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Blog / December 5th, 2019

An A-Z of tips for an eco-friendly Christmas


We’ve compiled a complete A-Z guide full of tips on how to be more eco-friendly and sustainable over the festive season. From advent calendars to zero-waste, take a look and see if you could incorporate a few of these ideas into your Christmas this year.

A – Advent calendars
Investing in a reusable advent calendar is not only a great eco-friendly idea, but also makes it much more fun for the recipient. Add your own gifts (but not plastic!) or get creative and make your own for a personal touch, you could make some homemade truffles or gingerbread for each day.

B – Batteries
A lot of new toys often means a lot of batteries, but they contain a lot of toxic chemicals, don’t biodegrade and are difficult to recycle. As an alternative you could use rechargeable batteries, USB rechargeable batteries (which you can plug into a USB connector), or try and only give battery-free gifts.

C – Christmas cards
Making your own Christmas cards is a fun activity to do with friends or family, but if you would rather buy them opt for cards made from recycled paper or sustainable sources and avoid choosing designs that use glitter. Another great idea is seeded cards that can be planted in the garden so recipients can enjoy them for much longer! It’s always exciting to get cards through the mail, but try and hand-deliver where possible, or you could think about sending an e-card. Sites like and offer the chance to make and personalise your own cards without the carbon footprint.

D – Decorations
Try and buy decorations from companies who offer designs made from sustainable resources. Or bring nature indoors by creating your own decorations using foraged bits and pieces and swap tinsel and glitter for natural foliage (but use gloves if handling ivy as it can cause skin irritation).

E – Eco-bags
Make sure you’re prepared this festive shopping season and keep a few reusable bags in your handbag, rucksack or car boot. (A reusable tote also makes a great gift bag!).

F – Food
When shopping over Christmas, try to only buy what you need to reduce food waste. If you do find you have a lot of leftovers, download a food waste app like Olio to connect you to people in need around your local area. Also remember you can use up scraps to make stock! If you shop online, it’s a good idea to buy in bulk to minimise carbon miles, and if you’re interested in your food shop’s carbon footprint check out the Foodprint calculator!

G – Gift the unexpected
Some toys can be forgotten about pretty quickly after they’ve been gifted, and a lot are made from unrecyclable, non-sustainable materials. So why not give experiences rather than toys this year? Trips out to the zoo or cinema, adopting an animal, a dance or cookery lesson, theatre or music tickets and be a zoo keeper for the day experiences are all exciting gifts to receive! You could also try out Christmas gift cheques that you can print out and give to friends and family for them to ‘cash in’! (See ‘Presents’ below for more eco-friendly gift ideas).

H – Hosting
Avoid disposable cutlery, crockery and cups if you’re hosting this festive season. If you find that you need a few more plates or bowls, why not try a charity shop or you could ask your family and friends to bring their own which will be washed and returned to them. Also if you’re hosting a large number of people, Waitrose & Partners offer a glass loan service which you can ask about instore.

I – Ingredients
Try and source local produce as much as you can this Christmas, it helps your local community and reduces carbon miles so it’s a win-win! Also remember to buy fruit and veg loose and ditch the plastic packaging.

J – Christmas jumpers
Turn your heating down by 1 degree and dig out your best festive jumpers if you get a bit chilly. Not only will this save carbon, it will also save you money!

K – Karaoke
If you can, try and car share with friends and family if you’re travelling this Christmas to reduce carbon emissions and congestion. You could also take the opportunity to belt out some Christmas songs and do some carpool karaoke!

L – Lights
Switch to LED Christmas lights this year (they use up to 80% less energy than incandescent ones) and harness solar power for outdoor lights. Did you know if every UK household swapped a string of incandescent lights for its LED equivalent, we could save more than £11 million and 29,000 tonnes of CO2, just over the 12 days of Christmas!

M – Make your own
Get creative and make your own decorations, cards, gifts tags and crackers. If you’re crafty, homemade gifts like a photobook are great presents to give to loved ones, and they are so easy to create if you have an evening spare. Anything made with love is special so get baking, cooking, knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, sewing…anything!

N – Natural
Go natural this year and venture out on a winter walk to forage for anything that could be used for house or gift decorations, such as spruce, holly, ivy and pinecones. (Please remember to be careful when foraging, wear gloves and only take things home that you know what they are).

O – Outfits
Christmas is a time to sparkle, but try and resist the temptation to plump for sequins as they’re made from PVC and aren’t biodegradable. If you are after something new for Christmas, why not try a charity shop or you could swap clothes with friends.

