Blog - Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Christmas is a special time of year, but many of us find that the associated tidal wave of waste and consumerism stops us from feeling fully festive. This isn’t inevitable though; there are lots of ways to have a greener Christmas, so here are our top five tips.

1. Buy your loved ones experiences, not stuff!

The sharing of Christmas gifts has come a long way from frankincense and myrrh: during December the British public will collectively spend £446,000 every single minute on Christmas presents alone, which adds up to a lack of gifts under a lot of trees. We all like receiving presents, but there’s no need to accumulate mountains of physical stuff — why not treat your family to experiences or memberships instead? Not only is this a far greener option, researchers have also found that experiences actually make better gifts than physical possessions!

If you have a wildlife lover in your clan then you could do a lot worse than presenting them with a gift membership to Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Or perhaps you might like to book them in for a guided tour around our beaver project so they can see how Cornwall’s celebrated re-introductions are getting on with their busy undertakings. 

RETURN TO THE WILD: Bringing Beavers back to Cornwall

Photo by Mike Symes

2. Build your presents instead

In our busy lives the most precious thing you can give someone is your time, and being able to gift something that you’ve made yourself is a real declaration of love. Homemade gifts naturally come with a much lower carbon footprint than something that’s been shipped all around the world, but you also have the opportunity to create something that will benefit nature itself. 

Why not build a bug mansion, or a bee hotel, or a charming nesting box for birds? Anyone with a love of nature would surely love to receive any of them, especially if they know that you’ve put it together yourself. 

Pots

3. Re-use your tree

There’s a multi-layered sadness attached to the sight of a Christmas tree languishing at the side of the road once the festive season has passed. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way — a tree is not just for Christmas. Although cut trees can’t be reused, there’s a growing demand for potted Christmas trees that still have their roots, meaning they can be planted or positioned in the garden until next year. 

This has the wonderful consequence of improving your garden — providing shade, acting as a windbreak, offering birds somewhere to perch — until the seasons roll around and you bring the tree back into your home.

If you would rather use an artificial tree, try and buy one that will last for many years to come. A clockwork tree has been used by a Scottish family every year since it was bought in 1918, which is pretty good going!

4. Rethink your gift wrapping

In the UK we get through approximately 226,800 miles of wrapping paper every year, which is astonishing when you consider how briefly it serves its purpose before its torn open and thrown away. An increasingly popular alternative is ‘fabric knot wrapping’, inspired by the Japanese tradition of furoshiki. You can now buy wrapping fabric especially made for the purpose, but scarves, handkerchiefs and off-cuts of fabric also serve just as well. There is a real knack to tying them properly, but if you search on YouTube you’ll find lots of guides ready to help you out.

If you’d like to stick with the traditional wrapping medium of paper, then try and avoid rolls that include a great deal of glitter. The best option, from an environmental point of view, is recycled brown paper, which has the added perk of being easy customisable if you’re feeling creative and crafty. Tie it together with reusable string or ribbon instead of sticky tape and you get bonus eco points too.

5. Embrace the local 

There are many purchasing decisions to be made at Christmas beyond the gift buying — the food, cards and decorations all need to come from somewhere. Why not aim to shop locally? It lowers your carbon footprint and supports the community in which you live, but also helps foster the seasonal focus on home and togetherness.

Your Christmas dinner is the obvious place to start: a meal comprised entirely of local food is a real treat, and can be assembled with the help of farm shops, butchers and grocers. There are also many ways to localise your Christmas purchases beyond the food. Cast aside plastic tinsel and decorate your tree with pinecones and home-made bunting or origami. Send Christmas cards made my local artists and sold by independent shops. Raise a toast with a glass of something tasty that’s been brewed or distilled locally. 

Christmas is, despite its modern commercialisation, a magical season. By thinking creatively and locally about the way you celebrate it, you can do a great deal to lessen your impact on the planet while simultaneously encouraging the sense that this is a special time, where we turn our care and attention to the people and ideas that matter most to us.