At Christmas, we produce 30% more waste than we do in the rest of the year. This includes an estimated three million tonnes of plastic waste that will be thrown out rather than recycled, and a huge seven million trees that end up in landfill (and emit 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases as a result). Those of us who celebrate Christmas will know this to be true. Sometimes it feels like all of our festive goodies come in, or with, unneeded plastic.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce this. Whether you are one-hundred percent plastic free, working towards a more sustainable lifestyle, cultivating an eco-friendly home, or just looking to reduce your waste this Christmas, this guide is for you. And it's quite simple to get started!
To have a more plastic-free Christmas, you just have to start with simple swaps. Take a note of the traditions and objects you associate the most with Christmas, and then find and replace them with plastic-free or eco-friendly alternatives. To help you get started, we've compiled our top five plastic-free Christmas alternatives below.
1. Eco Advent Calendars
It is estimated that more than 16 million advent calendars were sold in the UK in 2019, and that almost every single one contained some non-recyclable plastic.
Despite how well loved these traditional chocolate calendars are, there are alternatives that are much kinder for the planet — and make a much better investment if you want to give a gift that lasts.
You could either make your own advent calendar (which doesn't need to be in a traditional calendar shape) and fill it with small, plastic free gifts and treats, or get a premade, sustainable advent calendar. If you're reading this past the end of November, unfortunately you will be too late for the latter this year! But, keep a plastic-free advent calendar in mind for next year.
At Authentic House, our eco advent calendars contain a plastic-free gift for each date in the run up to Christmas. Inside, you'll find skincare, bath, pantry and other plastic-free products to set you up for the year. Each of the gifts is individually wrapped and numbered — and they look lovely arranged on a shelf or among the branches of your tree.
2. Plantable Greeting Cards
Much like advent calendars, sending a Christmas card is a much-loved tradition during the festive season. However, as many as one billion of these Christmas cards end up in the bin instead of being recycled. Not to mention that a lot of these cards come in additional plastic wrap that can't be recycled at all.
To cut back on card waste, switch out to a plastic-free and plantable Christmas card instead. The recipient will get all the sentimental perks of a normal card, with the added benefit that it can be recycled and planted after!
These plantable cards from Loop Loop are made from recycled materials and embedded with a mix of 11 wildflower seeds. Send your loved ones a Merry Christmas message and, afterwards, they can plant their card to see bright flowers grow. Truly a gift that keeps on giving!
3. Wrapping Paper
Consumers in the UK will use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each Christmas – and a huge amount of this will end up in our bins. To help combat this, ditch the wrapping paper and Sellotape for reusable fabric or upcycled paper and paper tape instead!
Wrapping gifts in knotted fabric is a Japanese tradition known as furoshiki. There are lots of methods to wrap different items, but the simplest is to lay the fabric in a diamond underneath your gift. Fold two opposite corners in and follow by knotting the two other corners together on top.
Gifts wrapped in fabric and paper look beautiful when decorated with natural finds - fir branches, eucalyptus, dried grasses or orange slices all work well.
4. Low or Zero Waste Decorations
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and folks...around the plastic-free Christmas decorations? Why not!
Avoid plastic and single-use decorations, and go for low or zero waste decorations instead. These can be decorations passed down by your family, vintage or preloved treasures, or decorations that support small businesses. My family's tree has built up in decorations through the years with some very old ones, and 1 or 2 new additions each December.
If you're looking for a decoration idea, take a look at our wax melt baubles.
Scent is also a big part of setting the scene. Make sure to choose a paraffin-free candle to light up your evenings and set a festive mood with a clean burn that isn't harmful to your health. Our seasonal candles are made of coconut and soy wax.
5. Plastic Free and Sustainable Gifts
Last but certainly not least: gifts! It can seem impossible to get the right gift for someone without accepting some plastic, but this doesn't have to be the case. There are lots of plastic free gifts you can give this Christmas. Whether you'd like to give the gift of self-care with bath and skincare products, the gift of comfort with some Christmas socks, or help your friends add the finishing touches to their space with some sustainable home or kitchenware, there will be an alternative out there.
Moreover, to avoid giving one of the 21 million unwanted and unused presents that people in the UK receive each year, consider gifting a thoughtful and practical eco-friendly gift box or a sustainable subscription that can be used and enjoyed for the months (and years) after Christmas.
We fill our gift sets with small treats, most handmade, from independent brands that you can enjoy discovering. All of our sets can also be customised – you can choose the scents and colours, pick an item or two, and add your own handwritten Christmas message. Don't be afraid to ask your loved ones to gift you something like this either; it will benefit both of you (and the planet) to gift something you'll actually use.
Our personalised eco-friendly subscription boxes are also a great way to introduce you or your loved ones to all the aspects of sustainable living at home. Each month, your recipient will receive a handpicked selection of plastic-free and ethical swaps straight to their door.
And that's our top five! For more advice on going no or low plastic this Christmas, check out our sustainable Christmas Gift Guide for 2021.
We are Authentic House, an online plastic free shop based in Wales, helping you create a more eco-friendly home. We support small, ethical businesses like us wherever we can, and we work closely with makers to create our own products. All the products you'll find in our shop or boxes are plastic free or minimal. We source recycled and easily recyclable packaging for our products, and plant a tree for every order. Find out more here.