Top tips for an eco-friendly and sustainable Christmas
In a year of lockdowns, fire-breaks and social distancing, this Christmas will inevitably be different. But with a little time, effort and good planning, it’s still possible to have a green Christmas and do our bit for the planet. Here are our tips for an eco-friendly Christmas, from cards and gifts to trees and meals.
If you need any extra incentive, sustainable festive choices don’t just benefit the environment – they could also save you money. And in a year when family and friends have been so important, it could make the holiday season more memorable and meaningful too.
We don’t have an ‘official position’ on Christmas trees because we don’t manage our estate for commercial interest, but here are our tips on choosing a tree.
Buying a real tree
Perhaps the most environmentally-friendly option is to buy a tree with roots. This means you can plant it in the garden afterwards and bring it back into the house next year. You may be able to find a local Christmas tree rental scheme so you can return the tree to be cared for until next year.
If you want to buy a felled tree, choose a local grower with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) accreditation so you know it’s been grown sustainably and ethically.
Buying artificial trees
Artificial trees are less environmentally-friendly as most are made from non-recyclable plastic and the carbon emissions generated to make them are very high. If you do opt for a fake tree, try to use it for as long as possible to reduce the environmental impact – some say at least a decade.
Avoiding plastics where possible is rule number one of being environmentally-friendly, so consider the packaging of any card purchases. Did you know that glitter also contains plastic? Christmas and glitter have gone hand in hand for years, but the tiny microplastics are harmful to our environment and wildlife.
To be sure the paper your cards are made from has been sustainably and ethically produced, look for FSC® certification.
Our cards are FSC® approved and fully recyclable with no plastic, foil or glitter. They come in card packaging and are printed in the UK using vegetable inks and a water-based varnish. Browse our Christmas card range.
Like Christmas cards, beware of plastics and glitter when it comes to buying wrapping paper. Responsible choices are FSC® certified with no plastic, like our gift wrap options with exclusive designs.
Or you could get creative with an alternative approach. Use simple brown paper, perhaps embellished with your own artwork or a seasonal sprig of holly, and tie it with reusable ribbon or string.
My wrapping of choice is tissue paper or leftover fabric which can be used again and again with no need for tape – tie it with ribbon or simply lay it at the top of a bag or box (also reused several times) to hide the gifts below. Tissue paper made from recycled materials can eventually be composted.
Choose responsible retailers like the Woodland Trust - every purchase from our shop directly funds our conservation work.
When it comes to gifting, there are lots of ways to go green. They’re not limited to Christmas either – these ideas will work for other occasions too!
How to buy gifts responsibly
Gift packaging, origin and ingredients are important factors. As well as steering clear of plastics, try to avoid things like palm oil. If you shop carefully you can find plenty of options that make great gifts, like our palm oil free soaps.
A crucial consideration is the gift’s lifetime. Pick presents that your loved ones will value, but that will last too. Think reusable coffee cups or beeswax wraps – great ideas like these will make a contribution to saving the planet with every use.
Or think outside the box and gift something they can enjoy that will benefit the environment too. Bring wildlife to their garden with feeders and habitats, or help fight climate change with trees and plants.
Credit: Imgorthand / iStock.com
An alternative approach
Christmas doesn’t have to be about spending lots of money on lots of presents. Use your imagination and chat with friends and family to try something different this year, like:
- Secret Santa – common in workplaces, everybody buys and receives just one gift, reducing impact on the environment and saving money too
- Limit spending to just one present per person, or agree a smaller budget
- Donate what you would have spent to a good cause instead
- Buy virtual gifts with no packaging or transport costs involved, like a woodland dedication or homes for wildlife
- Handmade presents only! The time and effort required makes this so much more special. From creating delicious treats with foraged goods to cosy knitted garments and kids’ crafts, this type of giving makes long-lasting memories.
- Handwritten vouchers to spend some quality time together. You could offer to cook a meal, host a movie night, visit a nature spot or favourite place together, or go for a picnic. The opportunities are endless.
Inspiration for alternative gifts
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Give your home a cosy feel with natural decorations that can be reused, recycled or composted. Wrap up warm for a winter walk to gather seasonal foliage, twigs and cones to create unique displays around the house. Be sure to follow our responsible foraging guidelines if taking anything from nature.
For a more environmentally-friendly Christmas dinner and other festive meals, consider:
- Packaging: as with all purchases, try to avoid plastics and other non-recyclable packaging where possible
- Food miles: groceries shipped over long distances have a higher environmental impact than buying locally. Choosing seasonal home-grown produce will also show support for local businesses when they’ve had a tough year.
- Food waste: plan meals carefully to avoid waste. Think about whether leftovers could be frozen, donated to a local charity or listed on a food waste app to make sure they get used.
More ways to enjoy and help nature this winter
Winter is a magical time to explore a different side to the woods. From cold, crisp mornings to chilly starlit evenings, discover a winter wonderland near you.
Environmentally-friendly gardening: 10 top tips
Winter tree identification – twigs, buds and silhouettes
Feeding wild birds: what, how, when and why
Lockdown activities for kids: ideas for autumn and winter