Sustainable lifestyle

Green Christmas: ideas to minimise your footprint

Christmas is known to be the most festive and magical time of the year, but it’s also the time that leaves one of the biggest environmental footprints of all. This is due to both excessive consumerism and waste. But is it really possible to celebrate a green Christmas without compromising on the magic of this festivity? Well, yes. And it’s not as hard as it might seem.

Just like everything else, it’s a matter of awareness, consciousness and, ultimately, habit. From Christmas shopping and decorations to food, here are some easy hacks that will allow you to minimise your environmental footprint while still enjoying the Christmas season to the maximum (and beyond!).

What Christmas gifts to choose for a green Christmas?

One of the first points to consider for a more sustainable Christmas is the presents we buy. But also those we receive. We can categorise Christmas presents (or any present, really) into the following:

  • Futile presents
  • Useful presents
  • Food

Futile presents

The first category includes all those cute objects that you would probably use once or a few times a year. Those same objects that we soon forget we have. No need to explain why we should skip this first category altogether.

Useful and sustainable presents

The second category could include anything from clothing, kitchenware, bags, handicrafts, an online course etc. Let’s ask our friends and family if there is anything they need or they wish for. We can take this opportunity to explain the reason why we ask: avoid waste. If we are buying any material presents, don’t forget to avoid fast fashion! Try to buy from small, ethical and sustainable brands. This is always the best option. You can check out Bagmaya’s sustainable hemp backpacks, ethical bum bags and eco yoga mat bags (a bit of self-promotion doesn’t hurt, right?). Support local businesses if they practice sustainability. In the same way, let’s inform our loved ones that this year we’d like to receive meaningful, useful presents and give them sustainable Christmas gift ideas.


And now we come to food. This is my favourite option. No doubts. If you want to go the extra mile, prepare some foody presents yourself. Last year, for example, I prepared different types of vegan chocolatey sweets for my friends, and packed them in a nice glass container, and decorated it with upcycled ribbon and decorations. There are millions of recipes that you can follow online, or you could come up with your own. Instead of a plastic jar, if you still use foil or parchment paper, why not saving the cardboard boxes in which they come in and use these to store your homemade biscuits or chocolate truffles? Ultimately, everyone will appreciate the love and time you put into preparing a gift like these. At the end of the day, love and time are two of the best presents you could ever gift someone.

christmas gift biscuits

If you run out of time, you could consider putting together a basket of organic, vegan goodies or, alternatively, buy an assembled vegan hamper – this year they’re everywhere!

Bonus category: solidarity gift

Another great option is to make a donation in your friends’ name to a cause they believe in. I’d recommend checking out charities’ websites as they might have a section dedicated to solidarity gifts (e.g. a donation of £30 to provide nutritious meals to people in need). Or, as we also mentioned in our previous post about saying no to Black Friday, you could buy a gift voucher on Lendwithcare – a peer-to-peer microlending platform. Check out this article to learn more about the benefits of microcredits.

Can a green Christmas and gift wrapping go together?

In for a penny, in for a pound. Let’s talk about gift wrapping… What do you normally wrap your gifts in? Did you say wrapping paper? Let me give you some greener alternatives.

Maybe you’ve already thought about using the pages of old newspapers and magazines. And have you ever heard of the Furoshiki method? It consists of using a cloth to wrap your presents, as illustrated on the website of the Ministry of the Environment in Japan. This wrapping method doesn’t require any plastic tape either and the person who receives your gift will then be able to reuse the cloth to wrap gifts too. This method has multiple benefits as you’re also saving the cloths to go to landfills!

furoshiki green christmas gift wrapping

katorisi, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Gold, red or green Christmas decorations?

The first recommendation for an eco-friendly Christmas is: reuse. Reuse any Christmas decorations you already own and try to stick to those.

If you need to get new lights for your tree, make sure you choose LED lights. They are much more energy-efficient and last twice longer than incandescent lights.

With regards to other decorations, get crafty! The web is full of DIY decoration ideas that you can recreate with upcycled materials. If like me, you are a complete beginner, you could craft a wreath using an old scarf. Ready in two minutes!

But what about the king of Christmas decorations? Nowadays you can easily rent a real Christmas tree, but you could even make your own with cardboard, a pallet, a chalkboard. Get creative!

Green Christmas at the table

Less is more (the same applies to Christmas gifts and decorations). Reduce the amount of food you prepare for Christmas to avoid food waste. When we think food waste, we have to consider all the wasted energy and water that went into the production, transportation, storage and cooking of the food. Not to mention the large quantity of methane produced by food waste in landfills (Move for Hunger, 2015). Before you buy food and cook it, think twice.

Another great choice you can make to reduce your environmental footprint on Christmas is to prepare a vegan menu. Going vegan is the biggest single change you can make to reduce your environmental impact. As Prof. Smith, convening lead author for the United Nations’  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said: “The best foods by far, from an environmental perspective, are plant-based” (BBC). If you need inspiration, check out our compilation of best recipes for new vegans!

I wish you a merry green Christmas

Christmas 2020 will be one to remember – many of us won’t be able to celebrate it with all their loved ones due to the restrictions in place. Instead of remembering it just for this reason, why don’t we make some changes so to remember it as our first (a bit more) sustainable Christmas? Even if you change just the way you wrap your gifts or the food you serve, your contribution will go a long way.

What adjustments towards sustainability will you implement this year? Maybe you will opt for a sustainable Christmas jumper or reuse your old Christmas decorations. Let us know in the comments below.

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