25 Sustainable Christmas Tips

25 Sustainable Christmas Tips

The most wonderful time of year is also the most wasteful time of year. Each December we stock up on more goodies than we could ever possibly need, and come January, most are in the bin. It’s not sustainable and it’s definitely not necessary. But the good news is that it’s really easy for it to not be this way, with just a tiny bit of thought beforehand.

So we present to you: Our Bradvent Calendar! 25 tips and tricks to help you make your holiday season as sustainable as it can be. From food to fashion to fighting burnout, it’s all in here. Grab a cuppa and have a read…

By Vlada Karpovich via Pexels

1 A tree is for life…

If you’ve got an artificial tree – keep a hold of it. For as long as you can. As a society, we’ve all become far too accustomed to chucking stuff out once we’re done with it. But that plastic tree will last for YEARS [which is great news in your home, terrible news in landfill]. In fact it takes about 10 years of reusing an artificial tree to make up for the 40kg of carbon emissions it made during its production. 

If you prefer the fresh pine scent and texture of a real tree, there are some sustainable options there too. Did you know that renting a tree for the festive season is a thing? Now you do. This is a great way to ensure that the tree was locally grown AND it’ll be popped back to keep doing its thing until next year. Which also means you don’t need to worry about disposing of it afterwards. 

2 Preloved & Reloved

Everybody’s favourite; christmas jumpers. They’ve seen a massive surge in popularity over the last few years, particularly since Save The Children launched their ‘Christmas Jumper Day’ initiative back in 2012. Festive fashion comes with some downsides though. It’s estimated that there are 65 million xmas knits hiding in UK wardrobes from previous years. And yet 1 in 3 people are still buying new ones each year. 2 out of 5 jumpers are only worn twice over the holiday period. With most made of synthetic fabrics [plus lots of glitter and tinsel] they’re a non-biodegradable nightmare when they end up in landfill. Not to mention fast fashion brands jumping on the trend.

There’s a brilliantly simple solution though; choose secondhand! Or rewear what you have! Choosing either of these options cuts the cost, emissions and demand that come with manufacturing new ones. If last years’ knit isn’t doing it for you anymore, you can donate or swap it to free up your wardrobe for a replacement. Good garms should never go in the bin, even seasonal ones.  

3 Wrap it right

You hear the word ‘paper’ and you think ‘recyclable’ right? Unfortunately, that goes out the window when it comes to wrapping paper. Whether it’s sparkly, glossy, glittery or shiny… a staggering amount of this stuff just can’t be recycled. 

A quick way to find out which bin to pop it in is The Scrunch Test. If you ball it up and it stays tightly scrunched = you can go ahead and recycle that, it’s proper paper. If it starts to unfold itself or won’t squash down properly = it’s been treated or laminated and needs to go in the regular bin. Obviously, you don’t have any say in what the gifts you receive come wrapped in BUT you can wrap yours sustainably.

Look out for wrapping paper that tells you it can be recycled, or simply use a greener alternative Brown paper is a great option [and it looks proper fancy]. Or if you’re feeling creative, you can use fabric – more on that later…

By Joran Quinten via Unsplash

4 Upcycle your decs

It’s a no-brainer, and yet every year, the vast majority of us end up buying more decorations… just because we can. Reusing previous year’s baubles is such an easy sustainable choice that it’s a mystery why we don’t all do it. Maybe the lure of the shiny trinkets in shops is too powerful? 

By re-using tinsel, lights and other ornaments, you can help avoid the 12,500 tonnes of decorations that get chucked annually in the UK. That’s estimated to be around £1.2 million’s worth headed to landfill. 

If new decs really are a need-not-want this year, look for greener options. Quality items will last you for many years to come so consider them strong investments if you can afford to spend a little extra. Alternatively, natural materials are guaranteed to biodegrade when you do end up parting ways with them. Charity shops are a gold mine for great – and often unusual – ornaments, as are antique shops. Know someone who’s tired of their decor too? Swap em! If you’re feeling crafty, it’s easy to paint/spray/decorate what you’ve already got to give it a new lease of life.

