Sustainable Christmas ideas: 7 ways to make this yuletide greener

OK elves,” hollers Santa, pushing his glasses down upon his nose, “let’s see who’s been good this year.” A cheer goes up around him as he runs his finger down a list, heartily ho-ho-hoing as he passes the names of the well behaved.

Suddenly he stops. The workshop falls silent. “Each year the UK throws away enough wrapping paper to go around the equator nine times?” Santa asks, furrowing his brow, “and they bin 74m mince pies?”

“I’m afraid so, sir,” says the elf to his right. “They’re on the naughty list.”

However it’s carved, Christmas’s impact on the environment is as much a nightmare as anything Ebenezer Scrooge experienced.

Here are 7 sustainable Christmas ideas to ensure your festivities are cleaner than a cracker joke:

1. Rent, recycle or reuse your tree

The most environmentally friendly way to have a tree is to rent one. “Customers love the idea of being able to contribute in some small way towards sustainability and a healthy planet,” says Craig Tennock from Cotswold Fir Forestry, which hires out trees in Gloucestershire. “Then there’s the aspect of being able to have your very own personal tree year after year. “If you can’t rent, buy a potted spruce and grow it in your garden for reuse each year. Or buy an FSC-certified tree to ensure it’s from a well-managed forest and recycle it properly – most councils recycle trees by turning them into chippings, reducing their carbon footprint by up to 80 per cent compared with sending them to landfill.
Plastic trees, which can only go to landfill, have double the carbon footprint of a real tree. If you already have one, keep using it though.

2. Make your own sustainable Christmas decorations

It takes the shine off the decorations when you discover that neither tinsel nor baubles are recyclable. Make your own instead with salt-dough hanging decorations, dried orange slice ornaments and sticks of cinnamon for the tree. Each is fully compostable, while wreaths made using foraged materials like pine cones, ivy and holly can be recycled at the kerbside.

3. Ditch the outside Christmas lights, go solar inside

Outdoor Christmas lights create so much light pollution that Nasa can see them from space so it can be beneficial keeping festive illuminations inside. Decorative lights cost the UK £3.75m a day to run over the festive period, so opt for solar-powered LED tree lights. Turn them off at night.

4. Use an ethical search engine to look for gifts

If researching gifts online, use non-for-profit Ecosia. 80 per cent of their advertising revenue funds reforestation efforts in countries like Brazil and Indonesia. Plus, they don’t save your searches, track the websites you visit, or sell your data.

5. Choose cards wisely – and recycle any you receive

The UK sends an estimated 1.05bn Christmas cards each year, but 1bn of them don’t get recycled – the equivalent of cutting down nearly 350,000 trees. 1 Tree Cards sell 100 per cent recycled cards, printed with vegan inks and using renewable energy. Plus, for every card they send, they plant a tree through Eden Reforestation Projects. Alternatively, buy recycled or FSC-certified cards and avoid those with glitter or plastic.

6. Buy less and buy ethically

A YouGov survey found that 57 per cent of people in the UK receive at least one unwanted gift, so ask people what they want for Christmas – or give them a few options to choose from. Our own ethical gift guide has lots of great ideas but focus on buying less and buying better.

7. Regifting and second-hand gifts

According to a study, the amount of manmade material created each week weighs the same as Earth’s total population. Don’t add to it: regift unwanted presents, search for second-hand gems in charity shops, hand make your own sustainable safekeeps and avoid anything that requires batteries.

Loved Before is one of a number of organisations that find new homes for preloved playthings. They have saved many a cuddly toy from an inglorious trip to landfill.

“I see it as changing the world one soft toy at a time,” says founder Charlotte Liebling. “I’m not going to ‘fix’ climate change by reselling bears, but what I can do is show younger generations what second-hand and sustainability looks like.”

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