8 December 2023

13 tips to have yourself a very eco Christmas

Major Heather Poxon

A photo shows someone constructing Christmas decorations out of paper, pinecones and string.

Major Heather Poxon shares suggestions from the Environmental Champions to make your celebrations more environmentally friendly.

1. Use sustainable materials

How sustainable are the materials used for your gifts, cards and wrapping paper? Is the paper made from recycled or Forest Stewardship Council-certified materials? Avoid single-use plastic items and instead focus on things such as fair trade or organic items. From vintage clothes to home furnishings, second-hand items can save on resources needed to make new products.

2. Use LED lights

LED lights consume less energy and last longer, making them an eco-friendly way to decorate your Christmas tree. When you go to bed, remember to switch your lights off too!

3. Try a real Christmas tree

A tree with roots is the most environmentally friendly option, as you can plant it in the garden and use it again next year. For a felled tree, try to find an FSC-certified grower so you know that it’s been grown responsibly – or there might be a rental scheme available near you so that you can return the tree after Christmas to be looked after.

4. Quality not quantity

When buying a gift, prioritise quality over quantity. Will the item stand the test of time? Is it a gift that will be wanted, so that it doesn’t go to waste? 

5. Make a difference

Why not support The Salvation Army’s international projects through Just Gifts and make a positive difference to someone else’s life?

6. Gift an experience

Bring people together by gifting your time, tickets to an event or a homemade coupon. You could make a restaurant reservation, cook a homemade meal or plan a day out.

7. Reduce food waste

Food production – particularly beef and soy – is the biggest cause of tropical deforestation. If you plan ahead, you can reduce the amount of food wasted by trying to be realistic about the amount of food you need and using up any leftovers. Instead of wrapping leftovers in cling film for storage, why not use Tupperware, kitchen foil or wax cloth covers?

8. Eat more plants

Poultry is among the 10 most wasted foods in the UK. The livestock industry, meanwhile, generates 14.5 per cent of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions. Eating more plant-based meals will therefore help the planet. 

9. Make your own crackers

Crackers can be fun for everyone, but many of them can’t be recycled. Instead, try making your own or using reusable crackers that can be filled each year with sustainable materials such as chocolate. Alternatively, watch out for FSC-certificate crackers.

10. Avoid single-use napkins

Instead of single-use napkins and tablecloths that can’t be reused, try to use material versions that you can wash and keep for longer. And, when you are washing them, using a lower temperature setting can help reduce your environmental footprint even further.

11. Toilet paper that builds toilets 

With guests visiting and using your facilities, it’s the most wonderful time of the year to look out for toilet paper that is recycled or sustainable. One company that produces sustainable toilet paper is Who Gives a Crap, which donates half of its profits to clean water and sanitation non-profits.

Suggested by Alison Raybould

12. DIY decorations

Use popcorn garlands rather than tinsel. You can also dye popcorn using food colouring. String the popcorn with paper shapes or leaves. Use pinecones to decorate around the place or use them to make wreaths – these will need to be collected in May and June. You can also decorate with holly and ivy.

Suggested by Clare Leask and Gill Wilkins

13. Family activities

Try the Polish tradition ‘Christmas Kept’: after the meal and gift sharing, gather everyone together with scissors, glue and tape and recycle the rubbish by making something to do with Christmas.

Written by

Photo of Heather Poxon.

Major Heather Poxon

Territorial Environmental Officer, THQ

The words 'tread softly' in a handwriting font joined up with a drawing of a footprint

Become an environmental champion

Passionate about caring for creation? Find out more about joining the Environmental Champions Network.


Discover more

Devotions, podcasts, articles and resources to help you journey through Advent and celebrate Christmas.

Major Jo Moir introduces the latest handcrafted products from Others UK – Trade for Hope.

Supporting the territory to care for creation and tread softly on our common home.

Resources to help you care for creation.