…With no plastic or junk in sight… It’s that time of year where we just want to curl up in front of fireplaces, drink mulled cider and overindulge in everything we can find.
To save the day and ourselves from carrying on our previous waste-filled indulgences from Christmas’ gone by, the amazing Laura aka Less Waste Laura has joined up with Society Zero, just in time to write a guide Santa better take heed of.
The time for a Sustainable Christmas has arrived
Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in our calendar year in the UK. However, with black Friday, the boxing day sales and season of indulgence, it is hard to see past the consumer madness to the festivities. Hopefully this blog will give you an idea of the many ways you can cut your waste and have a sustainable Christmas.
When I think of Christmas waste, I think of getting a rubbish cracker prize, multiple bin bags of wrapping paper, and of course the ridiculous amounts of plastic packaging everything seems to come in (and is indestructible!).
This year I’ve made it my mission to limit this waste but sacrifice nothing about this magical day. I started thinking chronologically, what you do in order on the run up to the big day, and then went through a classic Christmas day itinerary. So, here we go…my top tips for a plastic free, sustainable Christmas.
Gift giving – the zero waste way
Firstly, buying your gifts. In the UK we spend approximately £700 million on unwanted presents – what a waste! Hopefully my list will show you the different ideas to get people what they really want, keep it sustainable, and even give back to some great charities!
Probably the thing you do first, and those of us who are prepared may have been stocking up on things for our loved ones throughout the year. The underlying point, isn’t just limiting waste at Christmas, but primarily thinking about what is really necessary.
When is enough, enough? Especially buying gifts for our closest family we can often over buy! The youngest in our families are happy playing with the wrapping and don’t notice the pile of presents they get, and the oldest are more interested in the quality time this day brings. I want you to get thinking about what people value, and what the perfect gift might be.
This year, I’ve been looking for experiences and gifts which allow me more quality time with my friends and families, or things they can use over and over again. Ideas might be experiences or memberships to things. One of the best gifts I received for a birthday was a membership to the National Trust. It’s been so useful and I’ve used it loads, it just keeps going – and it was a very reasonable price! Think about Netflix, Spotify, Gym Memberships, Sky Movies, cinema passes and so many more! These are great for older kids and teens too!
Support your local economy and makers
Second to buying experiences/activities, try and think about buying plastic free local gifts. Instead of going to a big brand beauty shop and getting a pre-made gift set, can you find a local business? Is there a local soap maker, beauty shop or brand which you can find? Walking the streets of my new city I found the most gorgeous little natural plastic free beauty shop which just shows that these places exist!
We need to also think about the wrapping. Some great alternatives are using recyclable brown paper or newspaper and sprucing up with your own designs! Get kids involved doodling on the paper too! Think about using string and natural twine for holding it all together. One of the other alternatives is reusable options, big sacks which could be personalised and used every year (saves individually wrapping everything) or going along the lines of the Japanese style using fabric (furoshiki) to wrap and this can be used again and again.
Almost every year you’ll pull out your old decorations and something will have broken or needs replaced, or even you just get tired of the design. Why not look for plastic free sustainable alternatives? Some of the things I’ve been exploring, have involved natural alternatives which will make durable and sustainable decorations.
Simple things like taking citrus fruits and drying them, adding spices and sprigs of trees to make the festive looking make great baubles. Just like pine cones with some eco glitter and a little tealight on the top make great candle holders, or also baubles. Think about making a wreath out of all-natural things you find out and about, or go look in a local garden centre.
There are endless possibilities for sprucing up your home this Christmas! This year I found Danisa Designs on Instagram who makes beautiful handmade home decorations and cards. This has opened me up to all the possibilities out there to avoid plastic when making my little flat festive! Etsy is a great resource if you’re avoiding the DIY look and want some beautiful handcrafted goods and to support small businesses.
If you are getting a real Christmas tree, make sure it is one approved by the FCS Commission or the Soil Association – this ensures its sustainability. Sometimes you can get a tree with potted roots which means that year on year you can plant it back into your garden until you need it next. If you don’t have this option make sure you recycle your tree afterwards for composting or paving – there are 8 million trees sold every year in the UK so it is important we dispose of these responsibly.
