Tips for a Plastic-Free Christmas

The 21st century Christmas seems to involve a serious amount of plastic decor and packaging. Use our guide to unwrap your Christmas and enjoy a plastic-free holiday.

Single-use plastics make up an entire half of all the plastic produced in the world. Used only briefly, these plastics stick around for several hundred years which has a devastating effect on people, animals and the environment.

But as consumers we have the power to ditch single-use plastic and put pressure on corporations to do the same.

With shoppers in the UK spending over £2 billion over the holiday months, Christmas seems to be a time for spending, and many businesses rely on the festive season. For this reason, as well as being an important time to shop with independent businesses, the Christmas period is a good one for getting your voice heard, and if you care about the issue of plastic waste, it's vital to cut it out.

We asked our staff team and our ethical blogger community to share their tips and help you reduce your plastic footprint this Christmas.

Decorations 

It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you're looking for a Christmas tree make sure you buy a real one. These last well when they come in pots with root balls. But of course, if you already have a plastic tree don’t throw it away!

The same goes for tinsel and plastic baubles. Keep them if you've got them, but here are some helpful tips for replacing old ones or getting new ones.

Have you thought about DIY decorations? They're a fun way to spend your festive period with loved ones, and they might make good gifts...

 

Or good snacks if you make enough of them - options for this include baking a batch of gingerbread people for your tree, drying orange slices to hang around the house, and stringing some popcorn together to hang on the mantelpiece.

Not to forget paper - recycled and used paper are ideal for eco-friendly paper snowflakes.

"Why spend money on decorations when you can simply go outside and find a ton of free supplies from Mother Nature herself? You can also turn this into a relational, non-commercial, experience by taking a foraging trip with your loved ones." - Francesca, Ethical Unicorn

“Fir cones look good on tree with a little bit of shiny paint (not glitter)” - Leonie, Ethical Consumer.

And don't forget, you don't need to use a real tree to decorate - you could just look for some elegant fallen branches  and use them instead.

Presents

Try and set a challenge for your family - encourage them to only buy plastic-free presents this year. The easiest way to do this is to go DIY and make home-made gifts instead of hitting the shops. Try your hand at home-made jams and chutneys in re-used glass jars.

Or give a different kind of gift to avoid material goods altogether. See our guide to gifts with a twist which features alternative ideas such as charity donations or giving experience-based gifts.

"Why not look to turn the gifting ritual into an actual experience and explore DIY beauty. Whether you gift a DIY set to your loved one for you to make together or do the making yourself and hand them the result of your creativity, DIY gifting allows you to buy ingredients in bulk and re-use containers and other packaging to make your mindful gift truly unique and plastic free" - Hanna Pumfrey, founder of Acala, the plastic & waste free beauty platform.'

Of course, this year has been particularly hard on small businesses, so we advise those that opt for buying material goods to avoid Amazon and shop small. They should either support their communities through local businesses or buy from independent retailers such as those on Etsy. Etsy also features plenty of vintage and handmade products which should take some pressure off the environment. You could even contact a seller on there and ask them not to package your gift in plastic.

Take a look at our ethical gift guide for inspiration on what to get.

Image: chutney

In the UK alone, we bin 227,000 miles of wrapping paper every Christmas. A lot of wrapping paper is non-recyclable, for example the thinner cheaper varieties, laminated papers, and those embellished with gold, silver or glitter. This should alarm you enough to stop you reaching for a brand new festive roll. Why waste materials and money on something that will be thrown away? Surely it is what's inside that's the most important thing. 

If you haven't already hoarded away last year's wrapping paper in preparation, anything lying around will do, such as newspaper or old fabric. 

Thick brown paper is also a good option, as it's often recyclable. If you can tie your gift up with string, that's an added bonus, as sellotape is another problem area for plastic waste.

However, if you can't resist that festive print, you can find 100% recycled wrapping paper online. 

"Fabric scarf wrapping is always pretty, and a bonus gift! Get one from a charity shop" - Julia Brown, What a Waste Collective

"Re-use old Christmas cards as gift tag labels for your presents" - Jane Turner 

Festive Food

Ditch the supermarket and its pointless packaging. Instead get your veg from your local independent grocery or wholefood shop. You can find a list on our ethical shopping guide for supermarkets. You can also support local organic farmers with a veg box scheme - see the guide for more information.

"I will buy food for Christmas from my local wholefood shop where I can take re-fillable containers and cloth bags" - Anna, Ethical Consumer. 

"For plastic-free meat substitutes - go frozen! While the 'chilled' products contain plastic trays, the frozen versions often do not!" - Jane Turner

Image: brussel sprouts

There are now plenty of alternatives to cling film to help you store your Christmas leftovers, from tiffin tins to wax cloths. Just don't throwaway your plastic containers in favour of buying new ones.  

The Beeswax Wrap Co. supply both beeswax wraps and vegan wax wraps on their website.

"I have three sheets of beeswax wrap from Lily Bee, and I couldn’t be happier. Beeswax wrap is quite simple: a piece of cloth is soaked in beeswax, to make it rigid but pliable, slightly sticky, and wipeable too. It makes for a great alternative to film or foil (another item you can’t recycle)" - Besma, Curiously Conscious blogger."