20 Zero Waste Plastic Free Christmas Tips for the Festive Season

Are you looking for ways to have a zero waste or plastic free Christmas this year? There are many easy things you can do to reduce your waste through the festive period and make Christmas a much more sustainable event – without breaking the bank!

Christmas produces a huge amount of waste every year – from plastics to food waste – so it’s really important everyone plays their part in lessening their impact on the planet at the most wonderful time of the year. Some whopping facts to throw into perspective just how much waste is produced during the festive season are:

  • 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is used each Christmas in the UK; over 83km2 of this will end up in the bin.
  • 1 billion Christmas Cards (the equivalent of 33 million trees!) are discarded every Christmas.
  • UK residents waste 54 million platefuls of food each December.
  • 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging for food is thrown away over the festive period.

Facts source here.

Section 1: Plastic Free Christmas Decorations

1. Choose an eco-friendly advent calendar

Plastic lined cardboard boxes with one chocolate per day are so outdated. Choose a fabric advent calendar you can keep for years – my mum has had hers since I was a baby so it’s around 27 years old! You can also get lovely wooden advent calendars with drawers you can fill with your own goodies. You can also get advent candles which aren’t the best alternative but are still plastic-free.

2. Choose an Eco-Friendly Plastic-Free Christmas Tree

If you’ve already got a fake tree, keep using it for as long as you can – make it last for years and years, and then give it to someone else to use too. I have a second-hand plastic Christmas tree that was given to me; I won’t get rid of it because that would be worse for the environment than keeping it, and it’ll last forever.

The next best environmentally-friendly and plastic free option is a small living tree that can go in a pot, which you can put in your garden for the rest of the year. This therefore means you need to be able to lift it! Remember to buy local.

3. Plastic free Christmas decorations

With consumerism at its height, it’s tempting to choose a different style for your home and tree every year, but it’s far more eco-friendly to reuse what you already have or to create your own. Try using twigs from the garden to create into star shapes or branches from trees and other foliage to create something that is unique, eco-friendly and completely natural. Or make cookies or other edible decorations (but beware your pets don’t eat them before you do!)

4. Plastic Free Christmas Wreaths

Why not take a friend or relative out for a wreath-making class where you can create a wreath out of natural things found outside? Think twigs and branches, dried fruit or berries, pine cones…

Wreath making is a fun and plastic free Christmas activity!

Section 2: Plastic Free Christmas Gifts & Wrapping

At Christmas, not only do we buy a whole heap more stuff we don’t really need, we then wrap it up in pointless wrapping paper that gets torn off as soon as the gift is given to someone else.

5. Plastic free Christmas wrapping paper

Most wrapping paper is actually made from plastic and therefore even if you put it in the recycling bin it won’t be recycled because of the type of plastic it contains. Alternatives you could try are:

  • reusing any leftover giftwrap/ tissue paper or other packaging you’ve got lying around the house
  • using old newspapers or magazines
  • trying Furushiki, the Japanese art of wrapping items in fabric (think scarves, scrap fabric, old tablecloths or napkins etc)
  • using brown craft paper – it IS actually recyclable unlike normal wrapping paper

6. Plastic-free bows, ribbons and other decorations

Instead of the typical sparkly sticky-back tinsel bows and ribbons, try decorating your presents with natural things, like pine cones, holly, sprigs of pine branches, dried fruits, rosemary etc. You could also try using the text on newspaper articles to cut into star shapes and fix to your pressies using brown twine.

7. Plastic Free Sellotape Alternatives

Sellotape is so versatile and handy but it is generally made of a type of plastic called polypropylene, is actually not typically recycled in the UK!! Instead, try these plastic-free alternatives:

  • Try using ribbon to fasten your wrapping
  • Likewise, use string, or fashion a nice tie out of plaiting some embroidery thread
  • Try a biodegradable tape alternative such as washi tape – available on Amazon here

8. Recycled Christmas Gift Tags

Ever since I was little, my family has used old Christmas Cards cut into random shapes to create gift tags to stick on our gifts the following year. This signalled the end of Christmas in our house; alongside the decorations and tree coming down, we would all sit around the dining room table cutting up our cards just before we went back to school in January.

If you don’t receive cards, choose reusable gift tags made from fabric or choose recycled ones. You could even attach a small decoration to your presents which the recipient can hang on their tree.

Section 3: Plastic-Free Christmas Presents

There is nothing worse than receiving a present at Christmas and thinking you’ll never use it, and putting on a fake smile to say thank you! Instead of buying someone a present for the SAKE of buying them something, choose presents that are thoughtful, meaningful, and that they actually want and will use – rather than stick at the bottom of their wardrobe or list on ebay after New Year.

9. Choose secondhand presents

You can get so many incredible items second-hand now, with entire websites devoted to sourcing secondhand clothes, furniture, jewellery, and so much more! Often items have only been used once or twice, so they’re still in amazing condition. Ebay, depop, and vinterior are my go-tos.

10. Plastic free Christmas gifts

This Christmas, choose something that won’t leave a lasting effect on the environment – something that won’t be here for years and years, or something that can be reused or recycled! Many are all alternatives to cheaper, plastic alternatives, so will definitely be used by whoever you give them to. For women, try refillable make-up options like lipsticks and mascara, reusable makeup remover pads, or shampoo bars or bath bombs (which come in cardboard packaging). For men, what about a thermos mug or ethical clothing such as Organic Basics socks and t-shirts? Staples like metal straws and bamboo cutlery travel sets won’t go amiss either. Have a look at my gift ideas post for more travel related presents.

