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7 ways to have a greener, more eco-friendly Christmas in 2021

‘Tis the season to be jolly – and maybe do your bit for the planet, too

Written by
Karen Edwards
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The festive season is fast approaching, and the shops are already tantalising us with their sparkling fairy lights, glistening tinsel and abundance of festive food. It’s almost a tradition to write off December as the month of overindulgence, but with a very real environmental crisis on our hands, perhaps we should all put a little more consideration into how we celebrate this year.

From buying presents and decorating your home to the never-ending feasts and parties, it’s hard to imagine how it’s possible to make Christmas eco-friendly. But fear not – there are plenty of ways to delve into the spirit of the season without turning into Scrooge. Whether you’re partying your way through the month or planning a simple day at home with loved ones, here are a few easy and sustainable ways to enjoy yourself while keeping the planet front of mind.

How to have a greener Christmas in 2021

1. Buy high-quality presents

With the important matter of the climate crisis dominating the headlines, an increasing number of small businesses are rising to the challenge of creating quality products that are designed to last. From homeware and books to accessories and outerwear, these are items have been made with care and using sustainable methods – so are well worth investing in. In the UK, stores like Pembrokeshire’s Really Wild Emporium, Emily Carter London and Finisterre Edinburgh work hard to be aware of their environment and social impact, and provide a handy online service that can deliver worldwide.

2. Use 100 percent recyclable wrapping paper

While a lot of wrapping paper is used over the holidays, not all of it can be recycled. By opting for 100 percent recyclable paper, you will be saving a lot of Christmas wrapping from ending up as landfill. Do this by choosing simple paper – brown paper is best – and decorate gifts using colourful pens and twine rather than shiny bows and ribbon. Avoid foil, glittery or shiny patterns and laminated paper, as these contain non-biodegradable elements. Eco Craft offers plenty of recycled and colourful options, alongside eco-friendly gift tags and sticky tape.

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Craft your own decorations
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Craft your own decorations

Rather than investing in even more plastic decorations, create your own recyclable or biodegradable options this year. From paper snowflakes and natural wreaths, created from fallen leaves and twigs, to knitted baubles and pine-cone animals, DIY decorations can be a fun project for all the family. The added bonus is that if they can’t be kept until next year, they are biodegradable. The National Trust offers great tips for budding creatives, while the Creativ Company also shares a whole host of crafting ideas.

4. Rent a Christmas tree

You read right: you can now rent a real Christmas tree. The process begins by visiting a rental shop near you to choose your tree in person. A little research beforehand will point you towards genuine agronomists who care about where and how the trees are grown. On arrival, you will be given instructions on how to look after your tree – regular watering and keeping it away from radiators are vital. Pay a deposit, and then you can take your tree home. Once Christmas is over, return the (hopefully) healthy pine to the rental store. There, your lovely tree can continue growing.

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5. Give the gift of experience

In the UK alone, nearly a fifth of children’s gifts are unused, exchanged or thrown away, resulting in around £760 million of Christmas presents going to waste each year, according to research from St. James’s Place. Rather than forking out on an unwanted gift that might end up as landfill, choose to give your loved ones the gift of experience, which can suit all budgets. From a home-cooked meal to afternoon tea in a decent hotel to a day trip somewhere nice, this a great chance to be creative (and eco-conscious).

Cook a planet-friendly Christmas dinner
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Cook a planet-friendly Christmas dinner

Planning a festive feast? Then be sure to opt for a planet-friendly menu this year. While tradition says we must enjoy turkey, why not give the bird a swerve – after all, around ten million turkeys are bred and slaughtered for Christmas in the UK alone – and opt for vegetarian alternatives instead. A seasonal butternut squash roast stuffed with spicy peppers and rice can make a terrific main dish, while leftovers transform well into warming soups, chips and roasted veg. Additionally, only buy the food that’s necessary. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that between 30 and 50 percent of all food produced is wasted each year. That would be enough to feed poverty-stricken communities around the world several times over.

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7. Make your own crackers

All you need is a stash of cardboard toilet rolls, brown paper, biodegradable sticky tape and a pair of scissors to create some fun festive crackers for the whole family. Follow this easy how-to guide from Hobby Craft if needed. Once you’ve made them, use recyclable kitchen paper to fill the crackers. Then, rather than including plastic prizes as is tradition, opt for more thoughtful gifts – perhaps a personalised poem or even an IOU date for some quality time.

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