P – Presents
We know it’s tempting to go overboard at Christmas time, but it’s worth considering a few alternative present ideas this year. A few top tips are:

  • Try and avoid unrecyclable plastics and non-sustainable materials, look out for respected eco logos like Fairtrade, Palm Oil Free and Rainforest Alliance to if you want to be more eco-conscious.
  • If you’re giving physical gifts, try and make sure they’re designed to last and don’t come with masses of packaging.
  • Go for the edible option! If you’re a whizz in the kitchen, why not bake or cook for your loved ones? Make up a make your own hot chocolate/cake jar, or have a go at baking gingerbread, fudge or truffles.
  • Re-gifting is a great way to use presents that you’ve been given that you think someone else would love.
  • We all know someone who is tricky to buy for, so instead of buying for the sake of it, why not donate to a charity close to the recipient’s heart instead?

Q – Don’t stay quiet!
Christmas is a time to get together so spread the eco-message to friends and family, you could also ask them to make a #PlasticPromise!

R – Recycle
According to Recycle Now, we could make a cardboard motorway stretching from London to Lapland and back 103 times with all the cardboard packaging we consume at Christmas! Make sure you’re recycling savvy and know what your local council will and won’t take, you can check on Recycle Now, which also has great advice on how to recycle over Christmas. A few of our top tips are:

  • Remember not everything is recyclable (e.g. glitter, foil wrapping paper, a lot of ribbons and sticky tape), see ‘Wrapping Paper’ below for how to do the ‘scrunch test’!
  • Like wrapping paper, cards are often covered in glitter or foil designs, which can’t be recycled, so remember to tear these bits off and recycle the rest.
  • You can recycle disposable foil roasting tins and kitchen foil, but remember they need to be rinsed well with as much food residue removed as possible.
  • If you find some of your fairy lights have lost their sparkle, check if your local recycling point can take them before you throw them in your normal refuse bin.
  • Get crafty and make last years’ cards into this years’ gift tags.
  • You can recycle your Christmas tree! See ‘Trees’ below for more information.

S – Sustainability
Try and source sustainable gifts or gifts made of sustainable and organic materials this year, for example bamboo cups, soy candles or beeswax/sandwich wraps to use in place of cling film or foil.

T – Trees
Studies have suggested you would need to keep an artificial tree for 20 years for it to be greener than a real one so if possible, source one that’s been grown locally or grown within the UK. Not only does this reduce transport emissions, real trees can be recycled at your local tip (sometimes local councils organise tree recycling schemes too). You can also look into tree rental schemes or growing your own – remember potted trees can be planted and used for years to come if you have room in your garden. If you do decide you would prefer artificial, try and source one from eBay or Gumtree.

U – Use the right sized pan
Using the right sized pan for your veggies and potatoes will use energy most efficiently and remember to only boil the kettle with the amount of water you need.

V – Veggie and vegan options
It is worth thinking about reducing the amount of meat consumed over the festive period as we become increasingly more aware of its impact on the planet. There are a lot of delicious veggie and vegan recipes out there that you could try this Christmas to replace a couple of meaty meals per week.

W – Wrapping paper
Did you know 277,000 miles of paper gets thrown away every year! When you go to recycle your paper this Christmas, keep the scrunch test in mind – scrunch up the paper in your hands and then let it go. If the paper stays scrunched up then it can be recycled, but if it unfolds by its own accord then it’s likely to contain non-recyclable elements.

There are lots of ways you can dress up your gifts in an eco-friendly way, think about using brown paper, string, ribbon that can be used again, natural decorations (like cinnamon sticks, spruce sprigs or gingerbread), or reuse giftbags.

X – Excess
Christmas has always been a time for excess, but keep in mind things like excessive packaging and food waste before you buy anything.

Y – New Year’s resolution
Any small changes we make add up to one big impact for our planet. Whether you ditch plastic bottles and coffee cups and plump for a reusable alternative, stop using single use cutlery, or forgo cling film and foil for your sandwiches, pledge a #PlasticPromise to reduce the plastic waste choking our planet.

Z – Zero waste
We know it’s hard to be zero waste, especially over Christmas, but every little really does help. Some top things to remember:

  • Plan food in advance as much as possible and only buy what you need, this will give you piece of mind and you can minimise as much waste as possible.
  • If you have food left over apps like Olio are great to help those in need, or you could check out websites such as com for zero waste recipe inspiration.
  • Check your local recycling for what you can and can’t recycle.
  • Avoid the unnecessary – packaging, plastic and presents included!

Let us know what tips you’ll be trying this Christmas by tagging us in any photos on social media!