Enjoy a Sustainable, Low Waste Christmas with these 27 Tips

Sustainable Lifestyle Nov 13, 2019

Thanks to the consumerist society we live in, Christmas can feel like it's lost its meaning. If you're here, you likely recognise this and want to slow down and enjoy Christmas in a sustainable way. Welcome! I hope I have some ideas to help!

Sustainable Gift Buying

This one's a biggie! Estimates show that the average amount spent for Christmas, per family, in 2017 was £821.25 in the UK and $906 in the USA, some of the highest recorded spends of all time. Consumerism is convincing us that we need to buy more. We don't.

Buy Fewer Things

  • Don't go overboard. People don't need multiple gifts to see that you care. One thoughtful gift is a better way to show love and avoid needless consumption.
  • Buy Experiences. They don't have to be fancy! It could be cinema tickets, a meal or a local workshop.
  • Secret Santa. This is an easy way to cut down on gift buying between colleagues, friends, and even family.

There is no shame in re-gifting items, new or lightly used, that are sitting collecting dust. Perhaps don't re-gift back to the person who gave it to you though.

Buy Second-Hand
Scout charity/thrift stores for things that people might like. Alternatively browse online on eBay, poshmark and facebook market place. There are some real bargains to be had!

This takes slightly more time and effort but is often the more thoughtful alternative. Some ideas include natural beauty products, baked goodies, and crafts. Check out my vegan mince pie recipe!

Buy Sustainable
If you decide to buy a new gift, make it positively impactful.

  • Buy Local, Small Business. This puts the money directly back into your local community and supports someone trying to make an income!
  • Buy Natural - Avoid plastic and find products that are made from natural materials. It's better for our bodies and the planet!
  • Buy Ethical. Looking out for certified goods, such as certified organic, 1% for the planet and/or fairtrade, help support the planet and/or people in the supply chain.

Gift Wrapping Ideas

  • Brown paper packaging tied up with strings!
  • Ditch the cards. Most cards are laminated in plastic. Nearly all of that paper goes to landfill. Instead, try taking a family photo and emailing every with an update on your lives!
  • Save wrapping paper from gifts you've been given, and re-use.
  • Newspaper, old books, and maps, which look adorable by the way.
  • Decorate plain paper with potato stamps, dried leaves, sticks, and string.

Make Food More Conscious this Christmas

  • Ditch the meat, or at least buy less of it. You don't have to have a vegan/plant-based Christmas, but perhaps ditching pork cocktails sausages in favour of veggie versions is an easy swap for the planet.
  • If you can, buy organic and/or local where possible. Organic produce means less toxic chemical were used in the process (good for you and the planet). Local produce means it's had less distance to travel, reducing transit emissions and having a lower carbon footprint. Win!
  • Waste not, want not. Some families tend to go overboard on buying food. This can lead to lots of food waste. Try to think how much food will realisitcally be eaten before buying.
  • Another helpful tip is to try using up leftovers before making a new meal. Our family tradition is to have leftovers as boxing day dinner.
  • Compost. If you have a home compost or local compost collection, make sure to seperate food waste from general waste.
  • Ditch disposables. Some families opt for an easy clean-up by using disposable plates and utensils. Unless you really NEED to, just don't.

Sustainable Christmas Decorations

  • No new plastic decs! If you already have decorations, use them! If you are thinking of getting rid of them, don't put them in the trash. Instead, donate them to thrift stores or social establishments, like community centres or social homes.
  • Natural Christmas decorations. Bring the outdoors inside by using nature to decorate your home, along with decorated cardboard. It looks super cosy.
  • LED fairy lights. LED bulbs can save you up to 90% on power costs and will last longer than traditional bulbs.
  • Timers. Put lights on timers so they will automatically turn off at bedtime and come on when dark. It would be so wasteful to have them on all night, while everyone is sleeping, or even just on 24 hours a day.
  • A sustainable tree. Instead of buying a cut-down tree that will likely end up in landfill at the end of the festive season opt for a more sustainable one. Buy a potted one that can grow year on year and be moved outdoors when Christmas is over. Buy a wooden one, or make your own in a crafty way. Plastic trees, while not the most sustainable option, can be more sustainable if used year over year.
  • Advent Calendars. These are often filled with a plastic tray and dairy milk chocolate. Making your own can be fun and more environmentally friendly.


Christmas is a time for family, so:

  • Create new traditions
  • Crack out the board games
  • Make time to watch cosy Christmas movies
  • Have meals together without electronics
  • Create a memory jar (open next Christmas and remember all the wonderful days you spent together)

As always, thanks for reading.
Chelsea ✌️🐌


Activist and organizer with Greenpeace Vancouver. Writes about climate and social justice, feminism, greenwashing, and fossil fuel fuckery.

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