21 Ideas for an Eco-Friendly Christmas

Christmas is a joyful time of year! Who doesn’t love the excitement and anticipation of the holiday season? (OK, it can be a little stressful too!) Although Christmas is a wonderful time, it is also not the best for the environment. You can do your part for the planet by finding ways to have a more eco-friendly Christmas.

There are quite a few aspects of Christmas that aren’t eco-friendly, but this guide will show you small ways you can make changes to your holiday traditions and still show Mother Nature some love!

What Is An Eco-Friendly Christmas?

An eco-friendly Christmas is just like a regular Christmas. just a little bit more mindful of the environment. You can make small changes to your gifts, food, decorations, and traditions that will positively impact the environment.

Why Have A Green Christmas?

It’s easy to dismiss the idea of going out of your way to have an eco-friendly Christmas; after all, it’s only once a year.

But Christmas is full of (wonderful!) excess and when you multiply that by the billions of families that celebrate it around the world… well, it makes a big impact.

Life’s Carousel is about finding small ways to change your habits to be more environmentally friendly, and Christmas is a perfect time to do this!

Creative zero waste Christmas concept. Gift boxes with handmade eco friendly craft wrapping paper and traditional Japanese style furoshiki fabric packaging.

How To Have A Sustainable Christmas

There are numerous ways of ensuring a sustainable Christmas. But the two primary things to think about are: 

  • Minimizing waste
  • Buying mindfully

First, you want to take a little time to think through your holiday traditions and come up with little things you can do to be more environmentally friendly (using the eco-friendly Christmas ideas below to get you started!).

And then you want to talk to your family about it. Don’t worry, I bet you’ll be surprised that their positive reaction!

I remember the first time my mother suggested we had a green Christmas, I was in my teens and she had planned out lots of different ways we could still have an amazingly fun holiday, but without adding to our carbon footprint.

We made gifts for each other, made our own decorations, and had a much smaller (but still delicious) Christmas lunch. It was definitely a magical time! And 20 years later, I STILL remember that Christmas more than any other from my childhood!

The Easiest Ways To Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas

Below are some ideas to help you have a more eco-friendly Christmas without having to sacrifice any of the magic or fun! What new traditions will you find to start with your family?

Eco-Friendly Gift Giving

Give one main gift instead of lots of small gifts.

I know you want to shower your loved ones with lots of gifts. However, we all know that most of those stocking stuffers are just junk and end up in the trash after a few months. To ensure an eco-friendly Christmas, restrain yourself from buying many little things and give just one or two larger gifts with good memories or sentimental values.  

Check out my list of gift ideas for nature lovers!

shop locally for an eco-friendly christmas

Buy locally

Shipping products around the world has a massive impact on the environment. However, by buying locally, you support smaller local businesses, and you also help cut down on excess transportation. Win-win!

You’ll also probably find some unique and unusual gifts if you shop locally too. A jar of gourmet salsa from a local farmers market is much more exciting that yet another pair of socks for Dad!

Sustainable gifts

Depending on where you live, you might not have as many options for local eco-friendly gifts. Instead, you can search online for some sustainable gift alternatives.

I’ve put together this post of 9 unique sustainable gifts from Amazon that will be perfect for anyone in your life!

Homemade or upcycled gifts

There’s always something special about giving or receiving a handmade present. OK, sometimes they aren’t that great (like the itchy knitted sweater that your aunt sends you every year!), but the thought and time behind the gift make it very special.

If you aren’t crafty enough to make something from scratch (or just don’t have time!). Try upcycling instead! It’s easy to find ‘treasures’ at thrift stores that you can customize to make unique and gorgeous presents! Look for glassware that you can paint fun designs on. Clothes that you can add embellishments to. Or old furniture that you can paint and give a new life.

Give ‘experiences’, not gifts

This is something that I love to do with my own family. We all have so much ‘stuff’! And having more stuff doesn’t make us any happier.

But shared experiences do! I’ve spent some wonderful days out with my kids and the memories will last a lot longer than whatever the latest craze in the toy world is.

For an eco-friendly Christmas, you can try things like a meal out, tickets to a show or concert, movie tickets, tickets to a theme park, homemade ‘coupon’ for a massage/date night/kid-free time.

