A Green Christmas

Anna shares some green Christmas ideas

What is Christmas all about? Do you know what Christmas is synonymous with? Well…

At present an additional 30% of rubbish is being produced and discarded throughout the festive period, when compared with the rest of the year. This amounts to in the region of three million tonnes each year and is made up of:

  • 54 million platefuls of food
  • 500 tonnes of Christmas lights
  • 8 million Christmas trees
  • 108 rolls of wrapping paper
  • £42 million unwanted Christmas presents
  • 100 million black bags full of packaging from toys and gifts

If you are interested you can have a look at What is the Carbon Footprint of Christmas page for more information.

So… what can we all do to be a bit kinder on the environment this Christmas?

Click on the topics below for some thoughts and suggestions – enjoy (and sorry for the tenious links to the Twelve Days of Chistmas!)

Thinking of trees...

  • Real Christmas trees have significantly lower carbon footprints than an artificial trees, especially if it is disposed of properly, by chipping or burning. When buying one, check it’s sustainably sourced with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification. Also buy local to reduce your tree’s carbon footprint.
  • If you choose an artificial Christmas tree then you would need to use this for around 10 years for its environmental impact to be lower than real trees, so keep reusing it.
  • Grow your own.

This turtle dove is bringing gifts home...

  • Be an ethical consumer in your choices – go organic, no electricity, less packaging, reusable, recyclable – think about getting gifts that have a lower carbon footprint.
  • Buy memories and experiences rather than objects.
  • Keep an eye out for suitable second-hand gifts and take a look at the eco-friendly ranges on sites such as Etsy and Ethical Superstore (there are loads of other ethical sites out there to suit all tastes) where you’ll find everything from soaps and kitchen utensils, to bird feeders and toys.
  • Get crafty and make your gifts.
  • Sometimes less is more!

Do you really need three French hens (or turkeys) for Christmas...

  • If you are stuck when choosing what to cook for your main course – turkey has a lower carbon footprint than beef, and vegetarian/vegan options are even lower than that. See some great ideas from Vegetarian Society and The Vegan Society.
  • If you choose a meat for Christmas, choose organic free-range meats and buy local.
  • Don’t overdo it on cheese – this has a very high carbon footprint.

Why not make your own calling birds decorations for your Christmas tree...

All that glitters is not gold. Some of it is in fact glitter...

  • Most glitters are made from plastic, which contributes to the growing problem of microplastics in the environment. 
  • They’re consumed by plankton, fish and birds, causing harm from the build up in their systems. 
  • Some research has also found that PET, the plastic most glitter is made from, can breakdown and release chemicals that can disrupt human and animal hormones. 
  • As a result, some scientists and campaigners are calling for a total ban on glitter.
  • So avoid glitter to make a great positive environmental impact!

With farmers up’ing production to meet demand (on geese and other things), food waste can be a big issue at Christmas...

  • Prepare the right amount of food for the number of people you want to feed.
  • Let people serve themselves the amount they want – food left in a serving dish can be eaten as left-overs the next day, whereas food left on plates will be binned.
  • Use your leftovers in the days after Christmas – if there is too much to eat then share it around or freeze for later.

You could join the swans

  • for some Christmas swimming or…
  • Reduce your carbon footprint by reducing your car use – opting for walking or cycling instead. 
  • Ramblers is a great resource if you’re looking for local walking groups or routes.
  • Also the Woodland Trust  has information on where to go for a frosty forest walk.

Milking all those cows takes a lot of energy – but being in the cow shed is warm – so let's think about the energy we use and how we stay warm...

  • Wear warm jumpers and draw those curtains
  • With a lot of people around and the oven switched on, keeping the house warmer means less heating needed.
  • So as not to have the oven on too long, once cooked turn the oven off and cover dishes and replace them in the oven – they will stay warm.
  • Switch off lights at night, especially outside.
  • According to Flipper, using incandescent light bulbs on your Christmas tree and around the home can cost up to 90 times more to power than LED bulbs, as 90% of the energy is wasted as heat. So a really easy and effective way to reduce your energy bills and help the environment is to switch all of your lights over to LEDs in the run up to the big day.
  • Plug a number of pieces of electrical equipment into a single extension socket so you can switch them all off overnight.

How many spinning tops do you need – the full nine so we have all the ladies dancing? If not, let's rethink Christmas crackers...

  • Get crackers with just jokes and hats.
  • Make sure they are made from recyclable materials, i.e. paper and cardboard.
  • Look for reusable options, many of which are made from fabric and you can fill yourself. Search online for designs to suit you.
  • Make your own crackers. Hobbycraft has some useful tips.

Thinking of leaping – I can see the kids and adults jumping around with the new Wii and Playstation...

  • If you are looking at buying electrical equipment such as TVs, lamps and fridges as a gift, then consider the energy use across their life span. More efficient equipment can sometimes cost more up front, but will save money from energy bills in the long run.
  • If you are getting a console for Christmas, then think of getting games that the family will all want to play. If several family members are together playing on the console, this means they are not all using different pieces of equipment, resulting in a lower carbon footprint.

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to wrap those eleven pipers – so going to get creative! Maybe...

  • Wrap them in a scarf.
  • Use a paper or fabric bag (I can then use these again).
  • Reuse a box and cover it in some classic brown paper (or reuse wrapping paper) tied up with string (with some natural decorations to spruce it up). Reducing the environmental impact as lots of wrapping paper contains plastic and glitter.

I don’t know about you, but I can feel drummers in my head after a round of Christmas shopping – with people rushing around and charging you out of the way for their choice of gift. So...

  • Maybe this year I re-wear what I have, or I could swap with friends or buy second-hand instead of buying new.
  • Reduce impulse buying of things that will go to waste.
  • Do I need those elf slippers or santa jumpers? 

Research from environmental charity Hubbub showed that, last year, Brits spent £2.4 billion on new clothing for Christmas, with the Christmas jumper being one of the worst examples of fast fashion. 

Two in five Christmas jumpers are only worn once over the festive season.


Do I need to do cards? Conscious that an unbelievable 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK households each year, according to Imperial College researchers. So maybe this year I need to think differently...

  • Send e-cards (sent online) as they cut your carbon footprint, save trees and save money.
  • Make my own.
  • Choose ‘plantable’ cards that are embedded with seeds. The biodegradable paper is then planted in a pot of soil and the seeds will grow, while the paper will eventually decompose.