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5 Tips to Reduce Your Christmas Footprint and Have a Sustainable Festive Season

7 minutes read

We’ve arrived at what some would call the best time of the year.

Snow is falling, carollers are singing, and the sweet smell of cinnamon is in the air…

If you’re in a Disney film, perhaps.

Call me The Grinch, but I find the festive period almost intolerable.

An ambush of shoppers, gridlocked traffic, and the unsightly view of intoxicated brits sporting their worst Christmas jumper.


Love it or loathe it, the festive season is here - and so are the cold, hard facts about our wasteful habits.

Research by Biffa, a waste collection company, has estimated a 30% increase in waste at this time of year – with the UK using roughly 300,000 tonnes of card packaging and 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging.

And with 60% of the UK planning to spend less this Christmas during the current cost of living crisis – many of us cannot afford to be wasteful.

Christmas also demands more energy usage in the home - with the winter chill moving in and the LED lights making an appearance – it’s certainly a time to be more mindful.

Not only for the planet but for your pocket, too.

So, if you are ready to reshape your habits and have a more mindful Christmas – read on to discover my top five tips for a sustainable festive period.

♻️Tip #1 – Use Recyclable or Reusable Wrapping

We all have that one friend that goes IN on the Christmas wrapping.

Bows, bells, glitter, tags – you name it – they’ve got it.

A perfectly wrapped gift can add so much value, especially for the sentimental kind.

But that doesn’t have to come at a cost to the planet or your wallet.

If you’ve got presents to wrap, try opting for recyclable packaging. There are so many options out there that look amazing too.

My favourite is Kraft Paper. Pair it with recyclable tags and compostable dried fruit, and you’ll have some sustainable show-stopping gifts!

Source: @oksanavejus

I love this paper because you can use it for any occasion, not just Christmas. Jazz it up with eco-friendly wrapping accessories, and you’ve got yourself an absolute crafting staple!

WWF have a brilliant range of eco-friendly wrapping paper like this one – so you can ensure your purchase is mindful and contribute to a brilliant cause too.

To take your sustainability efforts to a new level, you could try Furoshiki -  a Japanese wrapping cloth that has increased in popularity in Western cultures over the last few years.

Source: Karisssa, Getty Images

Furoshiki will also add a touch of luxury to your wrapping – and the receiver of your gift can keep the wrapping to reuse for another gift.

Finally, if you’re one for sending cards - choose recyclable Christmas cards to help reduce the tonnes of extra waste deposited during this time of year.

Macmillen and Save the Children, have a great range of Christmas cards for 2022 if you want to make a sustainable purchase that also contributes to a great cause.

🎭 Tip #2 – Experience Over Materialism

Let me start by saying that I’m not against buying material things.

We need material things, and sometimes Christmas is the best time to replace your partner’s holey socks.

But aside from the essentials, the material things in life are just nice to have.

In some cases, they’ll bring value to your life – but is there anything more valuable than making memories?

Instead of fighting through the Black Friday sales for the best Christmas bargain this year, why not consider an experience day for your loved one?

There are endless options for experience days and more than one place to find them.

Virgin Experience Days is a popular choice amongst shoppers - AND they also have specially selected sustainable experiences for the more conscious adventurer.

Search “experience days” on Google, and you’ll find many options to suit even the fussiest recipient.

And if you’re worried about value for money, why not offer to share the experience with your loved one so you both enjoy the fun?

If you’re happy with the little things in life (like me), arranging a meal with your loved ones over the festive period is another way to share an experience and avoid materialism.

My family and I reached a point of exchanging money to avoid buying presents.

Probably the most pointless activity I’ve ever participated in.

“Happy Christmas, here’s £50.”

“Ahh, cheers! Happy Christmas to you - here’s £50.”

So now, we choose a nice restaurant in Manchester and spend some time together instead.

Finally, if you feel stuck for choices and are looking for a carefree Christmas – you can always rely on gift cards.

Something that says, “I know the kind of things you like, but I’ll let you choose the specifics.”

Since the purchase is their choice, they’re much more likely to keep it – avoiding waste and contributing to a cleaner planet.

🌱 Tip #3 – Go Organic

If you have a gift in mind but want to source it more ethically, look for certified organic items.

Looking to warm up your sister’s wardrobe with a new jumper?

Research organic clothing brands and ensure they have certifications such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or the Organic Content Standard (OCS).

Similarly, if Aunty Ann is after some rejuvenating night cream – do some research to discover the best organic certified skincare brands.

COSMOS by the Soil Association is a widely recognised organic certification in skincare.

