While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of joy and celebration, it can also be one of excess and hyper-consumption. From swathes of discarded wrapping paper to plastic-filled presents and alarming amounts of food waste, it has been estimated that the UK sends almost 100 million rubbish bags to landfill over the festive period alone. But fear not – there are plenty of sustainable Christmas options out there that mean you can still make this Christmas an affair to remember. Here’s our guide to celebrating the festive season in a way that won’t cost the earth.
When it comes to Christmas shopping this year, eschew big brands and online retailers in favour of small, independent businesses. Many beauty brands are now doing away with plastic in favour of more eco-friendly alternatives – invest in a gift set from British independent fragrance house Floral Street, whose packaging is entirely plastic-free, or give the gift of a refillable starter kit from Fiils – this innovative beauty brand provides aluminium bottles and pouches to fill them up with; once you’ve run out, simply send away for more and you’ll receive new refills in the post.
Childrens’ gifts can be some of the worst culprits when it comes to sustainability, with plastic-filled toys filling Christmas stockings around the country. But there are signs that this is changing, with personalised gift brand My 1st Years reporting an “unprecedented surge” in wooden toys being purchased on their site this year. Head to independent, best friend-founded business PomPom to shop their chicly-curated edit of the finest plastic-free toys around, from award-winning climbing triangles to wooden stacking toys and handmade toy storage baskets.
So much of the joy during the festive season is centred around the food we eat, which is why it’s more important than ever to ensure that your Christmas produce is ethically sourced and of the highest possible quality. In the capital, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to first class food, whether it’s meat from The Ginger Pig, home-grown groceries from Farmdrop or seasonal organic veg from Riverford. Plenty of places are providing delicious Christmas dinners straight to your door, too, including sustainable food delivery service Abel & Cole, whose organic Turkey Christmas Feast Box is flying off the shelves.
While you’re sorting out the food, don’t forget about the drink – a Christmas tipple is almost as important as the meal itself. Walthamstow-based independent wine shop Forest Wines offers a wide range of organic natural wines available for delivery, as does Dynamic Vines in Bermondsey. When it comes to fizz, opt for a home-grown British option – both Sussex-based Nyetimber and Gusbourne Estate in Kent produce excellent sparkling wines.
We’ve seen how revolutionary the rental offering has been in the fashion industry, with platforms like By Rotation and My Wardrobe HQ becoming household names, and now that ethos has extended beyond clothes, with almost everything available to hire. Instead of feeling guilty about choosing a less than ethical Christmas tree this year, why not rent one instead? Companies like Green Elf Trees are offering sustainable, pot-grown trees for the festive season, which they will come and upcycle once you’re finished with it.
When it comes to creating a show-stopping Christmas table, you no longer need to invest in separate crockery and table linen that only comes out once a year – these days, all the smartest hosts simply hire a full festive tablescape. Brands like Maison Margaux and Lay London offer beautiful ones to rent, complete with decadent fabrics and joyful decorations. As for your outfit on the big day, it’s estimated almost two million sequinned items are thrown away after every Christmas party – spare the landfill this year and rent your festive sparkle instead, with a shimmering De La Vali dress from By Rotation or a show-stopping Rixo jumpsuit from Hurr.
There’s nothing to get you in the festive spirit quite like getting your Christmas decorations out, but sadly many of our traditional ornaments are woefully unsustainable. There are plenty of easy sustainable swaps you can make to ensure your displays are more eco-friendly, however. Independent brand Paper Dreams makes beautiful paper decorations, from festive Santa hat garlands to rainbow-coloured tree ornaments. Thie is another brand that only works with natural materials, using plant fibres for their cute bristle animal decorations, while Nkuku has gorgeous garlands and baubles made from recycled glass.
And it doesn’t just stop with your tree – most elements of your Christmas table can be eco, too, including the crackers. The Little Green Cracker Company sells gorgeous plastic-free alternatives, made with recycled and recyclable materials, which are stocked at Selfridges, and Happy Crackers specialise in beautiful reusable and refillable handmade options using vintage Liberty London fabrics. And while many of this year’s luxury wreaths have gone plastic-free, you can take your green credentials one step further with an upcycled wreath from London-based brand The Picture Tales, who use pre-loved decorations to make their colour-filled creations, or a sack wreath made from salvaged jute sacking and canvas from Re.
If you can’t find the sort of eco-friendly decorations you’re after, why not make some yourself? Swap out regular glitter, which is made from environmentally-damaging microplastics, for a plant-based, biodegradable alternative like Bioglitter. When it comes to wrapping paper for your gifts, look out for 100% glitter-free options and recycled and FSC-certified paper – if in doubt, try the scrunch test. If the paper you want to recycle stays in a ball when you scrunch it, that usually means it’s recyclable.
Wearth London has a whole range of guilt-free wrapping papers available, as does London-based brand Re-Wrapped, who use 100% recycled unbleached materials and vegan-friendly vegetable inks on all their compostable papers and cards. Even better, go down the reusable route by using textiles instead of paper – zero-waste brand Happy Wrap sells beautiful options made out of natural materials like organic cotton, panama and ecru cotton. Your Christmas cards can have a new lease of life after the festive season, too, if you go for a plantable option – Wildflower Favours makes cards packed full of UK-grown wildflower seeds, while The Seed Card Company crafts theirs out of post-consumer paper waste.