Top tips for a sustainable Christmas

Sustainability may not be your first thought in the festive season, but with the climate emergency, more and more people are looking to make their Christmas less wasteful. There’s no need to sacrifice the Christmas magic, but by making just a few small swaps, you could be making a real difference. Here’s a few top tips on how to spread that festive cheer to our planet.


Christmas trees may not be the eco friendliest of traditions, but we don’t have to give up our festive favourites. There are plenty of ways to make having Christmas trees more sustainable.

Instead of cutting down a tree for Christmas, consider bringing a living one into your home. A living tree can continue to grow, and won’t drop pine needles as it slowly goes brown over the holiday. After Christmas it can be kept outside in the garden, ready to be used again next year. Or, switch it out altogether for a different plant, which can be kept year-round inside and decorated over Christmas.

Check that your tree is approved by the FSC and Soil Association, making sure it was grown sustainably.

Artificial trees should be made to last as long as possible, and if you’re set on continuing down the artificial route, preloved ones can be bought online.

Brighton & Hove City Council also offer options for recycling your real or artificial Christmas tree, a list of which can be found online.


One of the biggest sources of waste at Christmas is unwanted gifts and the packaging they come in. Buying items that encourage a more sustainable lifestyle will also have a long-term impact. A reusable coffee cup or water bottle along with some Fairtrade organic chocolate could provide a lovely gift. It’s worth thinking about what your friends and family need, as useful gifts are less likely to end up in landfill than gimmicks.

Try buying locally. In Brighton we’re spoilt for choice of independent shops that you could support. Buying locally means less air miles, and opting for items that are handmade with non-plastic packaging lowers the carbon footprint.

Can’t think of a gift? Donate to a charitable cause they are passionate about. Local charities such as Brighton Peace and Environment Centre do great work, and a donation to a cause will continue to make a difference even after Christmas is over.


At Christmas, Brits bin the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper and more than 40 million rolls of sticky tape, according to a study by GP Batteries.

Most wrapping paper has plastic particles in it which means it can’t be recycled.

When it comes to wrapping gifts, Maria in The Sound of Music had it right with her brown paper packages tied up with string. Untreated brown paper is recyclable, and actually may be gentler on the wallet. It can be found at most post offices, craft stores, supermarkets or stationary shops, and tends to be cheaper than regular wrapping paper. It can be dressed up by adding natural decorations, like pinecones or holly or drawn on to create your own unique wrapping paper.

You could even ditch the paper all together and opt for a fabric option. Tea towels can be wrapped and knotted around a present, and provide an extra little gift. Or fabric offcuts could also be used and repurposed.


More and more companies these days are offering alternatives to plastic tape. Biodegradable paper tapes and other eco packing options can be found in local independent store, Pen to Paper, high street stationary shops or online.

Instead of ribbon, you could also use twine. It’s 100% biodegradable and will add a cute rustic look to your Christmas gifts.

For more info about sustainability, peace, global learning and the environment, head to Brighton Peace and Environment Centre at:

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