How to Have a Sustainable Christmas 

Less is more this festive season, as many consumers are putting the environment before price. Following this year's COP26, we are all aware of just how important it is to make every effort we can to be more sustainable – and for many of us that starts at home. Small changes can make all the difference in reducing our environmental footprint, especially over Christmas - It's easier than you think without cutting back on the festive magic. 

From the tree you buy to the food you eat, everything – no matter how big or small – can make a huge difference. In fact, in just over three days of festivities, the average UK household produces an extra 30% of rubbish - that's around 3 million tonnes consumed and discarded.

Here are our 9 top tips on how to have a sustainable Christmas.

1. Christmas Trees - Real or Plastic

There are so many different varieties to choose from and many Christmas trees are the centrepiece of the festive build up. 

If you’re in the market for a real tree, check out recommendations from the Forestry Commission – trees are sourced from sustainable forests and have lower carbon footprint. Already own a plastic tree? Not a problem at all. According to the Carbon Trust, plastic trees need a minimum of 10 Christmases to be less environmentally harmful than real ones, so if you already have one, aim to take seriously good care of it.

You can rent a tree, too – it’s better for the environment and around 30 per cent cheaper than purchasing. Sites like Rental Claus or Love A Christmas Tree have options to borrow over the festive period.

2. Wrapping paper

On average, households within the UK use around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper - which is estimated that enough wrapping paper is used each year to gift wrap the island of Guernsey.

Sticky tape, ribbons and paper covered in glitter can't be recycled, so look for sustainable alternatives if you can.

Switching to brown eco-friendly paper instead will help to minimise the high levels of waste produced at this time of year. Choose recyclable wrapping paper and use last year’s Christmas cards as tags. Plus with the brown eco-friendly paper you can always add your own prints or twine across it to jazz it up.

If you want to know if your wrapping paper can be recycled or not, use the scrunch test. Scrunch up the paper in your hands and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up then it can be recycled but, if it unfolds by its own accord, then it likely contains non-recyclable elements.

Opt instead for recycled wrapping paper – here's some designs you can order online.


3. Think about your outfit

Resist the temptation to splash out on sequins (they’re made from PVC and there are no biodegradable substitutes) and opt for sustainable materials instead. For statement, eco-friendly designs, try We Are Thought, The Reformation or Maya Miko. You will probably want to wear them after Christmas, too!

Or try one of these renting an outfit on sites like HURR, Onloan or Rotaro.


4. Shop locally and Independent 

Give your local shops and markets some love this Christmas. As well as supporting independent businesses, you're likely to find special items you won't get anywhere else.

Supporting small businesses helps boost a strong, sustainable local economy. They have often put more care and love into their products, too. Plus you're guaranteed to find a gift someone doesn't already own!


5. Switch to eco-friendly crackers 

The ever-popular Christmas cracker can also be a huge contributor to waste in the UK. Most cannot be recycled and the plastic toys normally end up in the bin before the meal is even over. Keep an eye out for recyclable and plastic free crackers.  2 Green Monkeys have lovely reusable crackers that double up as napkins, find them here.  


6. Send Christmas e-cards

A staggering 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK households each year, according to Imperial College researchers.

You can cut your resource use when it comes to Christmas cards – you can send e-cards instead. Try using a free design app like Canva if you want to get creative. You're bound to know some people who won’t be able to receive an e-card so if a card is needed, try to find ones made from recycled materials and not containing plastics such as glitter. A zero waste alternative is plantable Christmas cards. When the biodegradable paper is planted in a pot of soil, the seeds will grow and eventually the paper will decompose. The Sustainability Store has some wonderful Cards. 

7. Cut food waste

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for – but how many of us buy way too much food at Christmas? Food waste is serious business: we throw away the equivalent of two million turkeys and 74 million mince pies each year. When you're food shopping, try and choose things that are light on packaging, or buy loose items. And if you end up over-catering, don't just bin what's left. Transforming leftovers can be a great way to create new meals, save money and cut waste.

Freeze leftovers and give away what you don’t need using food-sharing app Olio – it allows locals in your area to use up what you won’t. 

8. Re-wear your Christmas jumper

Environmental charity Hubbub warns against buying new Christmas jumpers after finding that up to 95% of them are made using plastic. The most common plastic fibre used is acrylic, which was found in three quarters of the jumpers tested (research was conducted into 108 jumpers from 11 different high street and online retailers this year)

9. Gift Memories not Things 

The most sustainable way to approach Christmas is to simply buy less stuff, if anything at all. One way to do this is through “experiences”, be it tickets for events, days out or classes. You can find great things to do on Virgin Experience days from indoor skydiving to afternoon tea. 

At the end of the day we don’t want to take anything away from the celebrations - so be merry and from everyone here at The Sustainable Marketplace we wish you a wonderful and happy Christmas!