5 Ways to have an eco-friendly Christmas

Charlotte Cassedanne 5 December 2021

Christmas is a time of great joy but it can also lead to overconsumption. Here's how to cut back on  unnecessary purchases and help save the planet in the process

Twinkling lights on dark evenings, the whiff of mulled wine in the air and festive tunes in every shop—Christmas is here! And with it comes the pressure to overspend on decorations and gifts, and overindulge in food.

Not only is it bad for our bank balance and our waistlines, it’s also bad for the planet. So this year, instead of panic buying, slow down and try these five ways to have an eco-friendly Christmas.

Get an eco-friendly tree

Having a Christmas tree at home has been a British tradition since the 1700s and we fill our homes with around 8 million a year. But we know plastic trees pollute the planet and cutting down a two-metre fir can emit up to 16kg of CO2 when it rots in landfill according to the Carbon Trust. But there is an alternative.

You can rent a tree from Eco-Elf who deliver it to your door, and then collects it after Christmas to replant it in their UK forests. Or Green Elf Trees plant two trees for every one they cut, and they employ out-of-work artists and donate part of their profit to UK charities. Use offcuts from your Christmas tree to make a Christmas wreath for your front door. And put extra branches on top of cupboards and attach them to banisters to make the whole house smell like a forest.

Make homemade decorations

Spending time making decorations with friends and kids is a great activity for cold winter days and much more eco-friendly than buying plastic baubles or tinsel. Deck your home with beautiful homemade paper stars made out of old newspapers, and stick paper snowflakes to windows.

To decorate your Christmas tree, oven-dried citrus slices look great and smell delicious. You can also make decorations out of salt dough. Use a cookie cutter to cut out stars, gingerbread people or even a moose! Let your imagination run wild.

You can make your own Christmas crackers and fill them with things your family actually likes. Lottery tickets, miniature spirit bottles, small pencils and rubbers, a little pack of seeds, a bamboo toothbrush...the eco-friendly possibilities are endless! And don’t forget to include a joke.

Give gifts that make new memories

There’s so much pressure to buy friends, family, colleagues, neighbours and even the bin men a gift at this time of year. But in fact around £42 million worth of Christmas presents aren’t wanted and end up in landfill each year.

Chances are your loved ones would rather spend more time with you than have more stuff. You could either book an experience together like a cooking class or a boat trip; organise a nature treasure hunt or go birdwatching; or share a skill you have with them like fixing their bike. Edible Christmas gifts are also fun to make. Not only will you create new memories and have something to look forward to in the new year, you’ll also avoid giving them stuff they don’t want.

"Chances are your loved ones would rather spend more time with you than have more stuff"

If you really want to give something, think about regifting. Is there something in your home you rarely use that someone else would enjoy? A good-as-new board game, a sealed bottle of spirit, a craft kit you’ve never opened, a painting or ornament you could part with, a flower pot you could clean and plant some seeds or bulbs in. Look around your home for inspiration.

Wrap gifts the eco-friendly way

As tempting as it is to wrap gifts in shiny, glittery wrapping paper, it’s non-recyclable and goes straight to landfill, not to mention the plastic sticky tape. Swap it out for newspaper or brown craft paper with string. You could print a pattern on it with a potato stamp, or attach sprigs of herbs or greenery to it to make it look more festive. Use washi tape to secure them.

Or you could embrace the Japanese art of furoshiki, which involves wrapping gifts in beautiful square cloths or scarves that can be used again and again. Use ribbons to tie them together. Go a step further by making your own gift bags which can be repurposed throughout the years.

Avoid food waste

We love to indulge in festive treats at Christmas, whether that’s a mince pie with the neighbours or the feasting on the big day itself. But Brits throw away around 2 million turkeys, 17 million Brussel sprouts, 74 million mince pies, 5 million Christmas puddings and 2 million kilos of cheese a year. So do think twice about how much food you really need.

Plan meals ahead and think about what you’ll do with leftovers. And if no one likes Christmas cake, why buy it? You can make your own foodie traditions to suit your tastes and make sure no food goes to waste.

Read more: It's a Mann's World: Letters to Santa

Read more: How to make felt Christmas trees

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter