How to have an eco-friendly Christmas

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Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but not always the most eco-friendly. Thankfully there are lots of ways you can have yourself an eco little Christmas without losing that festive magic.

It's thought that every Christmas the amount of waste produced in the UK increases by 30%. Overeating, gift-giving, cracker-pulling, tree-decorating: they're all part and parcel of the festivities and it's easy to go overboard. The good news is, if you’re concerned about your carbon footprint and impact on the environment, cutting down on your consumption and celebrating sustainably is easier than you might think.

A woman laying out brown paper wrapping next to a cup of coffee on a table

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1.  Rethink your wrapping

Forget the glitter (a nasty microplastic) and shiny, plastic-coated wrapping paper – brown paper and string is a classic, biodegradable way to wrap presents and can be popped in the recycling. You could even wrap with old fabric scraps bought from craft shops or snipped from clothes you don't want anymore.

Don't forget about your own presents either – why not save the wrapping paper and ribbons? It’s estimated that Brits will throw away the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper, so save some from the bin and save yourself a bit of money next year, too.

An open sign in the window of a shop

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2. Give sustainably

It's easy to get carried away with Christmas presents - seeing the look of joy on a loved ones face when they open their gifts is one of the best bits of the festive season. But you don't have to spend lots of money or buy piles of presents to make someone's Christmas morning.

You could regift something you know they'd love but is otherwise gathering dust in your house, or buy something pre-loved with a story to tell. Charity and antiques shops are full of hidden gems.

You could support a charity close to your loved ones heart by treating them to something from the online shop or making a donation in their name. Then there are the wonderful independent retailers who lovingly craft unique gifts and need all the support they can get. A lot of independents also donate a portion of their proceeds to charity, so as well as treating friends and family you’ll be giving back to a very worthy cause.

Close-up of fairy lights in Christmas tree branches

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3. Green your Christmas tree

There's some debate about whether a real Christmas tree or artificial Christmas tree is the most eco-friendly choice, and each has its own benefits. Artificial trees can be used for years and years, so if you already have one, keep on using it each year. If you don't have a tree yet you could buy a pre-loved one, or look after a real tree which you reuse and watch grow year after year. If you want to buy a mature real tree, try and source one locally to reduce its carbon footprint.

Did you know that once the Christmas season is over, you can bring your real trees to us to be given a new lease of life as a flood defence? Every year we bury your real trees in the Fylde sand dunes to expand the dune system, which acts as a soft sea defence and creates new homes for wildlife.

Woman sitting and knitting with purple thread

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4. Make, bake and create

If there was ever a time to get crafty, it's Christmas. As well as being heaps of fun, avoiding mass-produced gifts and decorations is better for the planet, could save you some pennies and means you pour your love into your efforts.

Why not try knitting, sewing or even needle felting some decorations for your tree? Salt dough is also a great medium for delightful decs - here's an easy-peasy guide to crafting with salt dough.

Christmas crackers are quite fun to pull, but do you really need them? Most of the plastic freebies go straight in the bin and you can easily make Christmas hats yourself. Grab some flexible card, cut out your hats and decorate them according to the things each guest loves the most.

The real fun starts when it comes to crafty Christmas gifts as there are so many options and online tutorials. You could knit someone a stuffed fox or bake some lemon shortbread. You could whip up some delicious jam with sustainably foraged berries or make sloe gin. You could even forgo presents altogether for a specially planned day of family activities, films and a Jacob's join.

Eco-friendly bottles and products in The Nest gift shop at Brockholes

5. Visit the Brockholes gift shop

From locally-brewed beers and sustainable scented candles to wildlife-themed stationary and an array of nature books, there is a Christmas treat for everyone at The Nest gift shop. With all sales going back into conservation on the reserve, where brown hares bound, kingfishers dive and barn owls hunt, what’s not to love?

Freshly-picked carrots and kale

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6. Buy local produce for Christmas dinner

If you can, why not swap some of your supermarket buys for local, organic produce? Find a farm shop or even go straight to the farm for beautifully fresh, sustainably produced food with a much lower carbon footprint. It’s also worth getting your planning head on and properly estimating how much food you’ll need over Christmas. It’s thought that an estimated two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings and over 74 million mince pies go to waste each Christmas in the UK alone. Make use of those leftovers!

Piles of old books in an antique book shop

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7. Switch up Secret Santa

Have you ever been given a Secret Santa gift you've never used or ended up throwing in the bin? It's a fun way to end the working year, but Secret Santa has a novelty-factor that often ends in waste.

Instead of setting a price limit and leaving it at that, why not switch up proceedings and celebrate the joy of second-hand by proposing a book swap or charity shop challenge?

A hedgehog walking through fallen autumn leaves

Tom Marshall

8. Give the gift of wildlife

Why not buy the wildlife-lover in your life a gift membership? Not only will they receive a lovely welcome pack and exclusive membership magazines throughout the year, they’ll get that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from giving back to the wildlife on their doorstep. Our conservation work depends on generous supporters like you, and thanks to your Christmas contribution, local wildlife will blossom.

With just a few small changes, you can enjoy a Christmas that is better for the environment and still chock-full of Christmas cheer. And when it comes to the New Year? Take a look at our Green Living tips and see how you can make a difference throughout the year.

Advice for greener living