How to reduce waste this Christmas and make it a little Greener

How to reduce waste this christmas and make it a little greener

Are you looking to see how to reduce waste this Christmas and make it a little Greener?  I think we’re all becoming more aware of the extent our shopping habits and choices are impacting the environment.  And, lots of us are looking for ways to reduce any negative impacts and become more conscious consumers.

I love celebrating Christmas with friends and family but when you read the statistics around the amount of waste that is created over the Christmas period it’s shocking!

The Wildlife and Countryside Link published new estimates showing the scale of plastic and other waste that will be discarded over the holiday season in the UK.

The figures reveal:

  • Around 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away and not recycled – which is more than the weight of 3.3 million Emperor penguins.
  • Around 88-square-kms of wrapping paper is likely to be used – enough to cover either Brighton and Hove, Coventry, Newport, Preston, Reading, Sunderland or Swansea.
  • The UK uses 300,000 tonnes of card packaging at Christmas – the equivalent weight of two million reindeer.
  • The total waste created in the UK this Christmas from food and drink, packaging, wrapping paper, cards, Christmas trees and other rubbish is likely to exceed five million tonnes – equivalent to around 450,000 double-decker buses.
  • We’re also likely to use more than 40 million rolls of sticky tape and bin almost 100 million black bags full of packaging from toys and gifts.

And, did you know that not all wrapping paper is paper! Which means that a lot of wrapping can’t be recycled. And, it definitely can’t be recycled if it’s covered in Sellotape or if it’s wrapping that contains foil or glitter, none of which can be recycled.

So, if you’re looking to reduce waste this Christmas and make it a little Greener here are some of my tips.

Advent calendar

The Christmas countdown starts with the Advent Calendar so make sure it’s as Zero Waste as possible.  We have a wooden nativity scene one that we bring out each year and fill the boxes with chocolate coins and nativity scene characters.

The best options for low waste advent calendars are:

  1. Reusable Advent Calendars – you can reuse them each year and fill with low waste gifts.  They have some lovely ones on Etsy
  2. Card and chocolate calendar
  3. Book Calendar – wrap 24 small books, one to be opened each day
  4. Activity based Calendar – this is where you choose an activity to do each day.  You could write them on pieces of paper and pop them into numbered envelopes.
  5. Reverse Advent Calendar – this is where you collect food and toiletry items to donate at the end of the 24 days.  You can donate to local food banks or charities.


Christmas should be fun and for us that still means giving and receiving presents.  But, they should be thoughtful presents that have meaning.  

These are lots of ways that you can reduce waste when it comes to buying gifts and these are some of my favourites:

  1. Quality over quantity – buy something that is well made and will last.
  2. Theatre or Concert tickets
  3. Experience Gifts
  4. Homemade Gifts
  5. A Promise Note – it could be anything from spending time together to cooking a meal or babysitting for friends with young children
  6. Buy Vintage, Antique or Secondhand – You don’t always have to buy new when looking for presents. And, these days you can buy virtually anything second hand from books to bikes. etsy is a great place to look for vintage or upcycled gifts.
  7. Digital download or Online Magazine Subscription
  8. Zero Waste Starter Kit
  9. Buy Unpackaged Gifts Or Zero Waste Friendly Packaging

These are just some ideas and if you would like to read a bit more about them you can read my full Zero Waste Gift Guide Blog Post.

christmas cards

Did you know 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK households each year, according to Imperial College researchers.

So, if you want to reduce this waste at Christmas what can you do:

  1. Don’t send cards – it’s estimated a quarter of us no longer write and send Christmas cards
  2. E-Cards – there are lots of options available now
  3. Choose Cards made from sustainable or recycled paper – Look for cards with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark. This guarantees the paper has been produced sustainably and ethically.  Also make sure they’re not covered in foil or glitter.
  4. Choose Cards no wrapped in plastic
  5. Compost / Recycle or Upcycle – you can use old cards you receive to make gift tags for the following year

gift wrapping

As I mentioned above the amount of waste that is generated from wrapping presents each year is astonishing.

But, there are ways that you can help reduce the waste.

If you are using normal shop bought wrapping paper you can check to see if the wrapping paper is recyclable. Try to scrunch up the paper into a ball. If it scrunches, and stays scrunched, it can be recycled as long as it doesn’t have any glitter on it.  If you are going to recycle your wrapping paper make sure you use paper tape and not normal sellotape as it can’;t be recycled with sellotape on it.

Here are some other ways you can wrap your presents and help reduce waste:

  1. Recycled Brown Paper – If you’re planning to recycle the paper afterwards don’t paint on it or add glitter as that will make it un-recyclable.  You can use ink stamps to decorate the paper or use coloured twine.  You could even add some sprigs of holy or ivy foraged from the garden or hedgerow.  Note – brown paper is usually recycled with cardboard but check with your local council.
  2. Newspaper – Newspaper makes great Christmas wrapping paper and is virtually free.
  3. Basket Or Container –  A great way to make a present look nice is to use a basket or other container that also forms part of the present.
  4. Use Fabric To Wrap Presents – Leftover fabric is also a nice way to wrap a present. Or you could even use something like a tea towel or scarf which would then form part of the gift.
  5. Paper Bag – Another simple way to wrap a present is to use a paper bag.  It’s a good idea if you can encourage them to be reused afterwards.

