How to be eco-friendly at Christmas

How to be eco-friendly at Christmas

Have a greener Christmas this year by taking a more environmentally friendly approach to some of our festive traditions.

Eco-friendly Christmas tree

Whether it’s buying less, cutting down on plastic or reducing food waste – there are plenty of simple ways to lessen your impact on the environment this Christmas. Here are just a few of them:

1. Choose your Christmas tree wisely

Wondering whether it’s best to go plastic or real? Even though it might seem obvious to choose a fake tree, it turns out it’s not that straight-forward. In fact, a 6.5-foot plastic tree has a carbon footprint of about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions, more than twice that of a real tree that ends up in a landfill and more than 10 times that of a tree which is burnt. Best option all around is to get a potted tree and after the last homemade decoration (more about this later) has been taken off, keep looking after it in your garden for years to come. However, if you’re quite happy to dust off your trusty, artificial tree and fit the colour-coded branches painstakingly into place there’s no need to buy new – keep using it for as long as possible as fake trees are made with a plastic that’s extremely difficult to recycle.

2. Eat less turkey

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you’ll already be aware of the lovely meat-free festive food out there. However, if you’re sitting on the fence, not ready to fully commit to a plant-based diet but want to dip your toe in the water, the Christmas period can be a great time to explore the huge range of veggie-friendly foods available. Reducing your intake of meat and poultry is not only an ethical choice, in terms of doing your part for the environment and the welfare of animals, but evidence suggests that as long as you’re getting all the nutrients you need, you’ll improve your health and wellbeing as well. Try some of these Christmas recipes from the Vegetarian Society.

"Food is the single most important, everyday way for people to reduce their own environmental impact." – Soil Association

3. Opt out of Secret Santa

Controversial! So it may sound super Scrooge, but you might want to reconsider taking part in Secret Santa. The rampant consumerism at this time of year is detrimental to the planet. A tenth of unwanted gifts end up in landfills every year. Secret Santa not only contributes to this waste but the whole notion of finding a gift for someone you don’t know can be pretty stressful and the actual giving of the gifts is often awkward – do we really need it? Wouldn’t it be better to carry out an act of kindness towards your housemates or colleagues instead? There is an alternative. Take a look at Ungifted, a free-to-use platform that allows people to do things with or for other people at Christmas. If you explain your reasons behind opting out of this festive tradition, people will appreciate your point of view and not just think you’re cheap! 

Eco-friendly Christmas decorations

4. Cut down on food waste

With so many Christmas-themed foods, it’s easy to buy into the hype. Don’t get distracted by the ‘fun’ Santa packaging and festive renaming of everyday products. Write a list before you go food shopping so you know exactly what you need. And don’t overbuy just because the shops are closed for a couple of days, stick to the game plan – there’s no reason to panic buy or overindulge to the extreme.

Green tip: if you have leftovers, check out the BBC Good Food leftover recipes or the Love Food Hate Waste website to avoid throwing out last night’s dinner.

5. Make your own decorations

Not only will you feel better about doing your part for the environment, you’ll also have a great excuse to get outdoors and get creative. Search your local woods for pine cones, holly or fir tree branches. Close to the beach? Pick up some seashells or driftwood. Take only what you need, of course. If you’re lacking inspiration – not sure what to do with your collected items, there are plenty of videos and how-to guides online to show you how to create eco-friendly decorations. 

Green tip: avoid buying a disposable, plastic advent calendar with awful tasting chocolate and instead give to those in need by setting up a reverse advent calendar.

Eco-friendly Christmas presents
6. Make your own gifts

Why stop at the decorations? Try making your own earth-friendly presents too. If you’ve got a talent for arts and crafts, give your friends and family artwork you’ve created, scarves you’ve knitted or fudge you’ve made. The unique and personal homemade gifts you give will be treasured for years to come (the fudge, however, will be gone in seconds). Don’t forget to give some thought to how you wrap your homemade presents. Most wrapping paper contains plastic, so instead of buying glitzy foil try the understated look of brown parcel paper tied with string. You can enhance it with your own designs, stencils or natural decorations.

7. Reconsider sending that Christmas card

Did you know 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK households each year according to researchers at Imperial College? Don’t feel pressured to send a card just because you receive one, but if you must reciprocate the festive cheer then look into sending plantable cards or an ecard instead.

Being eco-friendly is not just for Christmas. Find out some of the ways you can help save the environment all year long.


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