 million of unwanted presents each year most of which end up in landfill and as little as 1% of purchases made in the UK for Christmas will still be used six months after the big day. So, rather than buying unnecessary gifts that people probably don’t want or need, try and think more carefully and consciously about what you buy.

Charity shops are a great way to find interesting items on a budget while contributing to a good cause – and almost every local high street has at least one. Pre-loved gifts not only give items a longer life, but they can bring just as much joy to someone as something new. 

Alternatively, why not get crafty at home and make something yourself? Here are some ideas on how you can get creative from the comfort of your own home:

  • Solid lotion bars
  • Homemade lip balm
  • Homemade body scrub
  • DIY soy wax candle 
  • Propagated plants

Reduce food waste

It’s easy to get carried away at Christmas, cramming the trolley full of festive food! With eyes bigger than our bellies, this leads to a staggering amount of food waste every year.

During the holiday season, in the UK, we as a nation eat 80 percent more food than the rest of the year, meaning we are producing excess waste and pollution to the point where we are binning 230,000 tonnes of food during the Christmas period. That’s the equivalent of 74 million mince pies or two million turkeys, at the price of £275 million in food waste.

But, with a few simple changes and a bit of planning ahead, you can help reduce your food waste. And if everyone plays their part, the impact could be massive! Below are our top tips on how to reduce your food waste:

  • Only buy and cook as much as you need
  • Freeze your Christmas leftovers or use them in a new, fun recipe for the family
  • Share surplus food on apps like Olio or donate them to a food bank
  • Use your food waste recycling bin

Make Your Christmas Meatless

Having a more sustainable Christmas isn’t just about presents and decorations. What we put on our plates has a huge impact on our shared home. Animal products are traditionally the centre of attention at Christmas dinner, but did you know that a plant-based Christmas dinner produces half the GHG emissions than meat?

If 85% of people in the UK who usually eat animal products at Christmas chose Meatless options, we would prevent 131 million kilograms of CO2e from entering the atmosphere. That’s like driving to the moon and back 1,076 times!

One small switch this holiday season can have a huge impact. Luckily for you, Meatless Fam, we have meat-free alternatives that don’t mean you have to miss out this year. And let’s be honest, at least 75% of your Christmas dinner is plant-based anyway, so you may as well go to town and go all the way this year!

You can read all about how to make a Meatless Christmas this year here.

Well Meatless Fam, it’s safe to say we’ve armed you with some top tips to help you have a more sustainable Christmas this year. We hope these simple switches can be implemented beyond Christmas festivities to help protect the planet we live in.