Kate on Conservation

7 simple ways to have an eco-friendly Christmas


It’s easy to get caught up in the shimmer and sparkle of Christmas — and who can blame any of us for indulging in some festive cheer after the last few months? But Christmas preparations needn’t cost the Earth (and I mean that in the most literal way). I’m sure there are plenty of ways to have a more eco-friendly Christmas, but here are a few of my favourite and most easily achieved for starters…

Reused or repurposed wrapping paper

Gosh, surely wrapping paper is one of the worst forms of single-use paper wastage? There’s an easy way round that though — don’t chuck it out!

I remember childhood Christmas’ where I would watch my grandmother painstakingly remove the sticky tape from the edges of her gifts, carefully unfold the paper from the present, then re-fold it into a neat rectangle and place it preciously into her dressing gown pocket before even taking a proper look at what she’d just unwrapped…

Nowadays, I’ve inherited that style entirely. And yes, the neatly folded gift wrap from presents received will be re-used again next year!

Wrapping paper saved for reuse

If, unlike me, you haven’t yet acquired a stack of wrapping paper for reuse as plentiful as the plastic bag pile stuffed into many a kitchen drawer across the country, then I would highly recommend repurposing: old newspapers, out-dated road maps, magazine pages, used colouring book pages* all make for kooky and creative wrapping paper alternatives. The more tailored and personal to the gift-receiver, the better.

*(I know you hear me on this fellow parents; a great way to give those completed and otherwise now-useless colouring books a second life, while greatly pleasing grandparents who admire the artistic flare of their young relations).

Homemade gift tags

I can never quite believe it when I see plastic-wrapped bundles of gift tags hanging up in stores. There really is no need.

If writing in pen directly onto your wrapped gift simply will not suffice, or adding an extra strip of wrapping paper on top with your message on the reverse side in an impossibility; then it’s time to get crafty.

Growing up, my mum always kept the previous year’s Christmas cards, so that we could cut up the front image the following year, and turn it into a festive-themed gift tag.

Whilst I’ll be doing the same again this year, I must admit, I’ve widened my scope, and also extend homemade tags to birthdays, Mother’s Day and pretty much any other gift-giving occasion; so nowadays I see a gift tag in any decent piece of discarded card. Perfume bottles, food packaging, cereal boxes, you name it!

Eco-friendly Christmas tree ornaments

Although many of us use the same Christmas tree ornaments year after year, the shops always seem to be full of brightly packaged boxed sets and and overpriced single pieces — begging the question: do people really throwaway their tree ornaments at the end of the festive period?

I understand the odd broken bauble here and there; but annual overhauls and meticulous colour scheme changes seem worryingly wasteful to me.

If, like me, you are a little on the sentimental side however, and want to mark the year in Christmas’ to come (in my case, it’s the first year my 3-year-old has been able to actively decorate the tree with us, and that feels rather special) — homemade salt dough decorations are tons of fun and plastic-free.

A salt dough decoration, made by my 3-year-old

Salt dough decorations are super easy to make, and can be painted or decorated in whichever personalised way you choose.

There are a number of simple salt dough recipes available online, but I found this one from Messy Little Monster blog pretty straightforward and easy to use.

Recycled room decs

This brings back fond memories of making paper chains at school to brighten the classrooms and indulge in the festive spirit (and of course it would mean the end of term was nearing and the Christmas holidays were in sight!).

I’ve found this to be a fun activity with my children and a great way to re-use cardboard cereal and food packaging, which is helpfully adorned with Christmasy patterns and winter edition designs at the moment. Winning all round!

Reusable Advent calendar

Ok, so a week into December it may be a bit late to start on this one; but if you’re the thrifty type, now is a great time to pick up reusable advent calendars at discounted prices to put away until next year.

Around this time last year I picked up this beautiful star-shaped advent calendar secondhand (apparently it used to house perfumes) and this year it’s been put to good use offering daily wooden toys and treats to my 20-month-old son.

What’s more, this will definitely be reused year after year for all manner of toys and treats through the ages and stages of childhood — and beyond.

I’ve seen a number of these available online; on sites such as eBay and Etsy, and they often appear in garden centres and charity shops as official ranges this time of year.

I definitely think they’re worth the investment over throw away calendars with plastic chocolate trays (in fact, I’ll be picking up another one for our family this year too!).

DIY eco-friendly Christmas crackers

A couple of years ago I read that 154,000,000 pieces of plastic tat from crackers will end up in landfill or our oceans each year from the UK alone. That’s absolutely crazy!

Since reading that statistic, my family (led by lovely mother) have made the switch to homemade crackers.

Previously, we used an online step-by-step guide from thoroughlymoderngrandma.com, but this year we were able to find some make your own / fill your own cracker sets at The Works for just £3.

The great thing about homemade crackers is that you get to go personalised with the gifts inside — meaning they can actually be useful! Wooden toys, beaded jewellery, twig pencils, etc. will be finding their way into the centre of our eco-friendly Christmas crackers.

Homemade candles

My newest eco-project is to make homemade vegan, non-toxic candles in re-used tins. These ones use vegetable wax and 100% cotton threads for wick (plaited and dipped in vegetable oil to help them burn brighter).

Ok, so they may not be the prettiest to look at, but they’re working for me (obviously I still need to cut the wick on the red one; but how else was I supposed to demonstrate their homemade-ness?!).

I found a number of good resources online for making non-toxic candles — something I’ve become more passionate about since learning that most shop-bought candles contain paraffin wax (unless otherwise stated) that pollutes indoor air with carcinogens such as benzene and toluene, also found in the exhausts of diesel engines!

Perhaps even more shockingly, certain candle wicks are made using heavy metals such as lead; pollutants which are also emitted upon burning.

Homemade candles definitely take the most planning and investment in resources of anything on this list, but just the idea of what we may otherwise be allowing into our air space in this year of face masks and Covid coughs is certainly enough to make it worth it.

Veganfoodandliving.com is a great place to find a full guide to vegan, non-toxic candle making.

Have a happy eco-friendly Christmas! Here’s to a more hopeful 2021.

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