Our ultimate guide packed full of top tips & ideas for how to celebrate the season of good will in a more eco-friendly way.
In this guide, we’re going to uncover some of the many ways you can enjoy the holidays more sustainably and affordably! To help you get started, we’ve put these in to seven simple categories.
- Greetings Cards
- Gift Wrapping
- Christmas Tree
- Gift Guides
- Food & Drink
- Fun & Games
Even in 2021, I am still a huge believer in giving Christmas cards. I’m not a “To You, From Me” kind of card-writer. I am the one who takes time to write a personalised message to each recipient, sometimes including a little poem or anecdote about years gone by. Done thoughtfully, giving greetings cards can be done greener and cleaner, and if you put your mind to it, your words can truly make someone’s day. Receiving a “Merry Christmas” post on Facebook isn’t quite the same as a hand written note.
For maximum personalisation and Brownie points, I recommend you make your own cards. I have zero skills when it comes to art, but I can visit my local shops and look for blank cards and ready-to-stick embellishments. Of course, if you are an artiste, this will be something you can definitely do without too much expense. Remember to keep it simple and make it personal, otherwise you may as well just send them that email!
If making your own cards really isn’t an option, the best thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to shop local and buy handmade cards. Most independent shops will sell something by a local artist or made to support a charity close to home.
Your final option is to buy cards in larger high street or online retailers, but looking for cards made of sustainable materials. Avoid anything covered in glitter, and if it’s shiny, it’s probably plastic coated and not recyclable. Consider buying from a smaller online business, such as from a seller on Etsy. We love these ones from ‘The Cardology Co’, as they are made from recycled paper and embedded with flower seeds, which means in the new year they can be planted and will grow in to bee-friendly flowers. The best part? They can be personalised too! They really are the gift that keeps on giving!
Sellotape have joined the green revolution and have created a ‘Zero Plastic Plant-Based Tape‘ new for 2021! To quote, “this tape is 100% plant-based and can be fully composted. It’s made with cellulose film and naturally-based glue, both of which are derived from plant-based renewable resources”. Great move Sellotape! It’s comparatively more expensive than the normal one, at around £1.99 per roll, but I don’t doubt it is much more expensive to manufacture.
Of course, if you want to ditch the clear sticky tape altogether, you could opt for a paper-based alternative known as Washi Tape. These come in many different pretty designs and are traditionally made from sustainable Japanese shrubs. You can pick it up in most good stationers – even IKEA sells it! If you’re ordering online, we recommend these festive ones from ‘&Keep’.
If you fancy ditching tape completely, you could always wrap your presents in fabric or scarves and simply tie with a knot or some ribbon. This can be the more expensive route unless you happen to have a lot of waste fabric lying around, and it’s only sustainable if the material is reused by the recipient.
If, like me, you intend to still buy paper gift wrap, make sure you look for green credentials. Whether it’s made from recycled materials, fully recyclable, FSC Certified… all of these things are important considerations when buying your wrapping paper. Watch out for anything shiny or glittery as often these are not recyclable or compostable and will end up in landfill.
When gifting to friends and family, it is often the case that we put a number of gifts together in gift bags or boxes for easy transport. It’s a really good idea to re-use these year after year as, once again, they are often lined with a plastic coating or other non-recyclable materials. You can always attach new labels to old gift bags to make them good as new again! If you’re really lucky, you could get the same bag back to use again next year!
Ever heard of the saying “reduce, reuse, recycle”? If you haven’t, you’re about to! The best way to decorate your home for the festive period is to use what you already have. Most of us will have a box or two of decorations that we’ve collected over the years, maybe adding a few new pieces each year. As well as packing your home with memories that give you the warm and fuzzies, by doing this, you are helping keep Christmas sustainable.
Once you’ve reused what you already have and recycled what is no longer any good, you may think you could do with some new decs for your halls. So how can you do this in an Earth-conscious way? If you’re a crafter, or even if you’re not, you could try something homemade. Whether it’s a simple paper-chain or up-cycled wreath, you can find buckets of inspiration on websites like Pinterest. Try to use materials you already have in your home for the maximum eco-factor.
Not gifted in the art department? Me neither, and there is no shame in that! When you do feel the urge to buy decorations, try to shop local, and make sure you are buying items made from sustainably sourced, recyclable or biodegradable materials. Avoid anything glittery or shiny as it’s likely to be plastic and destined for landfill.
