15 tips for an eco-friendly Christmas

From eco-friendly, fair trade gifts (and the best way to wrap them) to sourcing sustainable trees and reducing food waste, find easy tips for reducing your impact on the earth this Christmas

christmas wreath held by human by getty images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you're an eco-warrior on the look out for new Christmas tips, or are just starting out with this whole sustainability thing, our handy tips are here to help you get one step closer to an eco-friendly Christmas.

From sourcing sustainable Christmas trees to eco-friendly gift guides (and wrap), reducing food waste and making planet-friendly consumer choices, our guide to an eco-friendly Christmas empowers everyone to make positive changes.

Got more ideas for an eco-friendly Christmas? Message us on Instagram, we'd love to hear them.

1. Source a sustainable tree... then dispose of it responsibly

While the debate surrounding artificial vs real Christmas trees has long divided the nation, their impact on the environment has certainly magnified the conversation. So, how to shop wisely? 

When it comes to choosing a real tree, look out for FSC Certification as only this will confirm that your tree has been sourced sustainably. It's also worth checking for Soil Association approval if you're concerned about your tree being organic.

Once Christmas is over, dispose of your real tree by taking it to a local tip where it will be processed and (eventually) turned into something new, or by looking out for local council recycling schemes.

If you've decided that you'd prefer an artificial tree, picking one up second hand from eBay, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace is a better option than buying one brand new to reduce your impact on the earth. Still determined to buy new? Buy an artificial Christmas tree that will last a lifetime, not a cheap one you'll have to quickly replace.

small potted christmas tree decorated with lights by lights 4 fun

(Image credit: Lights 4 Fun)

2. Choose decorations that will last a lifetime

Decorations made from recycled wood, fabric and glass make great alternatives to plastic or PVC options that are non-recyclable. When choosing decorations, we'd recommend opting for classic designs that will be loved for years, as opposed to trend pieces that you'll be tired of by next Christmas.

wooden merry christmas decoration by ginger ray

Find this gorgeous Wooden Merry Christmas Bunting at Ginger Ray

(Image credit: Ginger Ray)

3. Opt for eco-friendly and Fairtrade gifts 

While it's tempting for many to go overboard when it comes to Christmas gifts, it's worth resisting if you want to be more conscious of your impact on the planet and how ethically your gifts were made.

Consider suggesting a Secret Santa as an alternative to the usual gift exchange with friends and family. It will allow you to invest more money into a single, better considered gift rather than buying lots of little things that may (sadly) end up in landfill. 

Want to make sure any gifts you do give have a minimal impact on the earth? Choose from our pick of the best eco-friendly and ethical gifts available this Christmas.

handmade pouch with floral print by oxfam

This Handmade Embroidered Pouch, available at Oxfam, was made by Aspiration; a Fairtrade group that employs artisans to hand make products

(Image credit: Oxfam)

4. Think twice about gift wrapping

Now that you've got your gifts sorted, it's time to think about environmentally friendly gift wrap. Here are our favourite ideas:

  • Reuse gift bags, boxes, tissue paper and ribbon kept from last Christmas. Didn't save any? Make a point to do it this year.
  • Choose a gorgeous fabric scarf to wrap your gift in – the recipient will love you for the 2-in-1 present. Charity shops and second hand stores are a good place to shop for them. 
  • Use brown paper to wrap gifts, tie everything together with string or raffia and spruce up with pine tree sprigs for a pretty finish.
  • Buy a reusable wrapping bag – we love the Star Pattern Fabric Gift Bags from Not On The High Street.
  • If you're buying wrapping paper, be conscious of choosing something free of foil or glitter as these varieties cannot be recycled – make sure any paper recycled has tape removed.

brown paper package tied together with velvet ribbon by ginger ray

(Image credit: Ginger Ray)

5. Plan your Christmas dinner carefully to reduce waste

A staggering amount of food goes to waste every Christmas as hosts over-buy ahead of the big day. While having too little food is many people's idea of a Christmas nightmare, writing a list (and then sticking to it) is a must before hitting the supermarket if you want to avoid panic buying and the waste it incurs.

If you do end up with leftovers, or begin to notice food going off before you get the chance to eat it, think before throwing it in the bin. While Brits joke about turkey curry, using left-over ingredients on Boxing Day is a great option for reducing waste.

Other options could include blending leftovers or on-the-turn veggies into a soup that can be frozen for a later date, or turning cheeseboard leftovers into a creamy Mac & Cheese. 

christmas table by getty images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Reduce meat and source ingredients consciously

Perhaps a more controversial option for the meat lovers among us, it's also worth considering reducing the amount of meat consumed during the festive period as we become increasingly aware of its impact on the earth when consumed in large quantities. 

That doesn't have to mean going cold turkey (get it?!); just be aware that there are many delicious veggie options out there – perhaps you could try replacing just one meaty meal?

That said, it's not just about the food we eat; where we get it from can also alter our impact on the planet. Opting for organic meat and veg is the best way to ensure that potentially harmful pesticides haven't been used during the cultivation process. It's also worth sourcing food locally if possible – you may be surprised how close your local farmers' market is to your home.

