wooden reindeer christmas tree decoration.
Sustainable Christmas Decorations

Sustainable Christmas Decorations

The most sustainable Christmas decorations are those you already have – yet in the UK we still spend around £24 million on Christmas decorations every year. If your home or business needs new festive décor for your living room, office, kitchen, garden, or other space, there are many eco-friendly Christmas decorations available.

These help you have a plastic free Christmas rather than purchasing problematic plastic tinsel, baubles, and other ornaments. Unfortunately, most tinsel, glass and plastic baubles aren’t recyclable, so often end up in landfill. Focus on buying or making eco Christmas decorations in advance to avoid throwing away old and broken decorations with your general waste in the new year.

Find ideas to deck out every space in your business or home with sustainable Christmas decorations in this guide.

Eco-friendly Christmas tree decorations

Traditional tinsel and baubles made of plastic or glass to decorate Christmas trees aren’t eco-friendly, as most can’t be recycled. They’re sustainable if you store and reuse them every year. But if they break or are thrown out, most end up in landfill and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

LED fairy lights are more sustainable as they last for many years and can be recycled alongside WEEE waste. If you’re looking to buy some new zero waste Christmas tree decorations, then it’s best to avoid traditional plastic tinsel and baubles. Ideas for sustainable Christmas tree decorations include:

  • Recycled baubles – you can find many baubles made from 100% recycled glass that look just as good – if not better – than standard baubles These add a shimmer to any tree and last for years, as long as you secure them safely to your tree’s branches so they don’t fall off and break.
  • Edible Christmas tree decorations – chocolate Santas, reindeers, elves, and other treats wrapped in foil are great zero waste Christmas tree decorations. The chocolate gets eaten and the foil is recyclable when cleaned – only the string might need binning.
  • Eco-friendly tinsel – traditional tinsel is made from a PVC film with a metallic coating that’s almost impossible to separate and recycle. Some companies have created eco-friendly tinsel alternatives made from recycled paper and fabric that are plastic free, reducing their environmental impact.
  • Wooden Christmas tree decorations – wood is a sustainable material and often recyclable, so consider buying or making wooden rather than plastic decorations for your tree. These can be simple unfinished shapes for a natural effect or paint your own.
  • Handmade decorations – lots of talented individuals sell handmade tree decorations online made from fabric, wood, and other plastic-free materials. Or try making your own decorations from old cloth, wood, bits of metal, and anything else you can find around your home.
baubles lights and tinsel in christmas tree.

Sustainable Christmas table decorations

Set the table for Christmas dinner in a sustainable manner with these ideas for eco Christmas decorations that maintain a festive feel:

  • Christmas candles – create a cosy ambience with a few candles on your table. Put them in a reusable candle holder so they burn down and leave no waste. Plus, they help save on energy use and lighting costs.
  • Festive plants – introduce a natural touch with sprigs of holly or other seasonal plants from your garden.
  • Paper chains – a fun, easy, and eco-friendly way to decorate the table is with colourful paper chains. Get children involved putting them together and you can recycle the paper when you’re finished. Just keep them well away from any candles!
  • Natural place settings – combine rosemary, sage leaves, dried berries and fruits, and cinnamon sticks for an aromatic and sustainable place setting. Cut out bits of old cardboard for a place name too.
  • Origami stars – fold any old paper or gift wrap into simple star shapes and dot around the table. These can be recycled alongside your paper or dry mixed recycling after the meal too.

Sustainable outdoor Christmas decorations

Did you know 28% of households string up fairy lights outside along rooftops and windowpanes for Christmas? Plenty of businesses also decorate their exteriors with a tree and other garden Christmas decorations. With a bit of preparation, you can create effective DIY Christmas garden decorations or find some sustainable choices such as:

  • Holly trees – head to a garden centre and pick up a pair of holly trees for a seasonal, colourful, and long-lasting Christmas decoration. Those with limited space can keep them in their pots until they grow too big and need planting.
  • Christmas solar lights – LED light strings are great, but the most energy-efficient choice is solar-powered festive lights. From strings for your windowpanes and rooftops, to individual lamps that illuminate your garden path, find a Christmas solar light right for you in most garden centres.
  • Pinecone garland – string together pinecones fallen from nearby trees for a natural and seasonal garland. Add a bit of holly, dried fruit, or fake snow for a wonderful wintery effect.
woman making Christmas wreath.

