Christmas is often seen as a time for indulgence but the festive season can also take its toll on the environment. It’s time to start thinking about making some changes to the way we celebrate.

These changes don’t need to be big and they don’t need to be expensive. From cutting down on unnecessary packing on food and toys, to avoiding single-use wrapping paper, the number of people preferring to use eco-conscious materials and craft homemade gifts is on the rise.

If you’re thinking about having the most eco-friendly and sustainable Christmas this year, we’ve picked five ways you can start to reduce your environmental footprint.

Reusable advent calendars

December is just around the corner, so an advent calendar will be on millions of shopping lists in the coming weeks. 

However, if you want to avoid paying over the odds for a few bits of plain chocolate in fancy packaging, this is an easy change to make.

A fabric calendar or a chest of wooden drawers will last a lifetime, and can be made to accommodate enough treats for everyone in the family. You still have to find the sweets or chocolates to fill it, but it’ll come in at a fraction of what you’d expect to pay for a cardboard calendar in the supermarket.

Last year Carlisle-based cookbook author and Instagram influencer, Rebecca Wilson (@whatmummymakes), made her own gingerbread biscuit advent calendar for her daughter. Making and decorating your own sweet treats is a great activity to try with little ones and although there’ll be extra washing up, it’s something you can really put a personal touch on.

Eco Christmas trees

For many years, people have wanted to replicate the look of a real tree with something a little longer lasting. It can feel somewhat wasteful to cut down a tree so that it can stand in your living room for just a few weeks. 

So what are your choices?

Have you considered renting a tree? LoveAChristmasTree.com will deliver your tree and then collect it after the festive period, when they’ll re-plant for next year. It might cost a little more, but you’re not adding to the millions of discarded trees that clutter up dump sites throughout January. 

‘Fake’ trees have their advantages – not least the fact that you don’t spend all day picking needles out of your socks – but most don’t really resemble a tree at all. 

If you want something to keep, that looks festive and contemporary at the same time, wooden Christmas trees are becoming a popular alternative. 

Crafting sites are crammed with instructions on how you can make your own, but keep your eye out for the major homeware stores stocking them this year.

Recycled and reusable gift wrap

All that effort trying to make your presents look… well… presentable, and then it’s torn apart within seconds. If there’s an obvious area of waste that we can cut out at Christmas it’s wrapping paper. 

You may be convinced it’s recyclable, but a lot aren’t – especially if they include glitter or foil. Brown paper or tissue paper are a much more eco-friendly option, but if that sounds a bit plain and boring, companies such as re-wrapped.co.uk offer patterned paper that is 100% recycled materials and look 100% more attractive.

Using fabric gift wrap tied with knots is a slightly more tricky process, but once you know what you’re doing, you can have it back for next year – or let your family and friends pass it on with their gifts and keep the trend going. 

Environmentally-friendly gifts

When you are buying gifts, price is most likely to be your main consideration. But where possible, think about how long it might last, where are the materials sourced from and can it be recycled when it’s no longer wanted?

And if you can buy a gift that actually promotes eco-friendly activity, then even better. How about a reusable coffee cup? Most coffee chains offer a discount to people bringing their own cup, which is a great incentive, while some cups are even made from recycled materials.

Tote bags are one of the best gifts that you can personalise to suit the person you’re buying for, and are a good way to avoid plastic bags at the checkout.

A house plant is arguably the ‘greenest’ gift of all – they can last forever and will have some small health benefits too. 

Organic cotton clothing, biodegradable yoga mats, recycled jewellery, natural shampoos and soaps, bamboo cutlery and zero-waste bathroom kits are all great ideas to consider too.

Homemade decorations

A lot of environmentally-friendly products are long-lasting, but for that reason, they can also be expensive too. 

If your budget is a little tighter this year, or you simply have more time on your hands to get creative, homemade Christmas decorations can feel a lot more personal.

Tinsel needs to be the first to go – all that plastic, but not easily recyclable. Thankfully there are some good alternatives. Paper chains and origami art will be good for one use only, but there are many woollen ‘tinsel’ styles for those who know how to knit. You can also make woollen pom pom garlands that certainly look different, but no less impressive.

Foraged materials such as pine cones and evergreen foliage always look good, whether you have enough to create an impressive wreath, an eye-catching table decoration, or something small to hang on your tree.
Perhaps the best alternative to them all are edible decorations. There are infinite amounts of recipes for sugar charms, biscuit baubles, candy canes, gingerbread houses, and German-style Baiserringe meringue hanging ornaments available online. Take a look at this printable edible Christmas tree decoration from Nigella.

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