10 Simple Steps You Can Take To Make Your Christmas A Little More Sustainable

Hear from sustainability advocate, Amy Nguyen…

10 Simple Steps You Can Take To Make Your Christmas A Little More Sustainable

Christmas is undeniably a magical time of year, yet the festivities and celebrations can sometimes mean over shopping and extra waste. With so many of us seeking ways in which we can all live a little greener, we spoke to sustainability strategist, researcher and advocate, Amy Nguyen to hear her best advice for the small steps we can all easily take to make a big difference this year… 

“The Christmas season is the perfect time to adopt new, eco-friendly habits and support brands and businesses who are going above and beyond,” says Amy. “Living more sustainably has never been more important so let’s all do our bit to make this Christmas a regenerative, circular and positively impactful one!” 


1. Be Mindful Of Your Food Waste

Did you know that if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the USA? Whilst this is a problem throughout the entire year, a shocking amount goes to waste over the festive period due to so many bulk buying, over cooking and binning leftovers. Where possible, try to plan ahead and resist the temptation to stockpile and cook too much. Look at how many people you’re hosting for and check in with guests to see if there’s anything they don’t like. When it comes to leftovers, save them for the next day, send guests away with them or freeze them for a later date. You can also use sharing apps like OLIO to donate your leftovers to neighbours or members of your local community! I’m a big advocate of repurposing your leftovers into new recipes such as pies, soups and bubble and squeak. 


2. Consider Meat-Free Food Options

Recent research from Harvard University shows that a traditional turkey Christmas dinner has more than double the greenhouse gas emissions than a vegan nut roast with plant-based trimmings. Nobody is saying to ditch your turkey or pigs in blankets, but you could swap one or two of your meat dishes for a less carbon intensive option. Think roasted vegetable wreaths, mushroom wellington or a nut roast. Imagine the impact if every family in the UK made a small change like this. 


3. Shop Local...

When it comes to buying gifts, decorations as well as food and drink, there are several reasons shopping locally can be more sustainable. Not only will you be supporting your local community but shopping locally means you’re likely to be able to get what you need by walking, biking or using public transport. With so many small businesses feeling the effects of the pandemic, you’ll help to give them a boost and encourage your community to stay local. Make a trip to your local butchers, fishmongers and bakeries or if you need to food shop online, look for sustainable businesses such as Abel & ColeRiverford and Oddbox. If you’re in London, a great gift for gardeners would be a visit or produce from Sitopia Farm - a two-acre farm in Greenwich that uses regenerative farming practices. Not only can you shop for vegetable and flower subscriptions as gifts, but you could also attend one of their training courses to learn about organic and no-dig farming methods.  


4. ...And B Corp

Buying from B Corp brands is the perfect way to know that your gift is giving back as they work to balance profit, people and the planet. NEOM gained their B Corp badge earlier this year (more about that here) so do check out their Christmas gifts. B Corp AND will boost their wellbeing? What's not to love. 

Hampers are a perfect way to personalise gifts to your loved one so why not make a hamper full of B Corp treats? Need some inspo? This year try filling yours with NEOM candles (it's Christmas Wish for me), Rubies In The Rubble, Riverford Organic FarmersTony’s Chocolonely and Brew Tea Company. 


5. Monitor Your Energy Usage

With much more time spent in our homes over Christmas hosting friends and families, there’s no denying our energy usage increases. Simple things such as using a smart meter to track your energy use can really help. Where possible, try to turn down the heating too. Even if the whole family is home most of the time, putting yours on a timer can make a big difference. Now may also be the time to look into renewable or green energy providers. When it comes to your Christmas tree lights and decorations, switch yours for LEDs instead of incandescent ones as they’ll use 90% less energy according to People With Energy. For outside lights, try solar-powered ones as these won’t cost you in electricity or CO2. Other things to consider include not overstocking your fridge (try storing drinks outside in your garage or shed) and ensuring your freezer is defrosted since the more ice in your freezer, the more energy it uses. 