11. Buy experiences instead of things

How about treating someone to tickets to their favourite show, a national heritage membership or a new class. This is much better than something they won’t use and will end up forgetting about – an experience will last a lifetime!

12. Plastic free toys for children’s Christmas gifts

Plastic toys are finally starting to go out of fashion, with wooden ones making a comeback! Unfortunately, plastic toys are often non-recyclable, and they can end up everywhere: thrown from prams or forgotten about!

Opt for wooden toys or at least choose ones that contain less plastic pieces. Choose secondhand where you can, or opt for toys that teach children about the environment and the negative effect plastic has on it!

Plastic free Christmas presents are a must this year!

Section 4: Recycled eco-friendly Christmas Cards

The concept of Christmas Cards are really starting to lose their magic on me. I think it’s lovely to send love to friends and family at Christmas, but it doesn’t require sending out a whole heap more waste (plus when you think of postage costs and emissions from transport it does really seem silly.

There’s a lot to say about Christmas cards. Some are coated with plastic to make them shine or have decorations on. Others come in single-use plastic boxes.

13. Send a recycled plastic free Christmas Card

You could make one yourself out of old bits of cardboard, or choose a company who create cards from recycled materials. Many small businesses on Etsy and the like offer this.

14. Send an e-card to avoid any waste whatsoever

Digital is taking over and in some respects this is a good thing! Avoid physical cards altogether and send someone an e-card – you can use online services to do this, or you can simply send them a text or email. A meaningful conversation over the phone means a lot more than ‘Best wishes’ scrawled in a card.

Section 5: Waste-free Christmas Dinner

15. Cook from scratch to avoid unnecessary packaging

Making food from scratch is always preferable in my opinion; food tastes fresher and more flavoursome! Whilst you might think it’s only one packet of roast potatoes, if everyone in the UK did the same, that would be around 66 million packets tossed into the trash… JUST for your roast potatoes!

You can cook loads of dishes well before Christmas Day comes around to avoid panicking last minute, such as cakes, puddings and savoury items. Simply freeze them so they’re ready to be defrosted on Christmas Eve.

16. Buy food in bulk

Choosing to stock up on dry foods such as lentils and porridge oats is a great idea year-round, but particularly at Christmas when supermarkets are often closed for a few days or you just don’t want to leave the house. Take along your old jars and Tupperware to bulk stores (there’s a good directory on this site if you’re UK-based).

17. Storing leftover food

The problem with Christmas dinner is that no matter how well you plan, you always end up with enough leftovers to last the next week! This is great as it means Christmas is stretched out longer, but storing food can become wasteful. Instead of cling film, opt for wax wraps. You can buy beeswax ones or you can choose a vegan version – these ones are my favourite. Alternatively, use tea towels if you’re not storing food for long, or just use Tupperware.

If you’ve got a lot leftover – too much to eat before it goes bad – stick it in the freezer when Christmas Day is over and use it up over the next few weeks. That way you won’t get bored of having the same meal for days on end too.

18. Plastic Free Christmas beer and wine

Did you know that beer bottle tops and screw-cap wines contain plastic? They have an inner plastic seal to help keep the drinks fresh. Now, obviously I’m not going to tell you to boycott alcohol over Christmas as that would be a crime! However, you can choose products wisely. Opt for beer cans in cardboard boxes instead of bottles or cans that come with those plastic rings around them. For wine, choose corks and get a bottle-stopper. If you’re vegan, check barnivore.com for advice on which beer and wine is animal-innard-free.

Plastic free place settings are a must at Christmas dinner

Section 6: Waste-free Christmas table

19. Choose plastic free Christmas crackers

Christmas crackers aren’t just filled with plastic rubbish that goes straight in the bin, they’re also made from cardboard that’s often coated with plastic to make them shiny. Recycled crackers are an option – or why not make your own instead? You can buy kits online like this one on Amazon.

20. Choose reusable tableware instead of disposables

If you’re having big groups over at Christmas, try to avoid choosing disposable tableware such as paper plates, plastic cutlery and plastic cups etc. They’re often not recyclable – particularly if they’re contaminated with food! Even paper napkins at dinner are wasteful; opt for fabric ones you can wash after use. Beware of disposables listed as biodegradable: they are ONLY biodegradable if you put them in your food waste bin (and even this rule varies dependent on your local recycling scheme).

What do you think to my plastic free Christmas tips for a zero waste festive season? Which ones will you be trying? Is there anything else you would add?

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

Abbi X

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something from the linked site, I’ll earn a tiny (and I mean tiny!) commission at no extra cost to you, which contributes to running this blog.

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One response to “20 Zero Waste Plastic Free Christmas Tips for the Festive Season”

  1. This post is absolutely amazing! I know it’s only May but I need something to look forward to, and it got me feeling all festive.

    I started trying to be less wasteful last year, using brown paper to wrap presents instead of typical wrapping paper. I’ll definitely be doing it again this year. Mum always cooks from scratch too.

    I’ve bookmarked, ready for November, to make sure 2020 is the most sustainable Christmas yet.



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