5 Eco Christmas Ideas to Reduce Waste

Christmas red ribbon and lights

The holiday season can be a tricky time for even the most committed ethical consumer. It’s a decadent time - but the holidays aren’t all about consumption. Why feel guilty when you can invest that energy into simple and effective changes to reduce your carbon footprint?

The festive season makes up 5.5% of the average individual’s carbon emissions in the UK (Source: SEI), but it’s important to put it in perspective. Don’t feel you have to refuse fun because of the carbon impact. There's no need to feel like a Scrooge with these festivities! Just a few simple swaps and you're well on your way. For instance, you don’t need to refuse to sample the treats just because they’re not organic or forego a tree and gifts (we have suggestions for making these more eco-friendly too).

That said, going vegan can save nearly 143 kgs of CO2 per year. Get everyone on board by sharing delicious vegan treats such as mince pies. Did you know that vegan versions of Christmas classics are now available at some of the major supermarkets? If you prefer to skip the Tesco’s, you can make them at home with this vegan and organic mince pie filling.

We are huge believers that there is always a sustainable option so we’ve pulled together some of our favourite hacks you can deploy to reduce your carbon footprint this festive season. You’ll get ideas to change the way we think about gifting, work out what to do with leftovers, and ways to find the lowest impact Christmas tree.

How are you making your Christmas more sustainable this year? Let us know what eco Christmas tips we’ve missed!

1. Chicken instead of turkey for an eco Christmas dinner

Maybe Gran and Grandad aren’t ready to trade the turkey for a mushroom & sweet potato wellington just yet, but don’t despair. You could cut the cost and carbon of your holiday meal, by planning the serving sizes out and only cooking what's needed. If you are one for a holiday turkey, consider trying chicken instead. A chicken is only about 1/3 of the carbon cost of a turkey, between growing, feeding and importing. Plus, chicken is much easier to cook deliciously, and takes far less time and energy in a conventional oven.

2. Swap to an eco Christmas tree, and make sure it's recycled

Family chooses an eco sustainable christmas tree from a tree farm

According to the Soil Association, an artificial tree is 40kg of carbon use, while a real Christmas tree can have 0 carbon impact!

Whenever possible choose to buy a real tree, as it's more sustainable than artificial trees. Artificial trees can take up to 4000 tonnes of plastic to produce 1 million trees.

When choosing your real tree, look for Grown in Britain certifications and for pesticide-free locally grown trees.

When you buy a real tree look for one that's been grown in the UK, as this will avoid the additional transport costs and carbon emissions associated with importing a tree from elsewhere.

  • Buy locally grown
  • Recycle your Christmas Tree
  • Consider a Christmas tree rental

Think about the whole lifecycle of your Christmas tree: what can you do to make your Christmas tree have the least amount of CO2 waste possible? Recycling it into wood chips is the most eco-friendly, and there are many regional services which will collect your Christmas tree for you. Remember to book your Christmas tree collection in advance!

3. Give experiences instead of things

81 million unwanted gifts are received in the UK each year, which is an average of 3 per household. 1 in 10 unwanted presents ends up in a landfill.

It's not always easy to know which items someone will use, but an experience is something they'll always remember! Alternatively, donate to a cause dear to someone's heart in their name, a thoughtful gift that can be deeply meaningful. For instance, you can 'adopt' an animal they love through a charitable programme, or plant trees on their behalf. If you choose to give them a course or experience, look to give them a course that they already enjoy - for instance, if they love a local pottery studio, gift them tickets to relieve the expense of their classes.

4. Use alternatives to wrapping paper

Every year, the UK goes through enough wrapping paper to wrap around the earth eight times.

You can use gift bags instead of wrapping paper wherever possible, as these can be reused for the following years. With some care, gift bags can be folded and stored for future use. If this isn't an option, check that your wrapping paper is recyclable and can be recycled in your area (not all regions have the facilities to recycle all wrapping paper labelled recyclable).

Top tip from our team: you don't even need wrapping paper. Save on cost and waste by using old newspapers, get creative and jazz it up by matching the stories to your gift recipients. Have some fun with it and don’t be afraid to get a bit weird!

There’s also something lovely about brown paper packages tied up with string. Some online orders come with heaps of this for free, used as a bubblewrap alternative. Reuse it, keep throughout the year and use when needed.

Eco christmas sustainable gift wrapping

3. Reduce food waste

Did you know that approximately 66% of people admit to buying too much Christmas food that ends up in the bin? And that this binned food usually amounts to 42 million dishes of Christmas food?

Try using Olio, Too Good To Go and neighbourhood sharing platforms to check for food that's just a bit wonky, to make the most of your Christmas dinner and avoid waste.

This Christmas, help reduce food waste by only buying what you need. Make sure you map out your meals in advance and stick to your list. If you have leftovers, it’s important to store them properly and check whether they can be eaten again. Make sure to freeze them for the future or donate them to a local food bank. If it's cold outside, remember that you can store food there if your fridge and freezer fills up. And of course, compost what you can.

Christmas dinner table settings with green and red candles eco setting

These tips and tricks are all ways you can have a more sustainable Christmas, which is a crucial way to round out the year. Don't forget that your eco-friendly living this Christmas can have a positive impact on someone else, so they can get involved and become more sustainable themselves! The most important thing that can come from all of these actions is not just the physical carbon reduction but also the conversations - normalising an eco-conscious Christmas as a way to celebrate the holidays with joy instead of stuff. What are your plans for an eco Christmas this year?