9 Ways to Have a More Sustainable Christmas

by Nadja Uebach

Christmas is looming, many shops have started to advertise Christmas specials, someone on your Facebook feed keeps posting the up to date countdown to Christmas Day, and even though, your Christmas tree might not be up yet; chances are that your mind is already fully wrapped up in the planning of this very special time of year.

While Christmas is about the time spent with family and friends, and about the magic that comes with it; it is also a time that is used to push consumerism to the absolute maximum. There is always that must-have toy and a man-made expectation to create the best experience, the best-decorated house and the best meal of the year as well as the idea of giving as many gifts as possible in order to celebrate Christmas right.

In essence, there is nothing wrong with any of these things, however, together and in excess they have the potential to add a huge plus to our carbon footprint. The reason for it is simple: In order to offer all these things we apparently “need” as affordably as possible, they can’t be produced in a sustainable way. Instead, they are often made from cheap materials like plastic, in factories halfway across the world where workers aren’t paid a fair wage. Pretty much as unsustainable as it gets.

The good news is, there are plenty of alternatives out there. We can choose sustainable products and ways of doing things and still have a magical Christmas with all our loved ones. And even though at first glance a sustainable Christmas might look expensive, it will save us money in the long run!

9 Ways to Make Christmas More Sustainable

1. Source a Sustainable Christmas Tree

Christmas without a Christmas tree is unimaginable for many. It’s a much-loved tradition, for which trees are planted in monoculture plantation, which in combination with added pesticides impacts the environment in a negative way. Luckily, there are plenty of sustainable options that will allow you to enjoy the tradition of a festive tree without taking a toll on Mother Earth!

Sustainable Christmas Tree Alternatives:

  1. Potted Christmas Tree: Invest in your forever Christmas tree, by buying a potted tree or grow your own Christmas tree. This tree will live in your garden all year and can be brought inside and decorated for the festive season. It’s a lovely tradition in itself if you have children, as the tree will grow with them!

  2. Reusable Christmas Tree: Reusable trees are becoming more popular. Even though they are traditionally made from plastic, they can be used for many decades. If you’d rather avoid plastic, you can choose between a lot of different materials including recycled plastic, reclaimed wood, and even paper mache.

  3. Decorated House Plant: Instead of a traditional Christmas tree, why not use what you have and decorate a large house plant. No plant is too big or too small, plus you can change up the style of your Christmas tree every year with another plant.

  4. DIY Christmas Tree: Pinterest is full of amazing and sustainable DIY Christmas tree options. From books, driftwood and ladders all the way through to carefully arranged Christmas lights or metal frames. There are no limits when it comes to creating your very own unique Christmas tree!

2. Choose Eco-friendly Christmas Decorations & Lights

If you are anything like me, you are looking forward to getting the Christmas decorations out of the attic as soon as the summer is over. That box in the attic is possibly the most sustainable thing you can use to decorate your house year after year. Despite the materials used, reusing what you have is always the preferred choice. However, sometimes things break or you just feel like you have outgrown your decorations and want to update them.

Before you head out to buy everything new on the highstreet, check out local selling pages on Facebook or similar. Often people are giving away fabulous decorations in pristine condition for just a fraction of the price you’d pay in the shop. Maybe you can offer your decorations to swap online or with a friend. That way you can change your decor without buying anything and give the same option to someone else. If you have to buy new, try and stay away from cheap & cheerful. Rather look for heirloom decor that can be kept in your family for more than one generation. Look for eco-friendly material from sustainable sources made in an ethical way and to cut down on carbon emission buy as local as you can! DIY decorations are another eco-friendly option that comes with the benefit of added family fun. Here are some suggestions for straight forward DIY Christmas decorations! For instructions or more inspiration have a look at Pinterest or Youtube!