Small changes making an effective eco christmas
When you’re looking at the smaller changes which will still make a difference. Getting or making a reusable advent calendar. There are lots of wooden or fabric options out there, and it means you can fill it with whatever you like and personalise to your family. You can often pick one up from charity shops or use up the odd socks in the house to make your own and hang them from pegs.
Make your own crackers from old toilet roll holders, some brown paper, a snapper and adding in whatever gift you think! Again, you can design the outside however you like, and you can personalise the gift. No more rubbish small combs or packs of cards. Invest in some reusable batteries to avoid the disappointment when a new present can’t be used yet.
Feed me sustainable this Christmas
Moving onto the food. Preparation is key.
80% more food is purchased at this time of year, and that also leads to a lot of waste – so it’s important to make sure you’re buying exactly what you need and not wasting anything. Over 230,000 tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK alone…this is shocking!
If you’re cooking, think about what you actually need, and how can you get it packaging free? The potato and vegetable part should be easy enough with a planned trip to your local green grocer, farmers market or even supermarket. Then thinking about the pièce de résistance…your roast. So, for the meat lovers, try and organise with a local butcher to go pick it up in the biggest container you have, plastic free. For the nut lovers, think about making your own from scratch – avoiding pre-made ones which come in excess packaging. Many bulk stores have all the nuts and ingredients you need to make it up – so go for it.
Then all your little accompaniments need to be planned – This is probably the most annoying part. All those mince pies, pigs in blankets and sauces and dips. Just think – any rainy day between now and the 25th is a perfect opportunity to roll up your sleeves and do some Christmas prep.
Lots of the accompaniments can be made in advance and frozen, which means when the Christmas rush starts – you’ve got a freezer of hidden gems. One of my family’s flaws (sorry guys) is having a late Christmas day party involving multiple trays of Marks and Spencer’s pre-made nibbles…all in those nasty plastic trays. But, what can we make and change this tradition? This is something I will be focusing on hard this year, I want to make the meal as plastic free as possible.
The drinks are easy, swap your plastic bottles for glass and cans. Easy swaps like-for-like to more recyclable materials. Plus, who doesn’t love glass bottles of Shloer? At the end of everything, if you do have food scraps make sure to compost them, or save some vegetable scraps for making your own stock.
No more nightmare before, during or after Christmas
Making your Christmas plastic free really is just about preparation and a little more consideration for what it’s all about. Christmas has become a consumer nightmare, but we know how hard it is to break this cycle. This year just think less is more. More things to consider:
- Think of special gifts which not only mean something to the recipient but maybe support local businesses or charities which keep giving
- The volume of stuff which is only going to fill a space for the next year
- Seek out experience gifts which can be used over and over again
- Think about memories over possessions
Then think about the waste you create on the day and the lead up, how can you change this?
A little preparation is all that is needed. Everyone is busy, but really we want to move away from convenience at the expense of our planet. Getting friends and family involved in the food prep, making it more homemade, thinking about what can be done in advance and what can be left till the last minute. Explore your local options for plastic free purchases.
In case anyone is totally struggling for present ideas here are a few:
- Memberships and subscriptions
- Experiences (outdoor activities, arts and crafts, exercise, trips away)
- Charity donations (Toilet Twinning, sponsor an animal)
- Plastic free toiletries (soaps, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, hand cream bars, bath bombs, refillable makeup, biodegradable glitter, bamboo toothbrush, safety razors)
- House plants
- Kitchen stuff (beeswax wraps, coconut utensils, reusable straws)
- Gardening (seeds for them to grow in the new year)
- Charity shops (loads of kid’s toys, DVDs, board games, household appliances, kitchen utensils, clothes)
- Homemade baked goods
- Gift cards for their favourite shop
Lastly some top tips if you’re going away to visit friends or family this festive season. Remember to turn off any lights and switches, close your windows, turn off your heating and save that electricity. If you are travelling around can you make most of it by public transport? Christmas involves lots of functions, parties and visiting friends and family, so try and make that as low impact in terms of CO2 as possible.
Less Waste Laura
From Laura, Sophie, Kate and Anna:
We want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and look forward to seeing what everyone gets up to in the lead up to the big day! We hope you all have a day filled with laughter and joy, which will continue into the new year.
Already ahead of the game? Tag us in your eco Christmas preparations this year