Another way to decorate your home, inside or out, is to use natural materials. Mistletoe, holly, pine, poinsettia… there are many types of festive foliage, and used in the right way, can add life to your holiday decor. Be careful if you have children and animals in the home however, as some of our festive favourites are poisonous when consumed.
Artificial or actual? Real or fake? What is the sustainable option? It could be either!
If you already have an artificial tree, continue to use it for as long as possible. It’s final destination can only be landfill, so carry on using it and save a real tree from being cut down this year. However, if you don’t already have one, do not buy an artificial tree! Natural is best, but it comes with a caveat – real trees have a lower carbon footprint than artificial ones, but only if they are grown and bought locally, and disposed of in the right way.
According to the Woodland Trust, up to 10 trees are planted for every one tree cut down. Great news for reforestation! Real trees also absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, helping to purify the air in your home. Having living plants in your home has also proven to be good for your mental health, and can make your house smell wonderful. But if your tree has had to travel from abroad, this will counteract your ecological efforts. In addition, if your tree isn’t disposed of correctly and ends up in landfill, they can produce methane and carbon dioxide as they decompose, once again adding to greenhouse gas emissions. You can usually find out how to dispose of your tree responsibly on your local council’s website. Do check online however, as some charities also organise responsible tree collection and disposal in exchange for a donation, so everyone benefits.
The bottom line is, if you have an artificial tree, keep using it. If you don’t, buy a locally-sourced real tree and dispose of it responsibly.
Sustainability doesn’t just mean buying products that are made sustainably, but also only buying what will be used. When buying gifts, I take Martin Lewis’ Money Mantra as inspiration, as he says “Will they use it? It is worth it?“. If you answer ‘no’ to either of those questions, don’t buy it! It might be fully compostable, but if it’s going straight on the heap without use, it was still a waste of energy!
For more inspiration on sustainable gift ideas, we have a ‘Green Gift Guide’ coming soon! Subscribe to the blog to get notified by email when they go live!
Food & Drink
Ever heard of the phrase “it’s the thought that counts”? Christmas gifting is the epitome of that – thoughtful, a gesture of well-wishes and expressing thanks. What better way to say “Merry Christmas” than with an edible gift that was made with love. Whether it’s a simple 3-ingredient shortbread biscuit made by the kids (recipe here), or an extravagant croquembouche tower encaged in spun sugar, if you put your heart in to it, your recipient will love it. The best thing about it? It’s totally personalised – a one-off, made especially for them and 100% original.
Consider going meat-free! OK, so maybe you don’t want to go completely cold turkey on your Norfolk Bronze, but you could reduce your meat consumption over the holidays. Opting for a smaller bird entirely to reduce waste and eeking out the meat to make sandwiches, curry and pies for the rest of the week are both ways to reduce your impact on the planet. Perhaps you could ditch the pork stuffing in favour of sage & onion, or go plant-based for the Boxing Day buffet? If nut roast isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other small changes you can make to reduce your use of animal products.
It kind of goes without saying, but whatever you decide to eat and drink this season, the best thing you can do is to shop local and buy what’s in season. Rekindle your love of a good farm shop, say ‘hi’ to your local butcher and fill your town or village with festive cheer.
Fun & Games
Christmas Crackers are a must at any Great British Christmas dinner table, but how many people find themselves scooping everything in to a bin bag at the end of the meal? For the last 3 or 4 years, I have made it a new tradition to make my own crackers. This way I can ensure they are fully recyclable, reusable or biodegradable, filled with personalised gifts that will actually be of use to each recipient, and contain jokes that are actually funny! I start with a DIY Cracker Kit like this one from ‘&Keep’, then start shopping for my contents. In the past I’ve filled them with socks, reusable face coverings, hand sanitiser… anything small, personalised and useful!
What could be more traditional than a good old game of charades? Free, no equipment necessary and 100% guaranteed to cause fireworks! Perfection!
Not every family is like The Waltons, but if anyone has any musical ability what-so-ever, why not engage in a little singalong? Sister on the spoons, Dad on the didgeridoo… whatever your vibe, just go for it! You never know, you might just unearth a hidden talent and make a whole new album of memories in more ways than one!
Shop our tried-and-tested ‘Festive Best Buys’
Whether you decide to go all-out-green, or just make a few small swaps, every positive change is a step in the right direction to ensure Christmas can continue to be celebrated for generations to come.