If you’re looking for some Zero Waste Friendly Christmas Wrapping supplies check out this Zero Waste Christmas Wrapping Bundle in TMG Shop

christmas crackers

There are around 150,000 Christmas Crackers pulled in the UK each year.  Most are filled with small bits of plastic that will end up in landfill.  That’s a lot of plastic waste !

You don’t have to boycott the Crackers as there are other options:

  1. Make Your Own – they are simple to make and you can fill them with your own gifts.  Socks, small tins of lip balm, hankies, gift vouchers, reusable tea bags, flower seeds, small soaps all make good gifts.  If you want to try it here’s the link How to make Plastic Free Christmas Crackers
  2. Buy Plastic Free Crackers – there are a number of shops that now sell plastic free crackers and more shops have pledged to in the future
  3. Buy Reusable Crackers – there are some lovely reusable crackers made from fabric on Etsy

Christmas Tree

Who doesn’t love a Christmas Tree but here are a few tips on how to make sure you have an Eco Christmas Tree

  1. Use a Fake Tree – if you have a fake tree use it for as long as possible
  2. Real Christmas Trees – If you are buying a real tree buy one with an FSC logo or one approved by the Soil Association. Even better, rent one, you can now hire Christmas trees and return them after to carry on growing.  Or buy one in a pot and keep growing it yourself
  3. Wooden or Metal Tree – there are some great wooden or metal sculpture trees
  4. Twigs and Branches – collect some fallen twigs and branches and decorate with ornaments


Decorating the house at Christmas is fun and it makes it look so special and festive.  You don’t have to go out and buy new decorations every year, just invest in some good quality ones that you can use again and again.

Here are my tips for waste free Christmas decorations:

  1. Use What You Have – we have some lovely glass decorations but also have a set of fabric ones that we bought on a trip to Disney World when G was small, they are over 30 years old but we love getting them out each year.
  2. Make Paper Chains from old magazines & newspapers
  3. Decorate with twigs & greenery from outside
  4. Make Your Own – try making a Christmas Wreath for the Front Door – it’s easier than you think 🙂
  5. Make Your Own Decorations – use things you’ve foraged – This Twig Star is super easy to make and costs almost nothing.
  6. Make Salt Dough Decorations – they are easy to make and great fun to do with the kids.
  7. Add a little Sparkle – use fairy lights and candles to give a little extra sparkle 

food waste

In the UK at Christmas we produce a huge amount of food waste. ReFood say that “Wasted Christmas Brussel Sprouts alone could power a Home for 3 years”

Here are 10 simple ways to reduce food waste.

  1. Plan Ahead – Plan your meals in advance, including how you can use leftovers.  
  2. Fridge temperature – set your fridge at the correct temperature.  Keep your fridge between 1-5°C – this helps you get the best from your food. 
  3. Store Food Correctly – Bread should be kept in a cool dark place like a bread bin or cupboard, potatoes and onions should never be put in the fridge.  Make sure you have plenty of Beeswax or Soy Wax cloths to wrap things like cheese. Glass jars are perfect for storing leftover food in the fridge or you can just pop it on a saucer with a bowl over the top.
  4. Keep your vegetables fresh – Keep the stems of vegetables such as broccoli, celery and asparagus in water to help them stay fresh and crisp.
  5. Freeze fruit and veg – Freeze vegetables fresh fruit and veg that you can’t use in time.  Some fruit and veg will lose their texture when frozen but they will be fine pureed or stewed. 
  6. Revive past-it bread – You can put bread rolls in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up again. You can also make stale bread into breadcrumbs 
  7. Be creative with leftovers – one of my favourite ways to use up leftover vegetables is to make “Bubble and Squeak”  which is perfect on Boxing Day with leftover Turkey or Ham. Or why not make some soup, stilton and broccoli is very easy to make and tastes wonderful.  I’m pretty sure lots of you will have a tried and tested Turkey curry recipe you could share.
  8. Don’t overserve – simple but effective, people can always come back for seconds.
  9. Share Surplus Food – did you know you can use food sharing apps or local Facebook Groups to share surplus food.
  10. Compost – if you do have leftovers that you really can’t do anything with then compost them.  If you want to know more about how to compost check this – Home Composting

I hope this has given you a few ideas on how to reduce waste this Christmas and make it a little Greener.

And, I’d love to hear any tips you have.

Written by 

Hi, I’m Frankie. This is my blog (Thoroughly Modern Grandma) about blending old fashioned values with modern technology, whilst trying to reduce our waste and be a little kinder to our Planet.

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