DIY Christmas Decorations

  1. Candle Jars made from Jam Jars

  2. Dried Sliced Orange (spike with cloves for added Christmas scent)

  3. Paper Chains

  4. Paper Snowflakes

  5. Decorated Tree Branches

  6. Make Your Own Wreath from Greenery & Berries

  7. Salt Dough Ornaments

  8. Felt Craft Ornaments

  9. Cinnamon Stick Ornaments

The “use what you have” approach also goes for your Christmas lights! If you would like to invest in new lights, look for energy-efficient and good quality LED lighting. You could also get a timer switch for your lights, especially when you are (like me) prone to forgetting to switch them off. If you are using small little battery-powered lights, get a good set of rechargeable batteries to keep you going throughout the season!

3. Use Sustainable Wrapping Paper

Remembering my childhood Christmasses, I still have this image in my head of all those beautifully wrapped presents reflecting the lights of the Christmas tree. Wrapped presents evoke a magical feeling of anticipation and it is one of those feelings I loved about Christmas when growing up. Now as a parent myself, I want to give my children those memories as well, but have quickly discovered that this comes with the cost of mountains of wrapping paper – which I am not prepared to pay!

Once I started to look into eco-friendly wrapping paper, I found that there are so many fabulous alternatives out there to create an even better sense of magic.

Eco-friendly Gift Wrapping

  1. Recycled Wrapping Paper: Most wrapping paper offered in shops is not recyclable, however, looking closely you often find one or two designs that will be able to be recycled. If you receive wrapped gifts and are not sure if the paper is recyclable just scrunch it up in your hand, if it stays scrunched up it can go into your recycling bin. If it springs back, it can not be recycled.

  2. Baskets & Boxes: Baskets and boxes are a great option to present a gift beautifully. An added benefit: They can be reused by the recipient in many different ways.

  3. Tins & Jars: Depending on what you are gifting, a glass jar might add to the presentation. Tins are also a very versatile and reusable option for an array of gifts.

  4. Brown Paper: Brown packing paper is not just recyclable and very sturdy, but it can also be customised with drawings or stamps. If you keep paper shopping bags over the year, you always have a little supply of wrapping paper at home.

  5. Waste Paper: Got any leftover wallpaper, old maps, magazines, or newspapers? Don’t throw them out, they can be used to wrap your gifts in a very unique and creative way.

  6. Fabric: Fabric scraps, scarves, or even pillowcases can be used to create a really cool look for your presents. Tie a nice ribbon around it and you’ve got yourself a gift wrap that can be used for years to come.

  7. Santa Sacks: This one is specific for Christmas, but can be adapted to birthdays etc (e.g. have a birthday present sack for each child/member of the family). In our house, each child has their own customised felt sack with their name on it. It is left out on Christmas Eve and Santa fills it overnight.

  8. Paper tape, ribbon & string: Instead of plastic sticky tape, opt for recyclable paper tape or simply use no tape and opt for string or ribbon instead.

Zero Waste Wrapping Tip: If you receive a gift wrapped in paper, try and be careful opening it and keep the paper to reuse it. This way you will always have a lovely choice of wrapping paper in different styles and sizes while generating no waste!

4. Give Sustainable Christmas Gifts

When it comes to sustainable gift giving, the actual gift is of course more important than the wrapping. While we all want to choose gifts that will make our loved ones smile, we have the option to choose gifts that will also make the planet smile.

There is a beautiful selection of eco-friendly and sustainable gifts available that will make it easy to find the perfect gift for even the most difficult to buy for person. While trying to choose your present try and stick with the interests and preferences of the recipient, which will ensure your gift will be loved and treasured. Try and select items that are made from eco-friendly materials that have come from sustainable sources and have been produced ethically and as local as possible. If you are unsure you can always reach out to the retailer or manufacturer to ask about their processes. By supporting ethical and sustainable businesses you are helping them grow and reach even more people in the future!

Experiences over Things

Instead of gifting things, experience gifts are also a great option. Tickets for a sports match, the theatre or cinema are always popular. The same goes for memberships for certain establishments like the zoo for example. If you would like to gift something meaningful you could always opt for a charity donation in the name of the recipient or choose from a wide selection of gifts that keep on giving that are available at Oxfam Ireland for example. Here you can gift support for a refugee family, a cow for a community that depends on animals, or a toilet for families in countries that live without sanitation.

