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How to have a sustainable Christmas: eco-friendly trees, gifts & Christmas dinner solutions

Have yourself an eco-friendly Christmas…

Chloe Best

It's the most wonderful time of the year, but Christmas is also one of the most wasteful, with an extra three million tonnes of rubbish produced and discarded throughout the festive period (up 30 percent compared with the rest of the year). When you factor in everything from discarded gift wrapping paper and packaging to the inevitable food waste from our all too often excessive Christmas dinners, not to mention the environmental impact of our Christmas trees, it's no wonder many of us are looking to make changes to have a more eco-friendly Christmas. Here are six ways to get started…

Rethink your Christmas tree

No more artificial trees – go for a cut or living Christmas tree

Many artificial Christmas trees are made from plastic and aren't recyclable, with an environmental impact ten times greater than a real tree. This is why companies like Pines and Needles – a favourite of celebrities and royals including the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – are ditching artificial firs in favour of natural trees.

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Along with the traditional cut trees, pot grown living Christmas trees are a much more environmentally-friendly option that can be replanted back outside once the festivities are over. According to The Carbon Trust, a tree's carbon footprint is reduced by 80 percent if it is repurposed rather than left to degrade, and it is one of the easiest swaps you can make to have a sustainable Christmas. Keep the 12 days of Christmas in mind as how long a tree should stay indoors before being replanted back outside, and give it some time outdoors if it starts to wilt. Remember, real Christmas trees may need as much as two to three pints of water per day, depending on its size and your central heating settings.

MORE: Tips on how to decorate your Christmas tree from Prince Harry & Meghan's go-to designer

Recycle your Christmas tree

If you do opt for a real Christmas tree, never take it to landfill once the holiday season is over. Many councils will collect your tree for recycling, but if yours doesn't, initiatives like JustHelping will collect it for you while raising money for hospices and other local charities. Your Christmas tree supplier may also have its own recycling service. Pines and Needles offers a collection and recycling service, which allows thousands of trees to be repurposed into chippings for attractions such as Kew Gardens and London Zoo.

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Rent a Christmas tree (yes, really)

Who knew it was possible to rent a Christmas tree? Websites like Love a Christmas Tree allow you to rent a container grown tree for as much as 30% less than it would cost to buy, and they will be collected and replanted afterwards. Genius!

Gift sustainably

It's easy to get carried away when shopping for Christmas gifts, but take a moment to think if the present is really necessary – or even wanted – by the intended recipient. Approximately £42million of unwanted Christmas presents are thrown out in landfill each year, along with what equates to 108 million rolls of wrapping paper, according to GWP Group, so take the time to actually think about what the recipient would really like to open on Christmas morning to avoid any unnecessary waste – and save your cash, too.

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Chillys Rose Gold bottle, £25, John Lewis

BUY NOW

Alternatively, set a good example by giving sustainable, eco-friendly gifts. A Chilly's rose gold bottle is not just sustainable but stylish too, while a non-toxic Neom Organics candle is a luxurious Christmas gift that they can enjoy long after the festive season is over.

MORE: 9 things you can do every day to help the environment and save money

Get creative with your gift wrapping

Many of us wouldn't dare to hand over an unwrapped gift, but it's time to rethink your wrapping paper if you want to have a more eco-friendly Christmas. If wrapping paper contains glitter, dye, plastic or foil – like so many festive designs do – it can't be recycled, so be sure to check the paper you are using is fully recyclable or made from recycled content itself.

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If you've got the time, you could get creative with some recycled brown paper. You can pick up 20m of heavy-duty Kraft wrapping paper for £6.50 at Amazon, which you could customise with red and green twine or Christmas stamps to make it your own.

Don't forget about sticky tape either. An estimated 40 million rolls are used at Christmas – the equivalent of one-and-a-half rolls per household in the UK – most of which will also end up in landfill. Swap yours for colourful washi tape, which will not only brighten up your wrapping paper, but is biodegradable too. We love the range at Paperchase, which costs £3 a roll or £8 for a pack of eight celebration washi tapes.

Minimise food waste

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According to the Soil Association, food is "the single most important, everyday way for people to reduce their own environmental impact", and never more so than at Christmas. We're encouraged to eat, drink and be merry over the festive period, but all of that indulgence results in a lot of waste, with UK residents wasting an estimated 54 million platefuls of food over the holidays, and seven in ten people admit to buying more food than they need.

MORE: Try this recipe for vegan crispy and fluffy roast potatoes from Bosh!

Make your Christmas dinner more sustainable by planning in advance and try to avoid being tempted by multi-buy offers and discounts that may make you over shop. Needless to say, a more organised approach can save you cash too. Shopping at local suppliers instead of major supermarkets is another way to help reduce food miles and support independent businesses. Win-win. Go for organic and free range meat where possible, and be sure to utilise any leftovers rather than throwing them away.

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