Your guide to a Climate Conscious Christmas

We’re just three weeks away from Christmas 2019 – the end of the year that Extinction Rebellion came to worldwide fame and put discussion of the environment on everyone’s radar. We now talk of a climate crisis instead of climate change, so it’s clear that we all need to make changes at all times of the year. 

Whilst many of us have been dedicated to being more environmentally friendly for years, others are slower on the uptake. It can seem a lot of hassle when you’re used to convenience, so what are some easy ways to make your Christmas more ‘climate conscious’? 

Festive Food & Drink

The biggest way that you can have a climate conscious Christmas would be to opt for a plant-only meal. It isn’t always easy to convince everyone in the family, but many of the large supermarkets now have an impressive range of meat-free, Xmas roast favourites to satisfy even the most red-blooded cousin. From the wonderful umami flavour of a mushroom wellington to a butternut squash and chestnut wreath, there’s something for everyone. 

Xmas dinner table

If going meat-free really isn’t on your Christmas list, then think carefully about where you source your meat. Your high street butcher will usually stock very local suppliers for your turkey, reducing the number of food miles and thereby the carbon footprint of every bird. 

Christmas Card list 

Simply put – don’t! It’s a well-worn joke that people are summarily removed from your Christmas Card list for minor transgressions, but if you can avoid sending them, then do. You could always send an e-card to friends and family with a note that you’ve donated the price of a card set to a charity. 

Just got to have them though? Buy them if they’ve got the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark, which means they were produced from sustainable forests. If you do receive cards, (less and less likely now a quarter of us have given up on them entirely) reuse the front of them next year as present tags. 

Wrap it in love

Whilst part of the joy of receiving presents starts with ripping off the wrapping paper, some of the most eco-conscious of us are now opting for reusable, festively decorated drawstring bags. You can even learn how to wrap gifts with a scarf if you have lots handy.

Brown wrapping paperåIf you can’t give up the gift unwrapping orgy, brown paper decorated with pens (not paint, as that prevents recycling) is one of the most sustainable ways to wrap. If you do want to buy decorated wrapping paper from shops, then opt for the non-shiny, non-sparkly kind. Avoid glitter at all costs, as it contains microplastics that are harmful to wildlife. One method to determine whether your paper is recyclable or not is to perform the ‘scrunch’ test – if your paper stays in a ball after you’ve squished it, it’s probably able to be recycled. If it bounces back, it probably can’t. If you’re really careful, you can reuse wrapping paper over and over – but that’s harder if your kids are just desperate to break into what the big man has brought.

Christmas is about more than presents… but it’s a good place to start

Presence, not presents is one idea, yet it probably wouldn’t work for me! The ‘4 rule’ giving mantra has become quite popular in recent years, however. If you’re not aware of it, it’s ‘something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read’. This cuts down on waste and ensures that your gifts cover all bases. 

Eschew the new: second-hand or ‘pre-loved’ gifts (you can’t always stretch definitions to vintage!) are a good buy. At Christmas, many families go through their toy stash and list good quality items for a few quid on places like Facebook marketplace and eBay. It’s a good way to prolong the life of plastic toys, help families fund new toys and get more for your money. Because with new, you’re only going to chuck the packaging away anyway (or assemble the bigger things on Xmas Eve and remember they needed batteries on the big day).

reusable coffee cup

If you have a talent, offer it to your friends and family – either lessons or your time. Knit, crochet or paint – whatever your creativity takes you, there are few things more amazing than a gift that took time and thought. One of my friends has asked for a pastry-making lesson from her master baker mother. Another internet friend is making shea butter scrubs, hot chocolate sticks, mulled spice bags, a gingerbread shape/person to suit and wax melts for her loved ones.

If you do want to buy new, consider eco-conscious and eco-friendly gifts, like reusable coffee cups (that’s what I’m in need of, friends and family!), water bottles and silicon or metal straws. If you can, buy from smaller, local stores, regift presents that didn’t float your boat and consider the longevity of the gifts you do buy. 

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Many of us opt for a plastic Christmas tree, perhaps thinking that something you put away and reuse annually is better than felling one every year. But how ecologically sound is that idea? Firstly, even if you use your artificial tree for the 10 years that the Carbon Trust says it will take for you to offset it, it will eventually end up in landfill. Plastic and metal composite trees take a lot of energy and resources to produce, meaning that the carbon footprint of an artificial one is twice that of a real tree. 

So if you can, opt for a real tree that is:

  • Locally and sustainably grown (check for an FSC certification)
  • Potted! A tree that continues to grow and you can use year on year has such a low environmental impact, if you have green enough fingers.
  • A rental – this is an option in some areas of the UK.

FSC logo

Don’t forget to recycle your tree – easy if you’re one of the lucky ones whose local refuse collection service does kerbside recycling, but if not then take it to your local tip or check your council website for more info.  


Razzle dazzle decoration

Handmade decorations are stunning and make a beautiful gift – but not always practical if you’re not particularly creative. Just today I’ve been making snowmen and Father Christmas decorations out of cotton wool balls with my pre-schooler daughter. But that might not work if your children are past the age of 7 and more interested in the content of their stockings or tablet device.

Recently there seems to be a trend to dehydrate orange slices on a low heat in the oven and then string them up on the tree. An excellent way to repel citrus-avoidant household pets, but they also look really rather classy. Foraging for holly, mistletoe and red berries is a lovely activity for a winter walk with kids, too.

Orange Slice Decoration

The next best way to have a sustainable Christmas is to make use of charity shops for your decorations. If you’re lucky you might even find a vintage bauble or two. If you want new decorations, think about the materials they’re made of and opt for wood, brass or glass.

Lights are the foundation for the most beautiful tree – but did you know that if we all switched to LED lights, the carbon footprint of Christmas would be reduced by up to 80%? Collectively we would save 58,000 tonnes of CO2 in just the 25 days of advent.

Got any more ideas for a sustainable Christmas? Let us know on Twitter @sszeemedia

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