Seven secrets to having an eco-friendly Christmas

Have yourself a Merry 'eco-friendly' Christmas and do your bit for the environment this festive season. Just follow our simple tips on everything from buying presents to reducing food waste and get the whole family involved too!

Seven secrets to having an eco-friendly Christmas

Have a Merry ‘Green’ Christmas

Christmas is nearly here and with it, the inevitable avalanche of (unwanted) gifts, glittery wrapping paper, endless crafts and more festive snacks than we can possibly eat! In 2021 and in the aftermath of the COP26 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) so many of us are rethinking our lifestyles and our impact on the planet. We all want to enjoy Christmas, but in a more mindful way.

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It’s fair to say we all need some festive cheer and nice gifts more than ever this year after all the Covid restrictions from last year, but there are ways to enjoy all the festivities and be less harmful to the environment in the process. Something we think all young children will approve of.

A good start to is buy better and give less gifts. This year we have stuck to the 4-present rule in our annual gift guide Junior’s Family Christmas Gift Guide 2021 and you may like our Junior Christmas Heirloom and Keepsakes Gift Guide Special for gifts that last way past Boxing Day. Our Best Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts for all the Family is also packed with ideas.

But, having an eco or more mindful Christmas goes beyond just the gift giving, so we have compiled a list of 7 top tips that will make your Christmas lower in carbon footprint without going lower on glamour.

Seven secrets to having an eco-friendly Christmas

Bags are for Life (not just for Christmas)

Don’t forget to pack that stash of old carrier bags or bags for life when you go Christmas present shopping. We’re well practiced at taking them food shopping but they’re a must for gift buying too. Less plastic in the system and they won’t go soggy in the rain!

Christmas Cards & Stamps

If you want to send traditional paper Christmas cards, as opposed to e-cards, make sure they are made from recycled paper. Charity shops are a great place to find ethically produced cards. Remember to recycle Christmas cards that you receive too as most cards are paper based and can be recycled, along with their envelopes, either in your household recycling collection or at local recycling points. Some supermarkets offer a card recycling point.

ECO CHRISTMAS TIP: Remember to remove any embellishments such as ribbons, strings and glitter. Batteries should also be removed from musical cards and disposed of at battery recycling points too.

You can recycle stamps too. Used stamps can be recycled with paper if they are still attached to envelopes. Or, cut them out, leaving a 5mm margin around them, then pop them in a bag and take them to your local charity shop. Most charities collect used stamps – search online using the term “recycling stamps” to find out where you can take or send your stamps as they often sell the stamps to dealers (per kilo) and use the money to fund other projects.

Wrapping Skills

Resist the temptation to tear open your presents on Christmas morning, carefully removing the wrapping paper instead – easier said than done with small children we know! That way you’ll be able to reuse it, whether for wrapping next year’s presents, making decorations or covering books. Try to wrap gifts using recycled wrapping paper, brown paper or even newspaper sheets – the salmon-pink paper from the Financial Times always looks chic tied up with some black ribbon.

ECO CHRISTMAS TIP: To recycle wrapping paper, remove any sticky tape and decorations such as ribbons and bows as these cannot be recycled – and do the ‘scrunch test’ – if it screws up it can be recycled, foil or glitter-decorated paper cannot and need to go in the general waste.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

‘Real’ trees are recyclable and can be shredded into chippings, which are then used locally in parks or woodland areas. Local authorities often arrange drop-off points or special collections of ‘real’ trees in early January check your local authority website for more information. Remember to remove all tinsel and decorations and any pots or stands.

Artificial trees are made from a combination of materials and therefore cannot be recycled. Unwanted trees in good condition may be accepted by charity shops for re-sale and re-use.

Decorations, tinsel and baubles need to be disposed of carefully in the general waste. Other items such as lights (at household waste recycling centres) and wreaths can be recycled too.

It’s Cold Outside

Rather than automatically turning up the central heating when the house gets a bit chilly over the Christmas holidays, why not slip on that rather fetching woolly jumper that your great aunt Ethel gave you? Or, have a handy supply of beautiful cashmere and chunky knit blankets rolled up in a wicker basket. Much more tempting and cosy too.

Festive Left-Overs

Want to do wonders for your garden? Then don’t throw away all the food scraps in the bin that haven’t made it to your food caddy bin. Use them to create a compost heap instead and watch your leftovers grow. Remember you cannot compost cooked food, fish, meat or dairy products but foods that can be used for compost include:

  • Fruit and vegetable peelings, seeds and cores
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee grounds and filter papers
  • Paper towels or tissues (not if they have touched meat)
  • Egg shells

To re-gift or not to re-gift?

Gift buying and receiving can be a tricky business, but just remember one person’s junk is another person’s treasure, so take any unwanted presents to the charity shop for others to enjoy or donate to the school PTA for the next school fair or re-gift!

Duplicate gifts, unwanted or unsuitable gifts are ideal for last minute children’s birthday presents, unexpected house guests and last-minute house warming gifts.

ECO CHRISTMAS TIP: In order to re-gift successfully you need to keep a list of who and what was received from whom – so you don’t give the gift back to them!

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>> For up-to-date recycling information visit Recycle Now