5 Sustainable Santa

Christmas is pricey, even at the best of times. And during a cost of living crisis, it’s an especially tight time of year for just about everybody. But buying masses of presents isn’t always necessary. If you’re already familiar with Secret Santa, you can skip the next little bit, but if you’re not…

Everybody puts their names in a hat, picks out somebody else’s and buys that person a gift. There’s usually a price limit too. Gifts are then anonymously exchanged!

It’s most commonly associated with work and the office christmas party but there’s no need for it to stop there. Getting the family together to organise this system will cut down on everybody’s spending and, let’s be honest, you never know what to buy for half of them anyway. Deciding on a price range not only helps keep costs reasonable, it ensures nobody’s going to feel upstaged or like they should have spent more. Not to mention you can put some real thought into 1 gift rather than 30. 

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6 Shop small, shop sustainable

Your local highstreet needs some love right now, and what better way than to do your Christmas shopping there. From artisanal foods, to houseplants, to handmade toys, to vintage clothes [hello!] Independent businesses in your area have you covered. If you’re not familiar with what your city has to offer, get on google to find out where you can go exploring; you won’t be disappointed.

If you can’t quite make your mind up about what to buy from one of these lovely shops, see if gift vouchers or subscription boxes are available. Plenty of small businesses are geared up specifically for gifting at this time of year.

7 Glitter = Litter?

Oh the glitter… We love it, but it’s as damaging as it is messy. At the end of the day – glitter is just another microplastic. And we all know the planet needs as few of those as possible. All those teeny tiny sparkles that get stuck in your carpet also get stuck in the eco-system, hanging around in soil and rivers without biodegrading. That’s not so pretty.

Good news is, there are greener alternatives! While the jury might still be out on a lot of ‘eco-glitters’, good old fashioned confetti is a tried and tested winner. You can find biodegradable confetti online made from paper or dried flowers and it comes in all kinds of colours, shapes and sizes. 

8 Fire & Fragrance

Is there anything better than lighting a few candles and having a cosy night in at this time of year? It gets even better when you have the right candles. Most are made of paraffin wax, which comes from non-renewable petroleum, so they’re not particularly environmentally sound. Instead, look out for eco-friendly and vegan options such as soy wax. These will also ensure that you’re keeping the air in your home clear of pollutants. Products made with natural fragrances are another way to ensure you’re not breathing in anything nasty.

For especially festive aromas, look out for; woody smells like pine or clove, spices like cinnamon or ginger, or tasty scents like vanilla or berries.

9 Preloved party fits

Have we mentioned slow fashion yet? Party season is the PERFECT time to hunt down a new [to you] look from your favourite vintage or charity shops. In fact estimates show that if we all wore a preloved outfit on christmas day, we’d cut CO2 emissions as much as taking 56 million cars off the road for a day. So what are you waiting for? Secondhand shops have got you covered for all things glitzy and glam this time of year.

[Now seems like a good time to remind you that you can find us on Pelham street in Nottingham 7 days a week. Or shop with us right here!]

By Monstera via Pexels

10 Quality > Novelty

Please… put down the novelty gifts. You know the ones; definitely plastic, definitely not getting used more than once and definitely being binned come boxing day. It can be hard to say no to the shiny, gimmicky, cheap stocking stuffers but it’s better if you do. As we’ve seen already, Christmas is a time of colossal waste. [Let’s be honest, that singing santa you got for your mate as a joke isn’t going to last long once it’s been opened]

If you really do fancy including some fun little bits in your gifts, go for items that can easily be recycled, used or donated. 

11 Give a moment

After all the chaos of the past couple of years, there’s never been a better time to give people new experiences. If you’re looking round the shops and just not seeing that One Special Item for your favourite person; try something new. Think gig or theatre tickets, dinner somewhere snazzy, an activity day. Not everything needs to be packed neatly into a box and wrapped. 

Think your favourite person would rather plan something themselves? Consider a charity donation on their behalf. This is a super thoughtful and generous alternative if you’re stuck for prezzie ideas. Choose an organisation that supports a cause close to their heart and you’re onto a winner. Many offer gift packs so they’ll have something to open on the day too.

