Have Yourself a Sustainable Little Christmas

It can be the most wonderful time of the year for consumers, but it’s less fun for our weary planet. Here are some top tips to help you become a festive eco-warrior

By Georgia Herriott

Practical & stylish


Eco-friendly gifting is a good way to show appreciation for both your loved ones and the planet. Reusable water bottles, coffee cups and lunch boxes are simple but incredibly useful gifts, which also help to reduce the impact of single-use plastic. Options range in price from the high-end Chilly’s water bottles (from £20, and KeepCup coffee mugs (from £7, to something from your local supermarket that will only put you £2 out of pocket.

For something more beauty-orientated, there are now plenty of environmentally-friendly products. Reusable brands such as Face Halo (£17.95 for three pieces, remove your make-up with nothing more than hot water. The pads can be washed around 200 times, replacing up to 500 make-up wipes. Lush offers a range of ‘naked’ products at a reasonable price, including soap and shampoo bars, which are completely packaging-free. They also offer a use and return scheme, where you can bring back their black plastic pots to be recycled and receive freebies in return.

Wrap it up

Around 108 million rolls of wrapping paper are thrown out every Christmas. Much of the shiny, laminated paper used to wrap up gifts is unrecyclable, as are the ribbons and bows used to adorn them. An easy and entertaining way to be kinder to the environment is to use brown paper and stamps. Create your own paper and get the rest of the family involved. Ink stamps can be found at craft stores or online for as little as a pound. Another easy swap is scarf wraps. They’re aesthetically pleasing, count as an extra gift for the recipient, and you can find simple tutorials online.

Barking up the right tree

Every year, around 250 tonnes of Christmas trees end up in landfill in the UK. If you opt for a real tree, make sure it gets recycled. Check your local council website for drop-off points or tree collection times in January, so that your tree can be put to good use and turned into compost or mulch. Purchase one that’s been approved by the FSC or The Soil Association, making sure it’s been grown in accordance with environmental laws and without the use of damaging pesticides.

If you do prefer an artificial tree, using it for at least 10 Christmases will keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree, according to the Carbon Trust. Instead of buying one brand-new, search sites such as Gumtree or Freecycle to give pre-loved artificial trees another home.

A time for giving

Some charitable initiatives to support this festive season

Charitable gifts from Action Aid

Toilet Twinning

Set up in 2008 to help the 2.3 billion people who don’t have somewhere safe and hygienic to go to the toilet, the Toilet Twinning initiative invites people to donate £60 to “twin” their toilet and raise funds for sanitation projects in impoverished communities.

School in a Bag

Run by UK charity the Piers Simon Appeal, this initiative delivers a rucksack full of school essentials to poor, orphaned, vulnerable and disaster-affected children throughout the world for a donation of £20.

Gifts in Action

ActionAid’s annual range of charitable gifts – from school uniforms to livestock – support women and girls living in poverty worldwide.

Pay it Forward

Donations to Social Bite’s Christmas campaign buys a meal during the festive period for a person experiencing homelessness. Customers can ‘pay forward’ at Social Bite cafes or add £1 to their bill at one of 40 businesses across Scotland.