Have you thought about what a zero waste Christmas could mean for you and your family? Would you love to try a zero waste Christmas but have no clue where to start? Perhaps you’re keen, but you’re struggling to get others around you on board. We’ve compiled our top 7 Zero Waste Christmas Ideas to help you reduce your impact this Christmas.
For many people, Christmas is a family-focused time full of eating, drinking and gifting. All this festive merriment involves lots of fun and laughter, but sadly also comes with an awful lot of excess waste. From extra food and alcohol to single-use gifts and decorations, the modern Christmas can’t exactly be called a conscious or earth-kind celebration. Not only is the way we currently do Christmas bad for the planet, but it also comes with a real pressure to socialise extravagantly and spend an obscene amount of money, just to keep up with everyone else.
How Much Extra Waste Do We Create At Christmas?
During the festive period, waste in the U.K. increases by around 30%. From excessive packaging that was torn open and thrown away immediately to discarded and unwanted food, not to mention the 1 billion cards that don’t get recycled, it’s definitely time look at change. Read more of these astonishing facts in an insightful Christmas waste article by House Beautiful.
This year, zero waste has been a hot topic, from ‘ban the straw’ to retail support for re-usable coffee cups. So, let’s not lose sight of that at Christmas. We have compiled some of the easiest ways for you to enjoy a fun zero waste Christmas with your family and friends with these 7 zero waste Christmas ideas.
1. Gift Experiences, Not Presents this Christmas
Gifting is a huge source of waste at Christmas. Not only are many of the novelty gifts on sale impractical, poorly made and unnecessary items, impulsively brought at Christmas in the name of giving, but every gifted item is more often than not wrapped in single-use packaging. Whether your gifts come in decorative wrapping paper or those ugly single-use plastic moulds, by avoiding gift buying, you’ll help to massively reduce waste this Christmas.
The easiest way to have a zero waste Christmas is to simply spend time as a family instead of buying each other stuff. From exciting days out, relaxing spa visits or weekend city breaks, could you gift experiences instead of presents? Perhaps you could buy a keen driver a go-kart experience, book £30 return flights to Europe for you and a friend, or take the whole family outdoor ice-skating at Hampton Court Palace. The possibilities are endless and experience gifts don’t have to be centred around Christmas time only. Extend the good times by booking activities you and your loved ones can enjoy and look forward to together throughout the year.
What are the benefits of gifting experiences, not presents?
- Experience gifts encourage social time as a family or group of friends.
- Gifting an experience gives the receiver something to look forward to – a feeling that lasts longer than when you receive material goods.
- Experience gifts allow you to make new memories together – there’s nothing like trying new things with the people you love and laughing if you can’t get that new thing quite right!
- Gifting an experience could help develop your loved one’s passion, interest or hobby.
- Last but not least, experience gifts help to reduce your packaging waste this Christmas.
2. Buy Gifts That Will Be Used
Perhaps you love the idea of gifting an experience but desperately want your loved one to open something on Christmas Day. If you really want to buy a present to open, try buying something the receiver actually needs and therefore will use. Although novelty items are fun, receiving gifts that might not be used or might not be liked, probably means there’s a higher chance of your gift becoming waste, now or in the future. When people ask you what you want for Christmas, focus on things you would buy anyway, or even better, the things you know they can get package free.
Our top Zero Waste Christmas Presents are:
- Lush’s ethical Gift Ideas – from their Naked Product Range to their ‘return your pots‘ scheme – also check out how their gift wrap is made!
- Organic cotton clothes that give back and come in recycled packaging like the Choose Love range in support of refugees
- A re-usable fun and personal coffee cup for coffee lovers
- A Pela plastic-free mobile phone case – check out their incredible colours and cool designs
- An ethical and cool bamboo toothbrush
- A Water-to-Go water bottle with filter for anyone who wants to refuse single-use plastic bottles
- Soy wax candles in beautiful re-usable tins
- Second Hand Books in great condition looking for a new home – remember to select used books
- Ombar’s Organic Chocolate Buttons which come in bags made from plant fibres
What Are Your Top Zero Waste Christmas Present Ideas?
Have you tried package free cosmetics and toiletries or found an ethical company that makes something from up cycled materials? Share your amazing zero waste discoveries with us in the comments below and help other people to identify zero waste Christmas presents this year.
3. Agree Not To Buy This Christmas
This idea might sound totally radical, but the other option for achieving a zero waste Christmas is to simply agree not to buy for each other. Recently, we’ve begun agreeing not to buy for friends and family for 3 main reasons:
- Christmas gifts create excessive packaging (obvs)!
- Love can definitely be shown in so many other cool ways at Christmas other than present buying.
- Christmas gets horribly expensive and pressured which can lead to unnecessary dept and money worries.
How Else Can You Show Your Love This Christmas Without Buying Gifts?
There are some really fun and great ways to enjoy Christmas without present buying at all. Try cooking great food with friends or enjoying a sociable Christmas meal out. Enjoy a winter walk with family instead of having a present unwrapping session on Christmas day. Relax and enjoy snuggling up with loved ones to watch Christmas movies or rounding everyone up for some competitive Christmas games. The most important thing of all is to spend time with the people you love so whatever you do, don’t let the Christmas pressure dictate your Christmas spending habits. Work out what you would enjoy doing and do that. If it’s a zero waste Christmas option, then you’ll be making the planet happier too.
4. Buy Less Food This Christmas
Christmas-themed food typically involves a lot of packaging. From gimmicky seasonal snacks to the traditional roast dinner, not much in our supermarkets at this time of year can be bought package free. Not only does Christmas involve more gift packaging waste, but food packaging waste increases too. This isn’t only because we buy more novelty items like cakes and biscuits over Christmas but also because we buy excessive quantities of food.