12 Forever gifts

Sustainable gifts really do keep on giving. If you’re buying for the coffee lover in your life, how about gifting them a reusable travel mug? Know your mate loves their beauty supplies? Consider a reusable makeup remover set. Your bestie who’s never without a tote bag? Look for reworked or upcycled options. What we give can bring joy the recipient and the environment with a little extra thought. [And as we said earlier; those novelty gifts…at least make them recyclable!]

By Anastasia Shuraeva via Pexels

13 Sustainable decs

Look to nature for your decor. The key to a truly Scandinavian style christmas is organic materials, bringing the chilly Lapland forests indoors. Think pinecones, branches of fir, sprigs of mistletoe, or holly. Paper stars are another fun and recyclable way to add statement decs to your home [here’s a few ideas to get you started]. To ramp up the cosy vibes, dried oranges and cinnamon sticks will have the place smelling delicious.

14 Get crafty with it

Remember what we said about wrapping paper and glitter? Well a lot of christmas cards are basically both of those things combined. Again, you hear ‘card’ and assume ‘recyclable’ but that’s not always the case. If it shines, jingles, or just generally has adornments on it, you’ll need to take those off before it goes in the recycling bin. Otherwise, it’s straight into the regular rubbish unfortunately. 

Making your own cards can ensure you know exactly what they’re made of – and it wins you ALL the brownie points for thoughtfulness. They don’t need to be complicated [unless you’re feeling brave] and there are THOUSANDS of tutorials online to get you going.

Not feeling creative? No worries. Look for cards that specifically state they’re recyclable, or made from recycled materials themselves. It’s also worth looking out for ones that make a donation to charity with each purchase. 

15 Furoshiki

Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping gifts in fabric and it is GORGEOUS. It’s also a fantastic way to gift items like scarves, knits and shirts with a little extra surprise inside. You can give this origami-like practice a try with some examples here. If that’s looking just a liiittle too complex, simply wrapping your item however works best and tying it all up with a big ribbon looks fabulous too. Fun fact, Furoshiki wrapping originated in Japan in around 710 BC, so it really is tried and tested! 

16 Give time

If you’ve found yourself with some time on your hands this December [lucky you] volunteering is a wonderful way to give back. It’s also a very handy thing to add to your CV, so take note Students Bored Back At Home. 

Whatever the causes close to your heart, there’ll be ways you can help. Whether it’s pitching in at a local charity shop, food bank or animal shelter; find out what organisations are in your area and get in touch. This can be a great, hands-on way to offer support to those in your community without any pressure to donate if things are tight at the moment.

17 Fresh & Green

While you’re in town supporting independent shops, how about dinner too? Locally sourced produce isn’t just fresher, it’s got a tiny carbon footprint in comparison with internationally shipped food in the big supermarkets. In fact packaging and transporting food accounts for up to 6% of carbon emissions from rich countries. Not only will you be getting better quality veg, you’ll be supporting the people in your area who grow and sell it; everybody wins. 

By Olena Bohovyk via Pexels

18 Get sustainable in 2023…

The sooner you map out your new years’ resolutions, the more likely you are to stick with them. Now’s the best time to get some light prep work done to set yourself up for success come January. We’ve got a whole blog of tips to help you stick to your goals here.

If being greener is top of your list, it pays to do your research. From cutting out fast fashion, to going plant-based, easing yourself into change can be the best way to do it. By beginning to form some new habits in December, you can roll straight through into 2023 feeling good about where you’re headed.

19 Clear the clutter

New tradition unlocked: the pre-christmas clearout. Obviously the last thing you want to be adding to your to-do list at this time of year is an almighty tidying sesh BUT hear us out. Your home, however big or small, is about to become inundated with rolls of wrapping paper, stashed away presents to give, presents you’ve gotten, about 3x more snacks than usual, guests who won’t leave… you’re going to want some space aren’t you?

Clearing out unwanted clothes/books/furniture etc before the big day will help give you some extra breathing space. It never hurts to get ahead of the clutter. And donating the best bits to charity can help pass along the goodwill to others. That party dress you only wore once in 2017 might turn out to be someone’s dream new year’s eve outfit. 

