How to Have a Sustainable Christmas

Christmas is the season of giving. But that doesn’t mean presenting your binmen or waste collection company with gifts of extra rubbish to remove this year. It happens though, as UK homes create almost a third more waste over the festive period – and businesses aren’t much better.

For example, around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper and 270,000 tons of food are chucked out every year at Christmas. It’s enough to turn Rudolf’s nose red with anger. Check out our Christmas waste facts for more shameful stats about how much rubbish we churn out every holiday season.

There are many ways to be sustainable at Christmas and give back to the environment. Your decorations, food, and celebrations can be as green as one of Santa’s elves’ outfits with a little effort. Use these sustainable Christmas ideas to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year in an eco-friendly way.

Explore our Christmas waste guides 
Christmas dinner table set up with champagne glasses.

Buy sustainable Christmas trees

The most sustainable Christmas trees are real ones grown locally in the UK. Once cut a new tree can be planted and grown, which is highly sustainable. Ones sourced locally require less transport, fuel, and carbon emissions too. You should check if any tree is from a sustainable forest (or FSC-certified) before you buy.

Other sustainable Christmas tree ideas include renting a real tree rather than buying one. This can be cost-effective and ensures the tree is replanted in the new year. The tree can have a positive impact on the environment and wildlife throughout the year and be used again next Christmas.

What you do after Christmas with your tree is vital for sustainability. Real trees take 10 to 12 years to grow so it’s ideal to replant them in your garden or pass them on to a certified forest. If you have an artificial one, hold onto it and reuse it in the future, as many are plastic and hard to recycle due to containing a combination of materials.

Discover what to do with an old Christmas tree

Select sustainable Christmas gifts

In the UK we spend more than £20 billion on Christmas presents every year. Unfortunately, plenty aren’t that sustainable due to packaging and the products themselves. Greater awareness and eco-focus mean there are more options available to buy sustainable Christmas gifts and ideas for creating your own.

Wrapping paper, tags, and bags also contribute to how sustainable any Christmas presents you give out are. Use our tips to reduce Christmas wrapping paper waste. Reusing paper from last year, sourcing recyclable wrapping paper, and using reusable bags are simple steps towards sustainability.

Discover 20 sustainable Christmas gift ideas

Consider sustainable Christmas cards

It’s estimated that we send around eight billion Christmas cards in the UK every year. That’s an awful lot of trees chopped down for the paper and card to make them all. Most Christmas cards are recyclable and therefore fairly sustainable, although those featuring glitter, glue, and plastic are trickier to recycle.

Recycling Christmas cards also requires energy and effort, so a more sustainable option can be to consider sending an e-card or simply don’t bother this year. Finding a cute Christmas picture and sending it to friends and family over social media, WhatsApp, or email could suffice and use zero paper and card.

Learn all about Christmas card recycling
Christmas card on a table in front of a Christmas tree.

Throw a sustainable Christmas party

The Christmas party season is a fun time that leads to plenty of excess – eating, drinking, and dancing more than usual. Often it includes creating excess waste too, with loads of leftover food, decorations thrown away, and plastic plates and cups binned. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A little bit of preparation can create a sustainable party whether you’re planning the work Christmas do or arranging a festive get-together at home for friends and family. Considerations covering the food, decorations, activities, and recycling can help reduce how much waste your celebrations create and ensure there’s less cleaning up afterwards.

Plan a low waste Christmas party

Source a sustainable Christmas jumper

As most people only wear Christmas jumpers in December they’re not always the most sustainable clothing items. Keep yours for a few years and it can be better for the environment though. A few ways to source a sustainable Christmas jumper include to:

  • Wear last year’s Christmas jumper (if it still fits!)
  • Knit your own using locally sourced wool
  • Buy a second-hand Christmas jumper from a charity shop or online
  • Upcycle an old jumper with a few festive additions
  • Go to a clothes swap

Put up sustainable Christmas decorations

Tinsel is terrible for the environment as the PVC film and metallic coating can’t be separated and recycled. Thankfully, there are many eco-friendly alternatives for decorating your home or workplace in December. These include making a sustainable Christmas wreath from natural items to stringing up solar lights outside or on your Christmas tree.

Handmade decorations, sustainably sourced baubles, and table decorations – including sustainable Christmas crackers – are essential. Avoid plastic decorations and those that use a combination of materials as they’re harder to recycle. One of the most sustainable actions is to simply use the same decorations from last year and store them for many years to come.

Read our guide to sustainable Christmas decorations
homemade Christmas wreath.

Serve sustainable festive food

The equivalent of around seven million bins full of waste food are produced in the UK over Christmas every year. That includes millions of mince pies, sprouts, turkeys, Christmas cakes and pudding being thrown out. Smart shopping, portion control, saving and using leftovers in other recipes can all help reduce food waste for your festive feasting.

How to reduce food waste at Christmas

Buy a sustainable advent calendar

There’s a hidden cost of advent calendars, as many include single-use plastics that are bad for the environment. Sweet and chocolate wrappers aren’t always recyclable and many end up in landfill. But advent calendars are great for getting kids (and some adults) into the Christmas spirit.

Buy or make a sustainable advent calendar that has as little packaging as possible. Plenty are made purely from cardboard that’s easy to recycle. Alternatively, create your own for a waste-free option. It’s important you recycle or reuse the advent calendar next year after the big day for a fully sustainable solution.

How to recycle and reuse advent calendars

Ways to be more sustainable at Christmas

Looking for more ways to reduce waste and celebrate a sustainable Christmas this year? We’ve put together a range of expert guides with tips and advice about reducing waste at home and work this festive season.

free bins icon.

Have your waste collected

Get a fast FREE quote for your waste collection 0800 211 83 90

  • Free quote within 1 hr
  • Any type of waste
  • FREE bins and delivery
  • We cover all of the UK