‘Tis the season to be jolly environmentally friendly, Fa la la la la la la la la…. 

We’ve got a real Christmas cracker for you this year – we’ve put together the curious.earth Complete Guide to Sustainable Celebrations! We’re covering everything from green gifts, to festive food, to responsible wrapping (and much more!) so read on to find out how to make this Christmas green! 

Green gifting! 

Ask people for gift lists so you can be sure to get them something they want! If you have a large family or group of friends, why not try a secret santa? This is a great way to save some pennies and still gift someone what they really want – instead of spending £10 each on 10 different people (nobody needs another hand cream / novelty mug / cheap candle), you can spend £50 on a special gift for one person – it’s a win-win! Even better if you specify in the rules that the gift should be an eco one! 

Give experiences like concert or theatre tickets, a day out, a cinema voucher, or a spa day rather than gifting people more ‘stuff’ that they probably don’t need. Membership to an organisation like the National Trust, RSPB, or English Heritage is a lovely gift that will last the entire year. This might sound expensive, but it doesn’t have to be – the experience could be you organising a picnic and walk in the woods, or a home movie night with popcorn and snacks – the best experience is often just being able to spend time together.

Make homemade gifts – if you’re crafty then a hand-knitted scarf, or a homemade pair of pyjamas makes a beautiful gift. Or if you’re handy in the kitchen, how about a batch of homemade gingerbread or chocolate truffles? Whatever it is, the fact that you spent time on it will make the gift extra special. 

Buy second-hand or preloved gifts. You can shop in your local charity shop or thrift store, try vintage shops, or head online. A lot of charity shops have online stores on sites such as eBay and Depop. Facebook marketplace is also a great source for second-hand shopping, and there are even Facebook groups dedicated to swapping items for free so check out your local pages. 

If you do buy new, try to shop small and local. Avoid big online stores (we’re looking at you, Amazon) and instead support local independent businesses. 

Tree-mendous trees!

The most sustainable option for your Christmas tree is to buy a real locally-grown tree with its roots so you can plant it to keep and reuse each year. You can keep it planted in a pot to make it easy to bring in and out each year, or plant it in the ground if you have a garden. If you don’t have space to keep a tree (or maybe you’re just not very green-fingered!), there are some growers who rent out real trees – you return the tree to them after Christmas to be replanted. Once the trees get too big they are retired to the forest! 

Fake trees are made of plastic and cannot be recycled. If a real tree isn’t an option for you for any reason, then try and source an artificial one second-hand and keep it for as long as you can. You would need to use a fake tree for around a decade to offset its carbon footprint and make it a more sustainable option than a real tree. 

And lastly, if you do have a real tree which you can’t plant or keep, remember to compost it after Christmas. Many local authorities have a dedicated collection in the New Year so that trees can be shredded and composted. 

Eat, drink, and be merry!

One of the most important actions you can take to reduce your personal carbon footprint is to go vegan – animal agriculture is having a devastating impact on our planet. Why not try a vegan Christmas dinner this year? There are tonnes of alternative options available in the supermarkets or you can make your own feast with loads of recipes online. Or if you can’t quite bring yourself to give up the turkey, try and cut down on meat and dairy in other ways- vegan mince pie anyone?! 

Try and buy food that is locally grown, seasonal, and organic if possible. There are lots of yummy fruit and vegetables in season right now like celeriac, beetroot and even figs, as well as of course those Christmas essentials: parsnips, chestnuts and brussels sprouts! And don’t forget the seasonal treats – try and buy Fairtrade organic chocolates from an ethical manufacturer. 

Festive Fashion Fun!

Resist the temptation to rush out and buy a new Christmas jumper or sparkly party outfit for every event, instead be a proud outfit repeater! Rewear a look from last year, try mixing up different accessories to make it feel fresh. And remember, that ugly Santa sweater is for life, not just for Christmas!

If you do want to shop for a new look, check out second-hand options first – go hunting at your local thrift shop, vintage store, or check out online marketplaces like Depop and Vinted. Many charities also have online stores, including Save The Children who have a dedicated Christmas jumper site

Another great option for party outfits is to try renting. We’re all guilty of buying a fabulous sequinned dress which we wear once then leave it hidden at the back of the wardrobe, instead renting gives you the chance to wear something new-to-you without the expense and eco-guilt of buying a new item. You can even rent shoes and handbags to freshen up last year’s look! 

Deck the halls!