5. Invest in a Reusable Advent Calendar

An advent calendar is one of my favourite Christmas traditions. Nothing builds up the excitement and magic more than opening a small treat every day. Nowadays there is such a massive range of pre-filled single-use advent calendars out there, that you don’t have to make your own. However, a DIY advent calendar is not just fun to fill, you are also in control of what’s inside. Instead of plastic toys or sugar-laden sweets; you can choose to include little wooden toys, healthy treats, or even essentials like socks, PJs, or a new toothbrush.

The design of your calendar is entirely up to you. Some of my favourites include beautifully crafted wooden calendars with refillable little boxes that can be used year after year. Some similar ones are available made from cardboard as well, which is still very sturdy but slightly more affordable. For my children, I have opted for little felt bags in different sizes that can be strung up and wrapped around a branch. This is particularly handy if you don’t have that much space. Add some Christmas lights and a bit of greenery and your advent calendar becomes a staple piece of your Christmas decor!

6. Cook a Sustainable Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner is certainly one of the most special dinners of the year. Traditionally we all know the menu here in Ireland, turkey with all the trimmings, ham, brussel sprouts, stuffing, potatoes, and so on. When trying to make your Christmas Dinner as sustainable as possible this year, ask yourself this: Do you and your family really LOVE this menu or are you just cooking it because it is tradition. If you love it, that’s fab as it means you will enjoy it. If you find you don’t really like it, change it! Personally, I believe, nothing is sustainable if it doesn’t work for you, so make sure you’ll serve something this Christmas that will be devoured and enjoyed! 

Once you have nailed down what’s one the menu, here is how you can make it as sustainable as possible: 

  • Buy local ingredients and keep your food miles down. Check out your local butcher and farmers market. Think to ring ahead, as demand goes up around Christmas, pre-booking popular food is always a good way to avoid disappointment.

  • Another way to keep food-related carbon emission as low as possible is to buy seasonal produce. If you are unsure what vegetables and fruits are currently in season in Ireland, have a look at the handy Bord Bia Seasonal Calendar.

  • Opt for organic produce wherever possible. Again, your local farmers market is possibly your best bet. Often the produce offered on markets is organic and comes from sustainably managed farms. However, supermarkets have also expanded on their organic ranges in recent years, which will give you plenty of options.

  • Avoid excess. Plan ahead and even though it is tempting to have a little extra and then a little more for Christmas, don’t buy too much. Make sure you will have enough but not too much.
  • Reduce animal products. Even if you are not vegetarian or vegan, reducing meat and animal-related food is always a good idea in order to lower the world’s emission of greenhouse gas. Again though, make sure these choices are sustainable for YOURSELF first, as this will ensure you are most likely to stick with it and build on it. Going cold turkey (literally), if you don’t feel convinced might not be the best idea in the long rung.

  • 7. Avoid Food Waste (and Waste from Food) this Christmas

    Food Waste at Christmas is a growing problem. It is estimated that in the UK the equivalent to 4 million Christmas dinners is thrown out every single year. Imagine that mountain of food! All of it had to be grown or reared, produced, transported, and sold, only to end up as waste!

    This food waste problem is mainly due to the excess we buy at Christmas. At the end of the year, we tend to splurge, to make the holidays as special as possible and a big part of that is food, or so we think. There are a few small things you can keep in mind when trying to avoid food waste this Christmas.

    How to Avoid Excess Food Waste this Christmas

    • Plan your Christmas food and avoid buying “just in case foods” or opt for food that has a longer shelf life and can be enjoyed after Christmas as well.

    • Write a detailed shopping list and stick to it! This can be hard, as supermarkets are trying to tempt you with special offers. Try and shop online, which makes it easier to really just get what you actually need.

    • Check the dates! If you decide to not shop online and brace the supermarkets, make sure you check the use by and best before dates.

