How to Have a Eco-Friendly Christmas

Eco-friendly Christmas tips from the experts, including simple but effective ideas from recyclable wrapping paper to reducing food waste.

How to Have a Eco-Friendly Christmas
© Evgeniia Siiankovskaia / Getty Images

By Rebecca Smithers, Good Housekeeping

Christmas may be the most joyful time of the year, but it’s not always so good for the planet.

Yet with a little forethought and a few changes to the way we shop and celebrate this festive season, we can help reduce the toll on the environment without giving up all the things that make it so special...

Christmas food and sustainability

Choosing and buying more sustainable Christmas food is a good first step to trimming your carbon footprint. Why not ditch the traditional turkey and try cutting down on meat this Christmas – at least for some days of the festive break? According to the Soil Association, "food is the single most important, everyday way for people to reduce their own environmental impact".

Ideally, look to organic foods as these meet a gold standard for sustainability. However, these can be expensive, so budget accordingly and prioritise what is most important to you. Supermarkets will almost always have some of the best environmental choices for meat and dairy.

Christmas gifts and sustainability

It may be the season of giving but with a little advance planning you can make sure your presents are sustainable, eco-friendly and from ethical sources. Shop locally, which means you know where products come from and are giving back to the community. Carefully-chosen second-hand and upcycled gifts can have a unique and luxurious edge. And friends and loved ones will appreciate a meaningful ‘experience’ such as tickets to a play or concert, or a donation to a charity or a cause close to their heart.

Christmas wrapping paper and sustainability

Wrapping paper is still one of the most wasted materials at Christmas, so try to buy recyclable wrapping paper.

Steer clear of anything shiny, plastic-lined or decorated with glitter, which are not recyclable. Try the “scrunch” test – anything that doesn’t hold its shape when scrunched into a ball is not recyclable.

John Lewis’s own-brand wrapping paper is recyclable and has this year removed all single use plastic packaging from its 3m, 4m and 10m wrapping papers saving over 3.36 tonnes of plastic - the equivalent weight of 146 emperor penguins.

Or opt for alternatives - increasingly popular and Instagrammable is wrapping with brightly coloured fabric – based on the idea of 'kimono wrapping.' The Lush chain has introduced ‘knot wraps’ - reusable gift wrap which customers can take back at a later date to get discounted new replacements. Use a little imagination with salvageable materials like newspaper, brown paper, string, raffia (made from bark which regenerates) and vintage ribbon.

Also check the recyclability of tags, Christmas cards and crackers. This year Tesco has replaced more than 6 million plastic gift bag handles with paper weave to make them fully recyclable, while all paper-made Christmas products this year - including cards, gift wrap and bags - are made from paper that supports responsible forestry.

Recycling rules can be complicated - and can differ from area to area - but follow handy Christmas tips from companies like Biffa which can help you reduce the amount of domestic waste going into landfill.

Christmas trees and sustainability

For centuries the Christmas tree has taken centre stage when it comes to festive decor. But, it can be hard to know what's best for the environment and how to choose an eco-friendly Christmas tree.

Fake plastic trees, that can be conveniently stored away, may seem like a sustainable choice, but the production process and end-life of these PVC-based trees release harmful gases into the environment. Fresh trees may not be that much better for the planet, either. Up to six million go into landfill in the UK every year and many are transported hundreds of miles away from as far away as Norway. The most ethical choice is probably a living tree in a pot which you can put out in the garden to enjoy next year, or tree rental from a local plant nursery or garden centre - an increasingly popular if not always the cheapest choice. Another option is an artificial tree made from sustainable materials such as wood.

Melissa Breyer of the Treehugger sustainability website said: “With some careful thought and advance planning we can all have a sustainable and enjoyable Christmas. Small steps can together make a big impact and it is important that we all try and do something to try to reduce our carbon footprint. It’s about progress, not perfection…”

See more at Good Housekeeping


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item United Kingdom: How to Have a Eco-Friendly Christmas
How to Have a Eco-Friendly Christmas
Eco-friendly Christmas tips from the experts, including simple but effective ideas from recyclable wrapping paper to reducing food waste. United Kingdom
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