Conscious Living

Four ways to have a more ethical Christmas

Christmas – ‘tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. And after the year we’ve had we’ve definitely earned it, with many of us rightfully intent on kicking back and chilling out over the festive season.

Christmas – ‘tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. And after the year we’ve had we’ve definitely earned it, with many of us rightfully intent on kicking back and chilling out over the festive season.

And yet, our plans to do very little often end up creating a lot – of waste that is. All the extras we buy to help maximise our downtime – food, decorations, novelty clothes and so on – mean we create 30% more waste in December than the rest of the year, with much of it ending up in landfill. This is the equivalent of generating 1.4 million tonnes of CO2.

But these shocking statistics don’t need to put a stop to your celebrations! Just make a few smart sustainable swaps and you can enjoy a festive period that’s low impact on both you and the planet.

Cards and wrapping paper

The problem

Brits get through around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper and a billion Christmas cards every year, and much of it can’t be recycled because of glitter, embellishments and special coatings, so it all ends up in landfill.

The solution

The biggest impact here would be in simply not sending Christmas cards at all. Instead, head to social media and explain that in lieu of Christmas cards this year, you’ll be using the money you would have spent on cards and postage to make a donation to your favourite charity. You’ll be saving a lot of waste and contributing to a good cause.

Zero Plastic: Royal Academy | Richard Spare - 'Winter Fox' Set of 10 Art Christmas Cards

But if Christmas cards are firmly on the agenda, choose ones that are not only made from recycled material, but can be recycled themselves. The same goes for wrapping paper, and don’t worry, it’s not all boring plain brown – recyclable wrap is available in a huge range of cheerful colours and patterns now.

We have collated the ethy accredited businesses below who offer lovely selections of greeting cards and gift wrapping products this year.


The problem

Christmas decorations are full of plastic which requires energy to produce and is difficult to recycle, plus a lot of items – garlands and wreaths, for example – are flimsy and cheaply-made, so they can only be used once or twice.

The solution

Reuse! Use decorations you already have, swap with friends and family if you fancy a change, or head to charity shops and preloved websites instead of buying new and fuelling demand for more plastic stuff.

If you are in the market for new decorations, though, invest in well-made, durable pieces that can be used for years to come, and that can eventually be recycled. Think cotton bunting, glass tree decorations and garlands made from wood.

There are also options for eco-friendly Christmas crackers. See more brands for decoration ideas here:


The problem

We’re all guilty of buying more food than we really need at Christmas, and a lot of it will end up uneaten and in the bin. In fact, on Christmas Day alone Brits throw away the equivalent of four million Christmas dinners, made up of 263,000 turkeys, 7.5 million mince pies and 11.3 million roast potatoes.

The solution

Make a plan and stick to it. Create a list of how many people you’ll be hosting and how much food you really need before you go shopping, so you’re not distracted by special offers or enticing displays and end up buying stuff ‘just in case’.

And once you know what’s on the menu, check out the recipe library at Just input your anticipated leftovers and the site will bring up dozens of delicious recipes that’ll make for a perfect Boxing Day meal, saving your scraps from the bin.

Veo: Organic Veganettone

From a climate change perspective, opting for a more plant-based and ethically produced festive food makes a difference too. Below are some ethy accredited brands to help with inspiration.

Party clothes

The problem

Every Christmas Brits spend around £2.4 billion on party clothes that are barely worn before being ditched in landfill or shoved to the back of the wardrobe and forgotten about.

The solution

Rethink the idea of ‘new’. Do you want a brand new, fresh-from-the-factory dress? Or do you just want something new to you? It’s probably the latter, so instead of heading to high street shops and planet-pulverising online fast fashion sites, take a look in your local charity store – many charities such as Oxfam and Shelter have boutique shops, where you’re sure to find a pre-loved luxury gem.

Second-hand online fashion communities like Vinted, Vestaire and Depop are also becoming increasingly popular, or you could hire a special outfit for a one-off occasion from the likes of Hirestreet, HURR and Onloan. All of the wow factor and none of the waste!

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