Shopping in a supermarket? Avoid plastic packaging where possible – loose veg is a great starting point.

roasted veggies in a tray by getty images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

7. Take reusable bags Christmas shopping

While the 5p plastic bag tax has encouraged many of us to keep a reusable bag to hand, making sure you're prepared when it comes to Christmas shopping will reduce your plastic consumption (and save you a pound or two).

reusable shopping bag with elephant print by Sophie Allport

Find this cute, Elephant Folding Shopping Bag from Sophie Allport

(Image credit: Sophie Allport)

8. Opt for soy candles

Candles are certainly a big part of Christmas and whether you enjoy them as part of advent or simply to make a room feel cosy in the colder months, it's worth thinking about their impact on pollution levels, as well as your health.

Rather than paraffin based candles, we'd recommend switching to those made from soy or beeswax.

soy candle in upcycled wine glass by upcycle studio

We love these Mojo Wine Bottle Candles from Upcycle Studio. Cleverly crafted from reclaimed wine bottles and hand-poured with natural soy wax, they're an eco friendly candle alternative 

(Image credit: Upcycle STUDIO)

9. Consider your Christmas card list

Avoiding sending physical Christmas cards is another simple option for reducing waste. Consider opting for an e-card, writing an email or giving someone a call if getting in touch with friends and family is important to you over the Christmas period. Desperate to write cards? Opt for a design on recycled paper.

In terms of any cards you receive, there are plenty of options for reusing and recycling – cutting off the front of a card for use as a postcard or gift tag next year are simple examples.

recycled christmas card by etsy

For recycled Christmas cards, we'd recommend trying Etsy

(Image credit: Etsy)

10. Avoid disposable cutlery, crockery and cups when hosting

It seems an easy solution, if you're hosting lots of friends and family over Christmas and don't have enough supplies, to pick up disposable cutlery, crockery and cups that can simply be thrown in the bin once the party's over. However, many of these single use plastic items are non recyclable and end up going straight to landfill.

An easy alternative is simply asking a friend or family member attending to bring along their plates, cups or cutlery that can be washed and returned to them. Catering for a lot of people? Waitrose & Partners also offer a handy glass loan service.

christmas dinner table by getty images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

11. Replace your advent calendar with a reusable option

For many children (and adults, let's be honest) advent calendars make up a big part of the build up to Christmas. Being more eco-conscious doesn't mean having to sacrifice this tradition entirely, but it should mean making a slight change.

Rather than buying a calendar from your favourite chocolatier, why not consider making your own? Simply invest in a reusable calendar, we love this Red House Advent Calendar from Not On The High Street, and fill it with your choice of sweet treats.

Not into chocolate? The beauty of make-your-own calendar is that they can be filled with whatever takes your fancy: cheese; gin miniatures; fruit; Lego; bath bombs, you name it. We also love the idea of slipping in a few IOUs if you want to incorporate experiences into the Christmas countdown.  

red hosue advent calendar from not on the highstreet

(Image credit: Not On The Highstreet)

12. Make sure your Christmas lights are LEDs 

An easy change that everyone can make this Christmas is ensuring your Christmas lights are LEDs and, if they're not, switching them to lights that are. It'll make no difference to your experience of Christmas, but a huge difference to the amount of energy used during the festive season. 

LED lights use an average of 75 per cent less energy and can last up to 25 times longer, meaning you'll save both energy (and money from your pocket).

Lights 4 Fun is a one-stop-shop for picking up LED lights this Christmas.

christmas tree with fairy lights by lights 4 fun

(Image credit: Lights 4 Fun)

13. Have a go at making a Christmas wreath

Ditch the plastic wreaths in exchange for the real thing as they're cheaper and much better for the environment. Picking up fallen sprigs of winter greenery from your garden or local park (with permission) – holly, pine and eucalyptus are great examples – doesn't cost a penny and makes for a fun (and festive) afternoon.

Once you have your greenery, take a look at our guide to making your own wreath, it'll talk you through the process step-by-step.

christmas wreath from getty images

(Image credit: Getty Images)

14. Opt for organic, whatever your tipple of choice

A switch that's easier to stomach than most, opting for organic alcohol not only reduces the impact of fertilisers and pesticides on the environment, but also (apparently) leaves drinkers with less of a hangover than non-organic options. What's not to love?

Try Waitrose & Partners for a great selection of organic wine, beer and prosecco. Gin lover? Fortnum & Mason have options for you...

organic ]gin from fortnum and mason

(Image credit: Fortnum & Mason)

15. Choose gifts that are designed to last

If you're giving physical gifts this Christmas, make sure they're designed to last and won't end up on the landfill in a month or a year's time.

Buy Me Once is a handy shopping platform that curates products designed to last a  lifetime – this can be through lifetime guarantees, the option for repair, great quality design or all of the above.

Shop everything from clothing and homeware to beauty bits and gifts for kids, safe in knowledge that you're buying quality over quantity. 

Looking for more eco-friendly Christmas tips? Or ideas for getting ready for the festive season?