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8 ways to have a sustainable Christmas: eco trees, décor, gifts & food

Have yourself an eco-friendly Christmas…

sustainable christmas
Chloe Best
Chloe BestLifestyle Features Editor
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It's the most wonderful time of the year, but Christmas is also one of the most wasteful – as there is 30 per cent rise in rubbish during the season with an extra three million tonnes of waste produced throughout the festive period!

SEE: 18 beautiful, sustainable and eco-friendly presents you'll actually want to gift this Christmas

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 sustainable Christmas. Here are eight easy ways to get started…

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.

decorated christmas tree© Photo: iStock

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.

MORE: 7 essential tips to keep your Christmas tree alive for longer

Keep the 12 days of Christmas in mind as to 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 their size and your central heating settings.

Decorate with sustainable Christmas decorations

There's plenty of sustainably made Christmas decorations to buy - and we're not just talking baubles, which are great to keep year upon year, but wreaths and other Christmas house decor too.

If you're feeling super creative, you can make your own wreath from tree clippings from your garden and create your own Christmas decorations from old Christmas cards and gift wrap. When it comes to hanging your creations, keep that sustainable too - we swear by Sugru by tesa, the world’s first multi-purpose mouldable glue.

It will literally stick to anything indoors or out, so perfect for wreath hanging on your door, pom pom displaying from your ceiling or fixing garlands to your staircase. It's also handy to have around over the Christmas period for any unforeseen disasters, like broken pottery or phone chargers!


Sugru 8-pack multicoloured mouldable glue by tesa, £14.49, Sugru


MORE: Royal Christmas trees: How the royals get ready for the festive season

Crack down on single-use crackers

With novelty plastic toys, excess packaging and glitter all over, many of the crackers we see on our Christmas tables are very harmful to the environment - and how many of us actually use the gifts that come inside?

christmas velvet crackers

Reusable velvet personalised Christmas cracker, £12, Not on the High Street


Consider switching to reusable crackers made from fabric, which will not only look beautiful but will last year after year - plus you can personalise them with your own gifts inside, such as mini liquor bottles or chocolate treats. We love the luxurious Forever Crackers, which come in a range of colourful designs. Another option is to make your own crackers from recycled paper - there are plenty of kits to shop on Etsy.

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.

READ: 8 ways to slash your energy bills this Christmas

beauty kitchen

Beauty Kitchen Plastic-Free Toiletries, £34.99, Ecovibe


Alternatively, set a good example by giving sustainable, eco-friendly gifts. A resuable water bottle is not just sustainable but stylish too, while a vintage piece of jewellery would make a very memorable present for someone special.

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.

christmas gift wrapping© Photo: iStock

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.

Re-use your shopping bags as gift paper

The likes of FatFace and Primark both launched sustainable gift wrap shopping bags for Christmas 2020. FatFace fully embraced mindful wrapping back in 2019, when the brand highlighted that its brown craft paper bags make the perfect wrapping paper for Christmas gifting. This year, the bags are bigger and better. Available in three sizes, the large bag can be cut along the sides to make a large sheet of wrapping paper. The medium bag features two cut-out paper crackers and with a few snips and some glue or paper clips, the small bag can be made into an eco-paper chain. 

fatface xmas bag

The Primark carrier bags are instantly recognisable, but this year the bags have been given a festive makeover with a red stripy design, perfect for gift wrapping.

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How to re-use the Primark carrier bag

Minimise food waste

Christmas dinner turkey© Photo: iStock

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.

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.

cut christmas trees© Photo: iStock

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