Not only do these organic gift choices contribute to a greener planet, but because of the ethical manufacturing process, the product is usually of higher quality.

Better quality = less waste.

Shopping organic should also be considered when it comes to food. By favouring produce in season, you decrease the demand for inorganic food production of the out-of-season crop.

🥘 Tip #4 – Plan for Food Waste

In the UK alone, approximately 7 million tonnes of food are wasted each year at Christmas. Respect Food reports that 2 million turkeys and 5 million Christmas puddings are disposed of while still edible.

It feels ironic to have “feed the woooorld” blasting out on Boxing Day as you tip your leftovers in the bin.

Leftovers are almost inevitable when you’re cooking a large dinner, but there are ways you can plan to reduce the amount and utilise what’s left.

✅ Calculate the right amount of ingredients. (i.e., many resources online suggest one large or two small potatoes per person)

✅  Discover some Christmas leftover recipes and make some new meals.

✅  Throw a Boxing Day party and invite family & friends to share your leftovers.

✅  Ensure you have reusable storage options, i.e., Tupperware or beeswax wraps.

Avoiding unrecyclable materials such as clingfilm or plastic foil will also help reduce your Christmas footprint.

The foil trays often used for roasting on Christmas Day can usually be recycled in your household recycling bin, so long as they are clean, aluminium foil.

You should check your local recycling rules first and find any local centres that allow the recycling of items not allowed in your household bins.

Finally, when you head out for the big festive shop – look out for RSPO-certified palm oil and MSC-certified seafood to ensure you make the most sustainable food choices.

🎄Tip #5 – Invest in Quality Decorations
(or make your own)

When it comes to Christmas decorations, there are usually two types of people.

Those with the same box of decorations since the 90s stashed in the attic and dusted off each year.

And then there’s the person who strives for bigger, better and bolder.

They’re probably searching for “Christmas decoration trends 2022” on Pinterest right now.

If you’re either of these people - don’t fret.

There are many creative ways you can put a spark in your Christmas décor without being wasteful or distasteful.

If you’re looking for a new tree but don’t fancy the mess of a real one – consider looking on eBay, Gumtree, or Facebook Marketplace for a second-hand one.

These sites are bursting with trees at this time of year and for a fraction of the price.

This way, you can grab a tree without contributing to the manufacturing process involved in buying a new one. Ideally, keep your fake tree for at least ten years to reduce your Christmas footprint.

But, if you’re after the real deal, you can certainly approach this in a way that benefits the environment and your wallet.

Find a sustainable tree farm that allows you to return your tree after use and then collect it the following year to reuse.

If you’re fortunate enough to have space in your garden, you could plant your tree and allow it to flourish until the next festive season.

Okay, so you’ve got your tree.

What about decorations?

If you are that person with a box of ornaments from the 90s still going strong – I salute you.

There’s something hugely nostalgic about getting old decorations out each year.

As another Christmas passes, those decorations take on one more year of sweet memories (I hope).

But if you want to liven things up with new decorations – why not make a day of it and create your own?

This video shows how you can upcycle old baubles and create some earthy, natural decorations (with a bit of patience) – the result looks worth it.

Credit: Minnie and Moore -

You can also dry fruit (instead of throwing it out after its sell-by-date), add some colour to your tree, and with the right preservatives – use them again next year.

Wreaths are also a popular choice amongst avid decorators, but unless they are made using natural and bio-degradable materials, they can harm wildlife.

Wreaths in all their glory will naturally attract wildlife, such as birds. But if they are made using synthetic materials, such as glitter and glue – they can be ingested and potentially kill wildlife.

So, opt for a natural and compostable wreath to have a guilt-free Christmas.


...and lastly, it wouldn’t be a tip worth sharing without mentioning your table settings.

It can be hard investing in something that you know will only get used once a year and will likely obtain multiple gravy stains – but by buying a reusable tablecloth and reusable napkins, you can reduce the need for waste and have what you need ready every year.

If you’re a sucker for a Christmas cracker, choose eco-friendly options that are recyclable and won’t end up in a landfill.

🎁 Not Just for Christmas…

Heard the saying, “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas?”

The same principle applies here – but for almost everything you invest in during the festivities.

Invest is the keyword here.

Leading a sustainable life can seem overwhelming when you first start. But you don’t have to do all these things in one swoop.

Start by following one or two of these tips, and gradually develop better habits each year.

The biggest takeaway I hope you get from this article is to make more conscious choices and be aware of the impact that a consumer-led lifestyle leads to.

I hope you have a Happy Christmas (and it’s better than I described in the intro!)


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