Choose eco-friendly wrapping

I love tearing into a gift-wrapped present as much as the next person, after all that’s part of the excitement. But at the end of Christmas day how many bags of trash gift wrap do you have? Too many!

Instead, you could try eco-friendly gift wrapping. Try to think of anything that can be reused more than once or can be recyclable.

You can try reusing old paper (you know Granny is always super careful when she opens presents so she can reuse it!), plain brown recycled paper, or upcycle old newspaper and magazines. You can also try alternative wraps, like a silk scarf (that’s part of the present) or a blanket? Gift bags and boxes are often good because they hold up to more wear and can be reused many times.

sustainable christmas wrapping ideas

Avoid glitter, foil, or shiny wrapping paper.

If you really have no option but to use regular gift wrap, then choose ones that are easier to recycle. Avoid paper that has glitter, foil, or is very shiny as that doesn’t recycle well. A lot of brands also sell wrap that is made from recycled paper, so look out for that.

Sustainable Holiday Decorations & Traditions

Handmade decorations

This is probably one of my favorite ways to have a more sustainable Christmas. I LOVE to make my own Christmas decorations. It all started when I was a teen and my mom announced that we weren’t going to use any of our old decorations that year but make everything from scratch!

Simple things like slicing up oranges and lemons, baking them at a low temperature in the oven to dehydrate them, and then putting a string through them. Or stringing together peanut shells. It’s amazing what you can do with some ribbon, wire, and dried fruits and nuts!

homemade christmas decorations

Look in thrift stores for decorations to use or upcycle

Not feeling crafty or a bit pinched for time? Check out your local thrift store and see what you can find. They will often have whole sections of decorations around the holidays, but you can also use non-traditional items too.

Look for old picture frames, lamps, or vases that you can paint or decorate to have a festive feel. An empty picture frame painted red with an ornament hanging in the center makes a great addition to any holiday decor.

Buy timeless decorations instead of following the current fashion.

It seems that every year there is a new fashionable color for Christmas decorations. One year it’s pinks and purples and the next year it’s black and white! While it’s tempting to try to keep up with the changing fashion, it’s not a very suitable way to decorate! (And it gets expensive too!)

A more sustainable way to decorate is to look for classic, good quality decorations that are going to last. The classic Christmas colors of gold, red, green and silver will never go out of fashion!

Find alternatives to a traditional Christmas tree

Use an alternative to a Christmas tree (like a big houseplant). Or get a potted Christmas tree and plant it after. By replanting your Christmas tree, you minimize the chances of polluting the environment and instead promote an eco-friendly Christmas.

If you are worried about keeping a tree alive the other 11 months of the year, then you could consider renting a live tree. Yes! You can rent a tree and then it is returned to the nursery who look after it for the rest of the year.

My family already has an artificial tree. Although I know it’s not a very environmental choice now, at the time when I bought it, I didn’t think of things like that. Instead of throwing it out and getting a ‘greener’ tree (excuse the pun!), we are taking good care of it, so it will last us years and years.

Chip or mulch real tree after Christmas

If you do still want the smell and look of a real tree, then consider mulching or chipping the tree at the end of the Christmas season. Mulch is an excellent way to protect soil from erosion and put much-needed nutrients back in.

Reduce the number of Christmas lights and use LED Christmas bulbs

Christmas lights are one of the most magical parts of Christmas (at least I think so!), but the added electricity used to light up up those string of lights, doesn’t equal a very eco-friendly Christmas! By switching to LED Christmas bulbs, it is possible to save up to 80% less energy than incandescent bulbs! And they last longer too, so you don’t have to play the not-so-fun game of hunting down the broken light bulb!

reduce christmas lights or switch to LED for a more sustainable christmas.

Use a timer on your Christmas lights

After going to bed, almost everyone is asleep, and therefore no one is left to enjoy the lighting. Besides, leaving the lights on all night will increase your utility bill for no good reason. By minimizing light usage, you save some coins and help the environment!

