Simple swaps and hacks to minimise the environmental impact of the festive season.

Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be the most wasteful. From the 300,000 tonnes of card used for our festive missives, to the 54 million plates of food that will end up in the bin – as a nation we waste 30% more stuff than usual during the holiday period. Here’s how you can bring that figure down, without scrimping on the Christmas spirit.


Christmas decorations are often laden with plastic, which takes a lot of energy to produce and is difficult to recycle. The most eco-conscious way to decorate your home, then, is to reuse the decorations you already have. But if that’s not possible:

  • Swap your decorations with friends and get a whole new look for free.
  • Buy card, wool or glass decorations that can be recycled.
  • Make your own using natural materials such as pine cones and holly.
  • Purchase good quality, durable LED Christmas lights that will stand the test of time – did you know that the UK throws away around 500 tonnes of Christmas lights every year?
  • Invest in a wooden-advent calendar with drawers for the kids. They can be reused every year and you can fill them with whatever treats you like – no more rubbish-tasting chocolate!

Cards and wrapping paper

  • Avoid Christmas cards that have glitter or other special embellishments on them – these can’t be recycled.
  • Choose cards that are already made from recycled materials.
  • Most wrapping paper can’t be recycled because of special coatings and inks, so opt for plain brown paper and add some festive cheer with colourful ribbons or your own designs.
  • Keep your favourite Christmas cards for next year, and then cut out designs and patterns to make your own gift tags.

READ MORE: 10 ways to save energy this Christmas


  • We all buy far too much food at Christmas, and a lot of it ends up in the bin. Consider how many guests you have coming and make a list of the items you actually need – and then stick to it. Don’t forget that with COVID restrictions this year we’ll all need less food in the house. Having a clear list will make doing the Christmas shop a lot less stressful, too.
  • Read up on a few recipes for Christmas leftovers ahead of time so you know what to do with your leftover meat and veg, and aren’t tempted to just scrape it all into the bin. Love Food Hate Waste has a great leftovers library.
  • Our fridges and freezers are chock-full at this time of year, which means they have to work overtime to keep everything cool. Free up some space by moving booze outside or into the garage.

Toys and packaging

  • Check out for a huge range of almost-new toys in great condition that are a lot cheaper than those bought in-store.
  • Toys made from natural materials, such as wood, are far better than those made from plastic.
  • Always remove the plastic window from toy packaging before you put the cardboard into the recycling.
  • Save sturdier card and boxes for arts and crafts activities or fancy dress emergencies.
  • Wire ties can be reused in the garden, or to secure bags of frozen food.
  • For toys that rely on batteries, invest in a set of rechargeables which can be used over and over again.

The bottom line

While it’s true that the festive period is associated with excess, staying mindful of your waste doesn’t mean putting a stop to celebrations altogether. By making informed choices and simple swaps you can make the very most of the holiday without putting any extra strain on the planet or your pocket.

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