The festive season is almost here - it's time to celebrate along with those we love, and have a well deserved break. It can also be the perfect time to adopt new habits, to reduce our consumption and help the planet and people around us. If each person takes a small step into having a more sustainable festive period, we can celebrate with even lighter hearts as we have taken steps to reduce the impact of our behaviours. From reducing your food waste and wrapping your gifts in a sustainable way, to donating clothes and toys and your time to a local project, there are many changes you can adopt to make a difference. Let's start this journey together!

We'll be posting tips here every Monday on the lead up to Christmas, so come back next week to find out about more changes you can make to reduce the environmental impact of your Christmas and New Year.

Decorations 

There are so many ways to make the decorations you use over the festive season more sustainable. For a start, avoid buying new decorations wherever possible, and instead use or repurpose ones you already have. If you're wanting something different to what you used last year, you could use materials you have around the house to make your own decorations! Hare are some great examples of things you can make yourself to give a festive makeover to your house. 

If you are going to be buying new decorations, try to choose ones made out of more natural materials wherever possible (e.g. wood, paper or pottery) opposed to plastics. For example, you can get wreaths that are made out of wood and other natural materials like holly leaves and pinecones, rather than synthetic ones that have plastic elements. 

Next up, Christmas trees! Real Christmas trees are much more sustainable than artificial alternatives. In fact, one study concluded you'd have to use your fake tree for 20 years for it to be more environmentally friendly - so if you have a fake tree already, make sure to keep using it for as long as possible! If you're buying a real tree, do your best to get it from a local supplier and dispose of it responsibly through free kerbside pickups to be recycled into compost (collection dates vary by street). 

And finally, the lights for your tree and around the house - LED lights use 95% less energy than regular bulbs, so make sure to get LED lighting this festive period. Not only do they use less energy, they will then cost you less money too!

Gifts

There are so many ways to make the gifts you give your loved ones more sustainable! Check out the Ethical Hierarchy of Gift purchasing, along with our tips to go with it:

Our first recommendation - give them an experience, or your time. This could be anything from getting them a voucher for an activity that they'd enjoy, to blocking out a day that you can spend together to go out for lunch or to a local park or museum (as just a couple of suggestions). These will allow you to steer away from buying new or reused items all together.

If those don't suit you, or you're looking for something to be able to physically give them, why not upcycle something that one of you already has, or make something out of items that you already own. Not only is this reuse of items great for the planet, but it also allows you the chance to give a unique gift that they couldn't get anywhere else!

Not convinced by that? Next one to consider is getting a second hand item - these can be purchased at charity shops, through apps such as Depop or Vinted, or even through our very own Swap Shops. All of these options allow items that are still in good condition to be used a second chance to be enjoyed by others once you no longer want or need it anymore.

If you don't already have items that could be used to make your own gift, you could still make something to give as a gift (doing your best to buy as few pieces as possible, and instead repurposing items you have already). A great option for this would be festive baking, or making a hamper of items such as homemade soaps or candles.

When buying a new item feels like the only option, you can first look to buy from somewhere that has ethical sourcing for their products, or zero waste options to usual items. A simple Google search can help you work out which brands are better and worse for the environment, to make this decision making process a little easier for you. 

And last up is buying new items, which we hope will be a last resort! Make sure that any new items you're purchasing are ones that someone really wants and will definitely get good use out of, rather than something that will sit around unused. A particular focus on buying items should be on the amount of plastic they use, and if they require batteries to operate - try your best to avoid both when possible. 

Gift wrapping

Once it comes to wrapping your gift, have a think about if you need to wrap it at all. Instead of producing unnecessary rubbish, why not use a beautiful repurposed box, or a nice scarf to keep the gift together? Here's a handy step-by-step guide on how to make a gift bag using newspapers.

Or if you don't have an item like this lying around already, prioritise recylable wrapping papers or brown paper instead. You can decorate brown paper with doodles to make it more fetive, or leave plain for a rustic style. If in doubt about whether your wrapping paper is recyclable or not, do the scrunch test! If you scrunch wrapping paper into a ball and it stays ball-shaped, you can recyle it. If it starts to unravel itself from the ball it isn't recylable, so try your best to reuse the paper for a gift you are giving rather than throwing it in the bin.

Another simple way of saving yourself from buying gift tags is to make your own by cutting up old Christmas cards.