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The 12 ways for a sustainable Christmas

Week 15

18 December 2023

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me... A more sustainable way to enjoy the holidays! For this week's 52 Things, we've decided to get into the spirit of sustainability and bring you the 12 ways to a more sustainable Christmas!

So there are several things (12 to be exact) you can try if you want to ramp up the sustainability rating of your Christmas, without squeezing all the joy out of it.

1. Use that Christmas jumper

With more people than normal in the house, it should heat up pretty well. So maybe consider breaking out the Christmas jumpers and turning the heating down. This is not only sustainable, but will also help keep those heating costs down! It's a win-win!

2. Plan for your leftovers

Christmas is quite often thought of as a holiday of excess but whatever you’re cooking doesn’t have to mean tonnes of waste. A turkey curry can be traditional too. As can bubble and squeak, making leftover Christmas pudding into trifle, and most leftovers can be made into stock for the coming year. Maybe start your festive prep by defrosting the freezer, it will work more efficiently AND you’ll have more room for all those leftovers.

3. Save that wrapping

People used to joke about those friends who opened gifts carefully and saved the paper; now the practice may be a lot more friendly. A lot of wrapping paper can be recycled and even excessively shiny paper can be re-used. So try to buy recycled, and if you get given some paper that can't be recycled, come up with some ways to reuse it! And depending on your budget, why not go even further and wrap your gifts in leftover cloth?

4. The gift of giving

Consider giving experiences rather than things people don’t really need. Wise people will tell you that experiences are worth more than things. From brewery tours to sky diving, maybe consider giving your nearest and dearest new memories this Christmas; or for the more budget-conscious shoppers, consider cinema trips, rather than a musical toilet roll holder that they may not have asked for.

If you're on a budget and if you're concerned about your bank account around this time of year, maybe consider grouping together with your friends to do a secret Santa/single gift draw with a price limit. Or ask around - if a group of you want to just give one gift for you all, it could mean you each get a more meaningful gift you really wanted, rather than multiple gifts that, if you're completely honest, you will probably never use.

When shopping, consider sourcing locally - see our section on charity shops and on buying experiences, not things.

5. Deck the halls

So, you’ve decided to get a tree; real trees are actually a more eco-friendly choice but it's always worth considering how ethically and sustainably they have been grown. If you’re concerned about overuse of pesticides and artificial fertilisers, the Soil Association certifies some trees as organic, so keep an eye out for those. You can even try to source a tree with roots that can be replanted once Christmas is done. With a little research and planning, you can go from organically grown to growing your own!

If you were sustainable last year, you may have kept some wrapping paper that you weren't able to recycle, you can fashion these into some Christmassy paper chains to really deck the halls!

6. Christmas charity begins…at the charity shop

If you're shopping on a budget, you can still be part of the reduce, reuse, recycle sequence by buying from charity shops - you can also help some good causes. The same goes for festive partywear - a new outfit doesn’t have to actually be NEW. Over 80,000 tonnes of old clothes will be thrown away this Christmas so maybe try to be a solution to that problem. You probably don't need a Christmas jumper for each party, maybe just use the same one!

7. Turn off your appliances

If you're going away for Christmas. consider turning off your appliances rather than leaving them on standby. This is particularly important at this time of year when people have put up extra lights and might be a way for weeks at a time. If you're worried about leaving an empty house, pop your lamps on a timer and have them on for a couple of hours each night - that way you don't have to leave them on the whole time!

8. Recycling puts the R in party...

...ok that’s weak, but if you’re having a party over the festive period for Christmas, or just because, make sure to properly recycle all the waste produced. Southampton does not recycle pots, tubs and trays, but you can recycle glass, bottles, tins, cans and non-contaminated cardboard. (not pizza boxes - those are contaminated with grease and, if you’re lucky, a leftover slice to help with a hangover) Plan ahead - put your recycling bin out before Christmas so it’s got plenty of room and make sure you recycle everything possible. 

9. Christmas cards

If you're a fan of sending out Christmas cards to everyone, there are a few things to consider. First things first, do you have to send a card? Consider a text message or an email, a heartfelt sentiment that you wanted to say happy Christmas will go down just as well as an actual card. If you have relatives who you think expect to receive a card, consider sourcing recycled cards - that way you can still be sustainable and keep them happy!

10. First comes Christmas, then come the sales

The most sustainable way to approach these is to remember, window-shopping is fine and it’s only a bargain if you actually need it. If you buy a load of stuff you didn’t want before you saw it you have done the sales wrong.

11. New year's resolutions

Another year over and a new one just begun. As we enter the end times, new calendar years should be treasured. Maybe make a sustainability resolution this year - are you going to cycle more? Stop buying fast fashions? Or maybe just remembering to put the recycling bin out on the correct day and switch to a green energy supplier.

12. Watch our sustainable Christmas video!

Make sure you also check out our video on having a more sustainable Christmas from our environmental officer, Liz!

Tasks for this week

  • Come up with a sustainable Christmas plan.
  • Chat to your friends about what you'll do for presents.
  • Watch our sustainable Christmas video.