How to have a greener festive season

Christmas tree drawing on a light purple background

There are many ways we can make our festive celebrations greener and more sustainable. That’s why we’ve written Giki’s Christmas List – packed with top tips and practical steps for a more eco Christmas and ways to save money. 

Christmas is often exciting, but it can be stressful, because it’s hard to be sustainable. Here’s how to avoid buying too much stuff, our guide to eco presents, and, of course, how to make sure all the lovely food does not go to waste. 

Don’t get snowed under by Christmas stuff

There is so much choice, with retailers and advertisers tempting us at every corner. Everything from branded advent calendars to reindeer antlers, Christmas lights to Christmas jumpers, wreaths, or a new Christmas outfit, it all mounts up, and that’s long before you get started on presents or food planning! 

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, and expensive. Use this handy before you buy checklist; to help save money and make sure you only buy the right stuff.

Two simple checks: will your extra Christmas stuff make your Christmas better, and will you use it more than once? If the answer to either of these is no, you can save some time and money! 

Sometimes the sustainable alternatives are more meaningful too. Instead of the classic chocolate advent calendar, try an activity calendar instead. Each day get the kids to open the calendar door to discover a more sustainable activity (make a gift, help a neighbour or draw a Christmas card are some of our favourite ideas)

And for the office, you might be getting ready for Christmas jumper day. Why not buy second-hand or swap with a friend. Both these avoid polyester, a common material made from fossil fuels. Or you could decorate one of your favourite jumpers with some Christmas stuff, as nothing new is best.

How to gift presents sustainably 

Everyone feels great when they give a present that will be loved and appreciated, but often the last-minute rush (or the fact that some people in wealthy nations don’t want or need anything) all add up to half of Britons receiving a gift they don’t want.

Use the avoid giving unwanted presents checklist to make your best choices, and if you’re looking for more inspiration, check out our favourite sustainable present ideas.

Wrapping matters

We use enough wrapping paper to stretch to the moon, so try old newspaper or re-use.

If you have a stash of old ribbons, you can use these to decorate. It works out so much cheaper than wrapping paper, and you can inject some artistic flare too.

On the day, making sure you recycle everything you can to reduce waste to landfill (or save it for next year if it’s still usable).

Food for thought

If you are catering this Christmas and getting ready to plan the menu, here are a few things to have in mind.

Buying local seasonal produce is one of our favourites to take a chunk out of your food footprint at Christmas. You will support your local community too. And if you want to do even more, try mainly organic. Organic farming is much better for nature and wildlife.

You can also look for palm oil, which has led to large amounts of deforestation. It creeps into mince pies, chocolates, and Christmas pudding. This step helps you choose sustainable palm or palm oil free products.

Fairtrade is also a great option for Christmas goodies. Not only is it better for workers, but it also has better environmental rules and is especially relevant for chocolate and coffee. You can even get fairtrade or B-Corp advent calendars.

Meat is a high carbon footprint food we often eat a lot around festive time. Christmas is probably not the time to stop buying turkey, but there are plenty of ways you can reduce the amount of meat you buy. For example, you can add some plant-based meals, especially stews, and soups to keep warm. There are more and more excellent plant-based options you could try for some meals, and making a plant based meal for a friend is a great step to try.

Remember, less is better for your wallet and the planet. At Christmas in the UK, 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings, and 74 million mince pies get disposed of while still edible, causing almost 270,000 tons of food waste.

With planning, you can avoid any waste over Christmas, which is also good for saving money and cutting your carbon footprint. As the average UK household spends an extra £740 in December, there is lots of scope for saving. 

Limit food waste

After Christmas, many people have a lot of food leftover but none of it needs to be wasted. Here are some tips and steps to avoid food waste. 

You can make a meal (or lots) with leftovers or share any unused food with friends, foodbanks, or an app like Olio.

If you can, it’s also good to compost any food waste, like peelings, rather than bin them, as when they go into landfill they produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Another top tip is to free up space in your freezer, so you can put in any leftovers that won’t keep otherwise. 

Reduce and recycle

There is also a lot of potential for other waste at Christmas. With so many Christmas gifts coming as electronics, what do you do with the ones they are replacing? People, especially parents, can feel overwhelmed by the amount of new stuff, but we have some ideas on how you can manage it.

Recycle electricals and mobile phones, don’t just leave them in the cupboard. They contain valuable metals that can be used again. 

Take things to a charity shop, and recycle all your batteries. New toys may need lots, but they can all be recycled safely.

And finally, as Christmas approaches, avoid the temptation to nip out to the shops or go online to start buying extras in the last few days. One present is a gift, and research suggests people like one just as much as two or more.

Instead, take time to relax, take a walk in nature, or time with friends and family. Reflect on how much nicer Christmas can be with less stuff, less waste, lower costs, and more love and attention to the planet!

Happy Christmas from all the Giki Team.