Here's how to have a sustainable Christmas

Yes, you CAN sustainable Christmas pretty easily. Here's how to have a Christmas that won't cost the Earth

sustainable Christmas wrapping paper
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Christmas – a time of peace on earth and good will to all men (and women, obviously). Theoretically. In practice, though, for many of us, Christmas becomes a time of manic shopping, Gargantuan amounts of food and drink, and... a lingering sense of fatigue afterwards. It doesn't have to be this way, though. There are lots of ways to celebrate Christmas mindfully and sustainably – for the planet, your wallet, and your wellbeing. Here's how.

1. Choose sustainable Christmas gifts

What is a sustainable Christmas gift? There are lots of ways in which a gift can be sustainable, including:

  • Gifts made from sustainable and eco-friendly materials: think a gorgeous swimsuit made from recycled PET or an organic cotton scarf. See more ethical and eco-friendly Christmas gifts in our guide;
  • Gifts that don't require the use of batteries, because they are not sustainable for the environment;
  • Gifts that will last a long time, such as live plants. 

2. Opt for a real Christmas tree

Christmas trees in a garden centre

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It's true that the argument goes both ways: real trees are grown and cut down just for Christmas. And yet, on balance, real trees have been shown to be more sustainable. While in theory an artificial tree will last a long time, in practice people get bored of them and discard them: that's a lot of plastic going into the landfill, and a lot of resources (including oil) wasted while producing it. 

For more information, read our guide to choosing a Christmas tree

3. Avoid shiny wrapping paper

sustainable Christmas wrapping paper

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If it's shiny, it can't be recycled. That's because glossy or foil-like wrapping papers use a mixture of materials that can't be easily separated for recycling purposes. Choose brown paper wrap instead, and add colour with sustainably dyed paper labels. Use brown thread instead of shiny ribbons. Chic and natural. 

4. Choose energy-saving Christmas lighting

400 Warm White LED Cascading Christmas Lights by Hurn & Hurn

(Image credit: Hurn & Hurn)

Choose LED Christmas fairy lights (very common now, fortunately) – they use far less energy than traditional lights. Standard plug-in lights are more eco-friendly than battery operated. More Christmas fairy lights that are pretty and sustainable in our buyer's guide. 

5. Donate to charity

Christmas charity donation

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This can take on so many forms – and you can always find a charity that will be particularly close to your heart. These days, most charities will accept on-off online donations, but you can also donate stuff you already have: food for food banks, toiletries and beauty products to beauty banks, clothing, and even unwanted pet products to your local animal shelter. 

6. Go organic for your Christmas meal

Christmas turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce

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It's hard to over-estimate how much better organic food is for the environment, animal welfare, and our health, and what better time of year to try it out than during Christmas, when we all tend to eat more and are prepared to spend that little bit extra on nice stuff? Choose an organic turkey and organic vegetables to go with it – it will taste amazing, we promise.

Reduce food waste, too, with the help of our leftover turkey recipes

7. Make your own Christmas cards

Make your own Christmas cards

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Millions of Christmas cards are discarded shortly after Christmas every year, which is a huge waste of resources. Yes, commercially made Christmas card look lovely, but most people will also appreciate a handmade card. You will need some good cardboard (a delivery box will come in handy here), preferably with at least one smooth side. After that, you'll just require some crayons and your imagination. 

8. Reduce, reuse, recycle

When all the festivities are over, and you're feeling Christmassed-out and just want to move on, it can be tempting to just chuck everything in your general waste bin, including your Christmas tree. Resist these temptations and help the bin collectors who'll be working hard after Christmas, and the environment, by putting cardboard boxes in recycling and taking your tree to a designated recycling point. Do bear in mind that if you just leave your tree out outside your property/on the kerb, it will not get recycled.  

More Christmas reads:

Anna is Content Editor at Real Homes. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. At Real Homes, she covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.