Do you always forget to turn them off? Don’t worry, it’s as simple as adding a timer to your lights. Set them to go off at your normal bedtime and you can even have them come on for an hour or two in the morning, so you can enjoy them then too.

Send e-cards or cards made from recycled paper

Sending an e-card for Christmas is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment at Christmastime. Hallmark has a dizzy array of ecard choices (and not just for Christmas). You will be able to find the perfect personalized card for everyone on your list.

If Great Aunt Susan isn’t too tech-savvy and you still want to send her a printed car, then look for cards made from recycled paper instead.

Re-wear your Christmas sweater! Don’t buy a new one every year.

Ah, the Christmas ugly sweater! Every year it seems to be getting more popular to have ugly sweater contests and the competition can get tough! But rather than buying a new sweater every year, keep the same one and add old decorations to it!

So if your work is having an ugly sweater contest this year, be sure to re-wear last year’s! (On the subject of workplaces – check out my posts about creating a sustainable office.)

Reuse your ugly christmas sweater for a zero-waste christmas

Eco-Friendly Christmas Food and Drink

Plan your meals and the quantities you will need

Christmas always seems to be a time of excess food and drink. And of course, you can still indulge and enjoy the festive season. But a lot of food and drink goes to waste. If you plan your meals (and treats!) in advance, then you can ensure that you are buying the right amount of food for the number of hungry mouths you are feeding.

Before shopping for foodstuffs for Christmas do some early planning. The number of guests you expect during this wonderful season should guide you in buying the right quantities. What about the tempting Christmas offers? Avoid impulse buying, no matter how tempting the discounts.

There’s no need to get a 20lb turkey to feed 4 people (no-one likes leftover turkey THAT much!). So check your portion sizes and be realistic about how much everyone will eat and drink. It will save you money too!

Buy ingredients from local sources or farmers’ markets

Support your local small businesses and help the environment at the same time. Buying food from local sources cuts down on the transportation of goods which is a massive contributor to greenhosue gases.

You get the added bonus of know where and how your food was grown or raised and you can avoid companies that use harsh chemicals.

Buy your produce from a farmers market for sustainable meals

Go meatless (or at least cut back on the amount of meat)

Eating meat has a sizable impact on the planet. And, at Christmas time, we often indulge in more meat than we normally would. So considering cutting out the meat or at least cutting it back. There are some amazing Christmas dinner alternatives that you can serve your guests instead of a plate full of meat.

After all, doesn’t everyone say that it’s the sides that they love most about Christmas dinner? More stuffing anyone?! 

Don’t use disposable plates, silverware, or napkins.

I get it, Christmas is a hectic time of year with guests, parties, presents, and decorating, and one hardly has time for dishwashing. Disposable plates may seem like the best alternative for you, but it is not to the environment.

So do the planet a favor and convince your guests that they should help you clean the dishes after dinner while you all sing Christmas songs together!

Make meals with as many of the leftovers as you can

If you find yourself with a bunch of leftover food (even after carefully planning your meals), then try not to toss it out. As food decomposes in landfills it releases greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change.

If you want to have a green Christmas, it’s time you maximized your leftovers. A popular British way to use up ALL your leftovers at once is a dish called Bubble and Squeak (I’ve no idea why it’s called that! This is from the same country that has Toad-in-the-Hole and Spotted Dick!). Brits have been making Bubble and Squeak to use up their leftovers since the 1760s. Go on, give it a try! At the very least your family can have a laugh about the name!

try Bubble and Squeak to use up your leftovers

Compost the other leftover food

Do you have some leftovers that are not fit for consumption? Are you wondering what to do with them without harming the environment? Turn them into compost instead.

As I mentioned above, rotting food waste contributes to the greenhouse gases that the world is producing. But rather than letting the food sit in a landfill and rot, you can add it to your compost pile where it will naturally decompose and can be used to add nutrients to your soil.

Go Green This Christmas

So there you have it. Some simple ways you can have a more sustainable Christmas and save a bit of money too!

You might not be quite ready for a completely zero-waste Christmas, but even small changes can make a big difference. And don’t forget to tell your friends and family about the ways you are having a more eco-friendly Christmas… maybe it will encourage them to do the same too! Start your own ‘green wave’!