20 Sustainable energy [yours]

If it’s fallen on you to do The Cooking for everyone this year, first of all, we’re rooting for you. That’s a big job with a lot of responsibility but you are more than capable of bossing it. 

Second of all, you don’t need to do it all by yourself. Delegating a few jobs to your visitors saves you time, money, and gets people ~involved~ in making the day special. It could be tasking your aunt with making one of her legendary trifles for dessert; promoting the cousins to roast veg duty; having everyone bring along a bottle or side-dish each. As long as you keep it organised, it’ll all work out. Plus you won’t need to spend 9 hours locked in the kitchen with the oven, microwave and/or kettle competing for your attention. Washing up is a whole other matter…

By Dmitriy Zub via Pexels

21 Veggie Christmas!

Opting for a meat-free Christmas dinner is one of the absolute best ways to make the holiday season sustainable. In 2021, around 5 million Brits had vegetarian or vegan Christmas dinners. Greenhouse emissions from carnivorous diets are around 50% higher than those of vegetarians, and a staggering 99% higher than vegans. 

But what do you have instead? Fantastic news, there’s a veggie alternative to basically everything now. Meat substitutes are available from all your regular supermarkets but if you want to be extra sure before you buy, there are plenty of recommendations and reviews online.

And to prove we’re so confident your christmas dinner can be a plant-based success, here’s 40 fantastic vegetarian recipes AND 41 delicious vegan recipes to get you going. You’re welcome!

22 Fewer leftovers, more sustainable

Christmas food waste stats are terrifying. Like – 5 million christmas puddings and 74 million mince pies end up in the bin – kind of terrifying. So why do we do it? 

Well the constant stream of food ads on TV at this time of year don’t help much. Neither does the panic-buying mentality [we promise you don’t need 6 tubs of Celebrations to survive the couple of days the shops are closed]. Pausing to do a headcount of who you’ll be feeding before you start shopping can help. So can asking guests to bring a little something with them; or take a few things home with them. Make sure you’re prepared to store and freeze any leftovers.

As tempting as a lot of these offers are, it pays to be realistic, especially if things are perishable. Is that 3 for 2 deal actually worth it if you end up throwing 2 away?

By Taryn Elliot via Pexels

23 Pass it on

Can we all agree that Regiftmas would solve a lot of problems? Passing on those not-quite-right presents you received to others not only keeps them out of landfill, it gives the new recipient something they’re a lot more likely to enjoy. There’s a stigma around rehoming undesired gifts but there really shouldn’t be, it’s a win-win. 

Getting together with family or friends after the big day to swap any items that weren’t a good fit can be a great way to keep the festive mood going strong. Or provide a much needed pick-me-up come the January blues. Just make sure you’re not giving anything back to the person who gave it to you…

We’ve already covered regifting these items to friends and family, but charity donations are another great option. It’s a good idea to scope out which shops are accepting donations before you take them along, and lots of places will mention if they’re after specific items too. Resist the urge to just chuck *literally everything* you don’t love into the bag; charity shops need clean, good quality, undamaged stock to sell, the same as any other shop. 

24 Sustainable tags

The social media ones, not the present ones. It’s a huge help to small businesses if you tag them in your purchase pics. Word of mouth, in real life and especially online, is a driving force in keeping the high street going. Leaving reviews of your fave shops is another great way to help them reach a larger audience. Plus your feedback doesn’t cost a penny. So if you’ve shopped small this December [or receive some particularly great gifts yourself] make sure to give a shout out to the independents who’ve made some magic this season.

25 R E L A X

You should be aiming for festive not stresstive. It’s way too easy to get swept up in the chaos and miss most of the fun at this time of year. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Simple tricks like keeping a to-do list, meal prepping ahead of time, and even scheduling some Me Time can help make sense of the madness. Avoid putting tasks off and you’ll find you have much more breathing space to enjoy the holidays as it gets closer to the big day. Still feeling overwhelmed? Ask for help! You’re never alone if you’re struggling, and you’re ESPECIALLY not alone if the holiday season’s got you burnt out.

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