6. Sip A Sustainable Tipple

‘Tis certainly the season to pop a bottle or two but why not switch to something a little sweeter to the environment. The International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) has given some super useful advice and suggests repurposing waste to turn into alcohol, avoiding single-use plastics where possible and opting for brands who use renewable energy in their supply chain. You can check the label and website to find these details if you’re unsure. Much like with your food, try keeping it local where possible too.  

Some brands I love: 

  • Discarded Spirits who reuse waste from coffee, wine and whisky industries to transform into drinks like ‘Discarded Banana Peel Rum’ or ‘Discarded Sweet Cascara Vermouth’.  
  • Bruichladdich Distillery Company - A B Corp company that makes whiskies and gins in the Island of Islay. They’re focused on better packaging, traceability, and sustainable farming practices to protect biodiversity and are dedicated to supporting the local communities of Islay through employment. 
  • Two Drifters who are mindful of sustainability in every step, including having an electric distillery run on 100% renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon-neutral packaging and courier. 

7. Go For An Organic Or Rented Christmas Tree 

Instead of splurging on a plastic artificial tree, why not opt for an organic, real one this year. Peach Hayne Organics are a family run organic farm from Devon that sells organic Christmas trees, certified by the Soil Association. That means they are focused on conserving soil health - no pesticides, no chemicals and have a smaller carbon footprint. They deliver all across the UK, or if you live near Exeter, you can shop at the Tiverton Christmas Market. If you want an organic tree and depending on where you live, you could also try Magic of Foresters in Kent or Swillington Organic Farm in Yorkshire.  

Alternatively, why not look at renting your tree? The sharing economy is a great way for us to reduce unnecessary consumption and waste. According to some sources, up to 7 million trees end up in landfill each year. The London Christmas Tree Rental company has hubs in Dulwich, Barnes and Orpington or you could try Good Elf who also deliver all across the UK.


8. Switch To A UK Staycation  

Sure, winter sunshine has its appeal but why not keep is closer to home and enjoy the beauty of the UK with a sustainable staycation. There are plenty of hospitality companies and luxury hotels who are getting in on the B Corp club. Why not rent a country hideout through Luxury Cottages or book a room at the Inhabit Hotel in London. The Exclusive Collection Group has also recently gained their badge and have spots in Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire.  

Of course, there are plenty of others across the UK that are also doing their bit by supporting local food sourcing and considering their environmental impact from all angles. Check out The Pig, The Scarlet, Green House Hotel, Whatley Manor and Old Lands Monmouthshire.  


9. Adopt This Year’s Decorative Theme... Plastic-Free & Circular  

Christmas often tends to be to an overly plastic affair and given that the OECD claims only 9% of global plastic is recycled, let this be your reminder to be a little more conscious. 

Look for decorations that can we recycled and reused or why not make your own...  I love to use leftover oranges to craft into a beautiful garland like this or follow step-by-step guides online on how to design your own Origami or twig stars  Alternatively, support independent designers and small businesses on Etsy or Not On The High StreetBrands like Nukuku work solely with sustainable, natural, and recycled materials. The National Trust always have a great selection of handcrafted decorations made from natural materials, and Oxfam sells ornaments made from recycled materials made by artisans who are paid to create items in fair working conditions.  


10. Make Your ‘Night Before’ PJs Stripe & Stare 

Can’t quite resist the urge to get yourself some new Christmas PJs that you’ll probably only wear on Christmas Eve? Millions of tonnes of clothes are sent to landfill each year and it’s estimated that only 1% are recycled! With this in mind, why not try looking for a pair of biodegradable pyjamas for life? Smart fabric choices make for superior loungewear and underwear that go beyond just the festive season. Stripe & Stare, who are certified B Corp and renowned for their designs, use Tencel modal fibres that are ultra-soft, compostable and responsibly sourced. Trust me when I say you’ll look forward to bedtime!