Eco Christmas decorations 
to make at home or work

Beyond the table, Christmas tree, and garden, you might want to decorate other spaces with sustainable ornaments and décor. Shops and supermarkets sell lots of plastic figures, garlands, and other tat that’s not recyclable. Save on materials and costs with some eco-friendly Christmas decorations to make at home or work.

Homemade eco-friendly Christmas decorations also allow you to add a unique touch and your own charm to them. Consider these zero waste Christmas decorations and ornaments for a seasonal addition to walls, mantelpieces, window frames and elsewhere in your home or business:

  • Salt dough stars – combine some flour, salt, and water into a dough, then roll it out and use a Christmas tree, snowmen, or reindeer shaped cutter. Pop it in the oven for around two hours at 250°C, leave to cool, then paint or add some ribbon and hang on your tree or anywhere else.
  • Edible ornaments – a great way to get into the Christmas spirit is to make a gingerbread house. Plenty of shops sell kits or you can bake your own by following a gingerbread house recipe. It makes a fantastic festive showpiece and should ensure there’s no waste as you get to eat it all afterwards.
  • Natural garlands – a Scandinavian staple at Christmas are dried fruit garlands. Dry out some orange slices and string together with cinnamon sticks and any other dried fruits you fancy. Hang these up to introduce a burst of colour and festive aromas around the office or home.
  • Twig stars – if your origami skills need some work, try these simple twig stars. Collect five small sticks per star of a similar length (or cut down a longer one into five equal length sizes). Tie them together at the point with string or a rubber band and stand on your mantel piece, desk, or anywhere else for a natural decoration.
  • Wreaths – making your own Christmas wreath is a lot cheaper and more environmentally friendly than buying one from a supermarket. Start with twine for the base, wrap some leaves and foliage around it, add pinecones, dried orange, and cinnamon sticks and anything else you fancy for a seasonal delight.
pine cone in Christmas garland.

How to dispose of 
and recycle Christmas decorations

Where possible you should keep any Christmas decorations for next year, donate to a charity shop, friends, and family, or sell online. Throwing them away with general waste means they’ll likely end up in landfill and contribute to greenhouse gases – a cause of global warming.

However, Christmas decorations can break, wear out, or you may not have storage space for them. These are the best ways to dispose of and recycle old Christmas decorations:

  • Baubles – plastic and glass baubles aren’t recyclable, as they’re often made from various materials that make them too tricky or expensive to separate and recycle. If you have a broken bauble, wrap it up and throw away with your general waste.
  • Tinsel – traditional tinsel is made from PVC film and a metallic coating and is not recyclable. Throw it away with your household waste. If you have eco-friendly tinsel, check the material, as you may be able to recycle it with paper recycling or textile recycling.
  • Christmas lights – you can recycle Christmas fairy lights, LEDs, and solar light strings with WEEE recycling. Electronic and other materials are separated and recycled separately.
  • Wreaths – compost your old Christmas wreath if it’s made from natural materials. Any leaves, holly, twigs, pinecones, and tree clippings will decompose. Just remove ribbons, plastic flowers, and the twine, plastic, or metal base first.
  • Ornaments – check what material any Christmas ornaments are made from, as you may be able to send them for plastic recycling. Any ornaments made from a single rather than combination of materials are easier to recycle, such as wood, metal, or plastic.

Learn more about how to reduce and recycle the waste your home or business creates this festive season with our detailed Christmas waste guides.

Read our Christmas waste guides
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