    • Store your food properly and freeze what you can to keep perishable foods fresh for as long as possible.

    • Get creative with leftovers. While we all know the turkey and ham sandwiches on Stephen’s Day, they are just one of many options for your leftovers. Make salads, puddings, pasta dishes, and make use of your freezer, or simply reheat your leftovers and have a second Christmas dinner.

    • Make sure any food waste you end up with this Christmas is disposed of correctly. Any cooked or uncooked food can usually be placed in your brown bin. This will ensure that it is used in an appropriate way and doesn’t just end up in landfill. If you don’t have a brown bin, contact your bin provider, as you might be entitled to a free one.

    • Reduce Packaging Waste

      In addition to the actual food waste. The food we buy for Christmas often creates another mountain of packaging waste. When you are choosing your ingredients for Christmas dinner, try and avoid excessive packaging and opt for loose food or food packaged in recyclable or compostable packaging. Zero waste online shops are a great option if you don’t have access to unpackaged goods on markets or in local shops. At Eco Annie Pooh or the Minimal Waste Grocery you can order dry foods in the amount you need and it is posted to you in compostable packaging.

    8. Shop for Sustainable Christmas Jumpers and Fashion

    Christmas jumpers, matching Christmas PJs, or festive clothing are another big part of the festivities for many families. After all, we want to look the part when we spend this magical time with all our loved ones. However, novelty jumpers and fast fashion garments are quickly adding to our carbon footprint. 
    Many ethical fashion companies have been steadily increasing their collections of festive jumpers and fashion. It’s a great way to invest in a good quality sustainable piece you can wear and cherish for years to come. If you opt for something that is not distinctively Christmassy, you could also wear it all year round.

    Why not have a browse of the NEW Sugar & Storm Collection in which your little ones feel cosy and yet stylish not just for Christmas!

    If you are looking for novelty jumpers and just want to wear them on Christmas Day, your best bet are second-hand shops or online selling pages. Since Christmas jumpers are usually only worn for a very short amount of time they are often in perfect condition and can be passed on many times!https://www.sugarandstorm.ie/collections/collection-2

    9. Send Eco-friendly Christmas Cards

    Christmas cards – some people love them, others hate them. I must admit, I rather love sending some good wishes to family and friends abroad and also enjoy receiving cards all through December. However, I always thought less is more and I would only send Christmas cards to people that are a part of my life.

    I also realise though, that many Christmas cards are simply thrown out in the new year, which is an awful lot of waste. So here are some options for making your Christmas wishes more sustainable this year.

    Sustainable Christmas Cards

    1. Choose eco-friendly cards made in Ireland. If you are unsure where cards are produced or what materials are used, don’t be afraid to ask.

    2. Make your own Christmas cards. You can use cardboard and waste paper to cut out ornaments or simply let your kids design their very own cards to add a lovely personal touch. In the past few years, I have recycled the Christmas cards we received the year before by cutting out their designs and using them on our DIY cards.

    3. Use Christmas cards that support a good cause. Christmas is the time of giving and what better way to give to those in need and to send some love to our dearest people than with a pack of charity Christmas cards. These are often printed on FSC certified paper as well.

    4. Ditch the traditional cards and send an e-card. There are so many designs available online or if you feel creative, you can also design your very own Christmas e-card with a picture of your family to send around the world. Sending e-cards also means you can be as last minute as you like, they’ll always arrive in time.

    5. Send a Christmas tree ornament instead of a card. This will not just make them smile this year but will keep the festive love going for many more Christmasses.

    6. Another digital alternative to the traditional Christmas card is a video or voice message. Hearing your voice wishing a Merry Christmas or even singing your favourite Christmas carol will make your Christmas wishes this year a lot more personal.

    Close (esc)


    Use this popup to embed a mailing list sign up form. Alternatively use it as a simple call to action with a link to a product or a page.

    Age verification

    By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


    Shopping Cart

    Your cart is currently empty.
    Shop now