The festive season is known as being a period of indulgence and excess, and let’s be honest, who can resist that extra chocolate in the work kitchen, or a cheeky mince pie with your afternoon cuppa. At the same time though, we’re all becoming more and more aware of the impact of our actions on the environment. Climate change and things like plastic pollution are headline news, particularly with naturalist legends like David Attenborough young campaigner Greta Thunberg beating the drum for change.
All this means that we want to know how we can get started with eco friendly living and reducing our environmental footprint this Christmas. How can we actually do things differently? Well, we’ve put together a few ideas to get started. Let us know if you have any more ideas to add and how you get on.
Eco Friendly Christmas Gifts
Choosing gifts which are plastic free is a good place to start, as well as avoiding items which come wrapped in single use plastic packaging. Similarly, look out for accreditations like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), to ensure that materials have been sustainably sourced.
Aside from considering materials, just think about gifting things that people actually want. It might sound like stating the obvious, but how many gifts have you received that end up being secretly re-gifted or snuck away to the charity shop. Those novelty plastic toys, the silly santa game... You know the ones, they’re in the bin by new year, or gathering dust in a box at the back of the wardrobe. Go for things that will last and which will bring joy for months and years, rather than hours and days.
Opting for useful and practical gifts is one way to avoid waste, as you know they’ll get used. This doesn’t need to mean boring though! Take a look at our zero waste gift guide for some ideas, or have a browse through our Gifts section for inspiration.
Recyclable & Reusable Gift Wrapping
Reusable gift wrap options include things like cloth bags and cardboard boxes, which can be used for storage all year or regifted again - you might even receive them back again next year! Furoshiki is the Japanese practice of folding cloth into wraps and bags which make an unusual way to present your gifts. Furoshiki cloths are beautiful and can be reused in umpteen different ways. You can also try this with scarves and tea towels too, making them part of the gift themselves.
Surprisingly, most standard wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, due to finishes and the addition of foils and glitter. More of the high street stores are switching to recyclable alternatives though, and we’ve got a great selection over in our Christmas collection. Remember to use up the paper from last year before buying new though!
Ok, so you’ve wrapped everything in recyclable gift wrap, but somehow still always end up with odds and scraps of paper at the end. They don’t need to go straight into the recycling bin though, it’s time to get crafty! How about trying out some origami Christmas decorations, or turning them into gift tags? Or even go all out with decoupage or paper mache baubles.
Lastly, don’t forget about tape! Swap out the plastic sticky tape for biodegradable paper tape, which can be recycled along with the rest of your wrapping paper. Or why not decorate your parcels with colourful twine in natural jute or cotton. We’ve also got a small range of ribbons which are on their second useful life, having been recycled from plastic bottles.
Sustainable Christmas Decorations
Natural materials like wood, holly and pine cones are great for making Christmas decorations. They’re zero waste by definition and bring the seasonal scents and feeling of outdoors into your home. Check out our Pinterest board for some inspiration. Aside from natural decorations, look out for recycled decorations, like our Christmas decorations made from paper offcuts or recycled plastic bottles.
Make the most of the long winter nights by creating a snug and cosy atmosphere at home with a scented candle or tea lights. This year we won’t be out and about as much as usual, so choose a seasonal scent that’s evocative of Christmas. Go for something like gingerbread or pumpkin spice and you’ll be transported to the Christmas markets, but warm and comfy in your pyjamas at home! Again, opt for natural soy wax and essential oils, over oil-based paraffin wax.
Christmas lights are a must, but invest in a timer to make sure they’re not left on any longer than they need be. Did you know that LED lights use around 80% less energy than standard bulbs? If you’re looking to get new lights this year, then getting LED ones is a no-brainer.
Christmas trees are of course an essential part of the seasonal celebrations. If you have an outside space, a tree in a pot that can be kept year-round and brought indoors for the Christmas period is a great idea. If that’s not an option but you’ll still be getting a real tree, make sure that it’s recycled in January. Lots of charities and community groups will collect your tree and recycle it into mulch or chippings for a small donation. If a real tree isn’t practical for you, then artificial trees aren’t necessarily the enemy, just avoid buying one new! Take a look on the various marketplace sites online and choose second hand if you can.
If you can, shop local and check out your local greengrocers, zero waste stores and market stalls. That’s not necessarily possible or practical for everyone though, so simple things like opting for unwrapped fruit and veg in the supermarket is a good step forwards (reusable produce bags come in handy here).
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without lots of leftovers and those mid-afternoon fridge raids for a cold roast potato or two (or is that just me?!). Help reduce food waste by prepping meals ahead and not just for Christmas day itself. Look up some recipes in advance and you’ll be able to create tasty leftovers that everyone loves, and not just some soggy bubble and squeak!
If you’re not vegetarian or vegan, have a think about swapping one or two meat based meals and snacks for a few plant based alternatives. We’ve found some great vegan recipes for Christmas food over the Vegan Heaven blog.
Vegetable scraps can be composted, but there are lots of other uses for them too. How about vegetable peel crisps (tastier than they sound!), making stock for soups, or blending scraps with water and using them as plant food.
Everyone loves receiving thoughtful, handmade gifts and food and drink are always a winner. Store cupboard staples like jams and chutneys can be made weeks in advance, so no last-minute dashes to the shops required. If you’ve got friends or family who love a tipple, then why not have a go at making your own flavoured gin as a Christmas gift.
Overall, what it all boils down to is the mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Keep this in mind when you’re preparing you Christmas meals, buying your Christmas gifts and generally enjoying the festive season. There are lots of ideas here, but don’t feel guilty for not doing everything, just do your best to do something and you’ll be making a positive contribution to change. Have a wonderful Christmas everyone!