Christmas 2021: How to have a more sustainable festive celebration





What are your plans for Christmas?

Eat your body weight in foil-wrapped chocolates, thrash your family at Monopoly, cry at the end of Elf?

Many of us are adding eco-friendly behaviours to that list, with the Tesco Christmas Report 2021 finding that over 36% of Brits aim to be more sustainable over the festive period.

Almost half say that concerns about the environment will affect their purchasing choices this year.

Put these green intentions into action, and help yourself stay in the black, with these economical ideas.

Start by reducing

According to research by clothing brand Superdry, there’s been a 23% increase in searches for sustainable gifts this year but whatever you’re giving, there are ways to reduce its environmental impact.

There are simple steps for cutting the carbon emissions and the cost of festive food, too.

Ordering online?

Avoid next-day delivery if possible. ‘The express delivery demand means online giants are creating the carbon footprint of small countries as well as ripping the hearts out of our high streets,’ says Jackie Mulligan, founder of and ShopAppy, platforms that champion local shopping.

‘When ten million of us live just 200 metres from a high street, we really need to be popping to the shops, rather than ordering items from across the world to be express- delivered. That’s better for health, local wealth and planet.’

Stuck for ideas?

‘An experience is the ultimate zero-waste gift,’ notes Eilidh Gallagher, author of Green Christmas, whose suggestions include tickets, cinema vouchers, afternoon tea or a promise such as a coffee date, summer picnic or night of babysitting.

No one you’re feeding actually likes eating Christmas pudding?

Then don’t buy one. Ditto sprouts or anything else. It’s a waste of food and cash.

Fridge starting to resemble a butcher’s counter?

Check out the vegetarian and vegan menu when you’re eating out or getting takeaway and get some lower carbon plant-based meals into your diet.

Catering for vegans?

Superdry’s analysis reveals searches for vegan Christmas recipes are up 83%. Consider mushroom dishes, such as mushroom wellingtons and pâtés, rather than ingredients shipped or, worse, air freighted from overseas.

‘To reduce mileage and carbon emissions on your festive feast, we urge the nation to shop locally over the Christmas period,’ says Noel Hegarty, spokesperson for the UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers.

‘When purchasing plant-based Christmas ingredients such as mushrooms, it is important to check the country of origin, which can be found on front of the pack, to ensure consumers are purchasing the freshest and highest quality produce available to them.’

Left clearing up after Christmas dinner?

Use eco-friendly products. Counter Clean by Purdy & Figg is a naturally derived concentrated formula that you dilute in tap water and is available in a seasonal frankincense and myrrh scent.

Then reuse

Still to sort out your tree?

Using the one you have is the most sustainable option. If you don’t own one, investigate getting an artificial tree second-hand or renting a real one that can continue to grow afterwards; searches for both are up 40% and 22% reports Superdry.


Almost half of Tesco respondents plan to reuse old ones, which is a super simple way to be more eco and economical.

Want tablescaping inspiration?

Judith Blacklock, author, florist and founder of an eponymous flower school, recommends collecting fir cones on a winter walk.

‘Clean and dry them, preferably outside where the insects have an easy escape route,’ Judith explains. ‘Scatter them down the table interspersed with candles and tangerines and return them to the wild when the festive season is over.’

Planning to use up your leftovers?

This is how 33% of us will try to be greener, according to the Tesco survey. Make this easier by eating as much as you can from your freezer before Christmas — it’ll create space for storing these leftovers and help stretch your budget.

Finally, recyle

Have a real tree you’ll need to dispose of?

Be sure it doesn’t end up in landfill as it will release methane during decomposition. Many local councils offer Christmas tree recycling via kerbside collection, but if not ask the supplier.

Some companies offer a recycling service even if you didn’t buy from them. In London, for example, Pines and Needles will undecorate your tree before removal and converting into wood chips.

‘In the past, we have donated tons of woodchips to ZSL, Kenwood House, English Heritage and other green spaces and schools,’ explains company director Veronika Kusak. ‘These are then used for animal bedding, pathways, playgrounds, etc.’

Stocking up on batteries?

Don’t forget to recycle the exhausted ones at any store that sells them new. Dreading trying to sort recyclables from non-recyclables amidst the chaos? Do your future self and the planet a favour by designating a box for packaging and wrapping to sort out at a later date.

You can go through it whenever you want, plus you’ll know where to look when the teenager can’t find the envelope with the cheque in and the little one is having a meltdown because Barbie’s left shoe is missing.

Wondering whether sweet containers can be recycled?

Both Quality Street and Cadbury Roses tubs can go in kerbside collection, so you’ll know what to do with the empties when you get through all those foil-wrapped chocolates.

Need a last-minute gift?

Look for ethical options in the supermarket. Many stock Fairtrade products that make great presents, such as blood orange drinking chocolate from Asda, red and white wine at the Co-op, all M&S jams and conserves, mince pie tea bags at Sainsbury’s and a Santa’s Christmas Treat Box at Waitrose — with only the wine more than £5.50.


By Rae Ritchie

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