Not only do we purchase more food, but then we dispose of more food. According to that earlier article from House Beautiful ‘approximately 2 million turkeys, 74 million mince pies and 17.2 million Brussel sprouts are thrown away every Christmas’. It would actually be kinder to the environment if we put our money directly in the bin! Which of course, is madness. So we encourage you to try to food shop a little differently this Christmas. Try these great tips for reducing the packaging you purchase over the festive period, in particular those nasty single-use plastics.
- Buy all of your fruits and vegetables loose.
- If you are making a roast dinner, try making as much as possible fresh and from scratch.
- If you love desserts, try creating some home-made ones to avoid the extra packaging.
- Best of all, attempt one of these delicious Vegan Holiday Recipes by Amy Katz.
Did you know that eating less meat actually reduces your environmental impact? Read more about the environmental impacts of going vegan.
5. Order Less Plastic This Christmas
When we purchase gifts for others, we tend not to think about the demand we put out there for materials that don’t decompose and can’t be recycled, like plastic or styrofoam. We believe there are two great ways to order less of these materials this Christmas and help reduce the overall demand.
a. Consider your online shopping habits
Everyone is too busy to physically go shopping these days what with busy work schedules, visiting everyone before Christmas and the endless drinks and party events in the build up to Christmas. It’s no surprise that online sales increase over Christmas. But online shopping can cause a huge packaging problem. Think about the excessively large box your small item was delivered in, or the bubble wrap packaging used to protect it, or the styrofoam packaging used to better present it to you. All of that extra packaging gets thrown away and a lot of it cannot be recycled.
Try to avoid shopping online if the store you need something from is nearby or you are passing somewhere that has what you need. If you really need to shop online, try asking the seller for less packaging options. Read about Amazon Frustration-Packaging to see what large online providers are starting to do to reduce excess packaging waste. If you really have to buy online and there is no option for less packaging, hold onto the packaging and re-use it the next time you need to send something in the post. Another great way to tackle the online shopping packaging problem is to seek out ethical companies that provide recyclable packaging. It is way more common now to find conscious sellers online, as well as more and more buyers who are asking for little or no packaging with their orders.
b. Encourage your children to choose non-plastic toys
Most Christmas gifting is to little people who just must have that latest toy. But there are so many wonderful toy options for children now that are not made from plastic. From wooden train sets to fun and colourful puzzles, you really can find a huge amount for children this Christmas that doesn’t have to increase your demand for non-recyclable materials.
Are Natural Resources Better Than Plastic Toys? Research has shown that children should be encouraged to play with more life-like objects that don’t limit their fun and creativity, instead of plastic toys. Make a swap for the children in your life this Christmas and help place a lower demand on plastic toys. After all, consumerism has a powerful message and when else is consumerism more powerful than at Christmas? You can also discover why wooden toys are a better buy.
6. Source Upcycled Cards
Christmas cards are brought in the billions over Christmas. Most cards are coated in plastic making the card non recyclable and come in plastic film or plastic boxes too. If you think Christmas cards are a bit wasteful, you could choose not to gift cards this year. We love to make a charity donation instead of card buying for the adults in our lives.
However, if giving cards is important to you, or if you still want to gift cards to little ones, seek out 100% recyclable cards and then do all you can to make sure they find their way into the recycling, along with anything else used over Christmas that can be recycled. Personally, for the few cards we do gift, we like to source up cycled cards. For exciting, bespoke, upcycled cards, we use Bohemian Star Cards, a small business run by the wonderful Charlotte. Give her a brief and she’ll help create the perfect card for someone you love.
7. Get Creative This Christmas
If you really struggle to implement any of the above ideas, the next best step you can take towards a zero waste Christmas, is to simply get creative. There are so many ways to reuse instead or dispose of the things we buy in excess at Christmas. Try these fun ideas with your family and friends:
- Keep what wrapping paper you can and make new things from it – take another look at those upcycled cards – that’s wrapping paper on the front to make the Christmas trees!
- Instead of using wrapping paper, keep and re-use old gift bags. And when you pass the bag onto someone new, try to encourage them to keep and re-share it too.
- Use the front of old Christmas cards as present labels next year – try cutting out cool shapes and designs with the images.
- Make advent calendars from toilet roll tubes and other cardboard boxes, maybe the ones you received with your online shopping.
- Use any other excess packaging from gift buying for junk modelling with children or turn those cardboard boxes into ‘boats’ or ‘space suits’. The more inventive, the better!
Zero Waste Christmas Ideas
For many of us, Christmas is a fun and exciting time of year. But perhaps we should consider whether the way we currently celebrate Christmas is responsible. Christmas is perhaps most exciting for children and although they might want the latest plastic toy, how likely are they to outgrow it within the next year? Then, where will it go? Most likely, to landfill. Encourage children to think about the alternatives to plastic toys, to help support children in need this Christmas and to get involved in embracing their creative side with home-made decorations, cards and gifts.
For many children, a small gift is enough, and the rest of the money would be much better spent on quality family days out together. None of us should feel pressured to buy in excess over Christmas or to buy beyond our means, or to out do one another … or out do last Christmas! Start new zero waste Christmas traditions this year with your family. Encourage each other to play games, get together and enjoy good food and gift to charities and people who need support at Christmas. For extra help and guidance on recycling at Christmas visit Gov.uk.
Being a little more responsible at Christmas is not boring. We all deserve to have a good time, but perhaps a really good time could involve way more interaction and fun, and an awful lot less waste.
Are you interested in zero waste living? Find tips and ideas on 31 easy plastic free swaps now.