We know it can be tempting to buy new decorations each year, especially when the stores are full of glittering displays and twinkling lights, but think about reusing your decorations – why not collect special ones to use year after year?

Even better, try your hand at making homemade decorations instead of buying plastic tinsel and baubles. You can make beautiful paper chains, origami stars, and paper cut snowflakes. Or if you’re handy with a needle and thread, how about sewing some decorations (or knitting, crocheting, or even macrame!) – there are thousands of free patterns and ideas online. 

Another option is to bring the outdoors in with natural decorations. You can use seasonal foliage like pine sprigs, holly, and mistletoe along with beautiful natural baubles made from berries, dried orange slices, or clove-studded oranges to make a wreath for your door, a garland for the fireplace, or table decorations. Even better, they bring the scent of Christmas into your home! Just remember, if you are foraging only take what you need and leave plenty for the wildlife.

Waste not, want not!

Christmas can be an incredibly wasteful time of year, but it doesn’t have to be. Preparing and shopping responsibly and reusing where possible can save money and help the planet. 

Make sure you plan your shopping and spending, especially when it comes to food. Make a menu plan and grocery shopping list and stick to it! It can be easy to over-shop at this time of year, especially when the supermarkets are crammed with delicious treats and special offers, but stop and think about whether you really need *another* block of Stilton! If you do over-buy, make sure to use up leftover food – you can find recipes online, freeze leftovers for a later date, or use up veg to make a tasty soup. 

Use reusable fabric gift wrap or gift bags instead of disposable wrapping paper. You can even make it a part of the gift – use a scarf, a tote bag, or a pretty storage tin to pack your presents (you can often find cute vintage tins and storage boxes in charity shops!). 

Crackers, as we all know, are an essential part of Christmas day! But sadly, they are very wasteful, generally full of plastic rubbish (do any of us really need a tiny spinning top, a whistle that doesn’t work, or yet another fortune-telling fish?!). How about making your own instead? You can make fully reusable fabric ones, or use a ‘fill-your-own’ kit and fill them with whatever you want (and keep the paper crowns and bad jokes to use again each year!). 

To save energy, if you are replacing old Christmas lights make sure you buy LED ones for use indoors and solar powered ones for outside, and recycle old ones correctly. There are other ways to reduce your energy bill at Christmas – having a house full of friends and family, and probably using your oven a lot should mean you can get away with turning the heating down a degree or two, and don’t forget the basics like turning lights and electronics off when you’re not using them. Check out the Carbon Trust and Energy Saving Trust for more energy-saving advice. 

And finally, Christmas is a time for giving and for receiving and that can sometimes mean receiving a less-than-ideal gift! If you do get given something you don’t want or need, donate it to charity after the holiday rather than binning it. You can also donate any unwanted decorations, even artificial trees, and clothes. Reuse, reuse, reuse! 

Joy to the world

Wooden Christmas decoration that says 'Joy' hanging on a tree
Photo by Lorena Schmidt on Unsplash

As well as the planet, don’t forget to look after yourself and others this Christmas.

Christmas can be an overwhelming time, with pressure to make everything ‘perfect’. But remember, the important thing is just to do whatever brings you joy – whether that looks like celebrating with family and friends, or enjoying some peace and quiet on your own. Whether you choose to spend time outdoors in nature, party every night in the pub, or just hibernate on the sofa, celebrate Christmas the way that works for you. 

Of course, if you can, it’s also a great time to make a donation to charity or volunteer your time to a good cause, and share the joy and love. This could be something as simple as buying some charity Christmas cards, making a donation to a food bank, or giving a charity present (sponsoring an animal is a great gift for a child!). It might also look like volunteering at your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen, or committing to start being more active for a cause – the climate fight needs us all, and there is never a better time than now to join!

Be curious! 

Read more on how to have a very merry green Christmas in our archives…

Read about the festivals of Saturnalia and Yule, which gave us many of the Christmas traditions we follow today – before capitalism got its hands on the festive season! 

Give back this Christmas by supporting one of these important causes:

  • Get involved with your local climate group.
  • Plant or dedicate a tree with the National Trust, Trees for Life, or the Woodland Trust.  
  • Volunteer with Crisis and Shelter who both offer invaluable support to the homeless. 
  • Donate to or volunteer with your local food bank.
  • If you can, support the charity of your choice this season by setting up a recurring monthly donation. This allows charities to plan ahead and fund more projects – even just £1 or £2 a month can make a real difference. 

Merry Christmas!

Feature image by Tyler Delgado on Unsplash