Christmas is coming and the Goose (or veggie alternative) is getting…sustainable????

 In Blog

So some of us are in the ‘bah humbug’, ‘it’s all over commercialised’ Christmas camp and will be glad when it’s over.  At the other end of the spectrum is me, with complete Christmas joy.  The smell of nutmeg, cinnamon and orange and the sound of a slightly off-key choir singing ‘we wish you a merry Christmas’ just makes me feel better about the cold dark nights.  However over recent years the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ that arrives in the shops make it impossible not to be concerned about the environmental impact of Christmas.

As much as I love watching my girls unwrap presents, I am less happy about the ridiculous and impossible to open plastic packaging covering toys and gifts and the glitter covered wrapping paper that I can’t recycle. Friends of the Earth reports the paper waste over the Christmas period is equivalent to 5-12 million litres of biofuel – enough to power a bus to go to the moon 20 times.

I was convinced that is was possible to still completely embrace Christmas without undoing a whole year’s worth of trying to live as sustainably as possible. The great thing about being part of a Charity like WinACC is the chance to share ideas.  So I went out to our action groups to get their sustainable and low carbon top tips to share with you.

Please bear in mind that ‘sustainable’ can mean many things and not automatically low carbon but by combining some or all of our tips your Christmas will be more sustainable and you might be surprised just how easy it is to make a change:-

  • Real or Fake? Well to make your artificial tree more sustainable a fake tree must last at least 10 Christmases
  • Make your own decorations or even go on a wreath making course
  • Top member tip was to use prunings from the garden instead such as bay or pine. It looks fab and bay would smell amazing.
  • Buying less is the easiest way to reduce the carbon footprint of Christmas presents such as…
  • Promises of gardening services for presents e.g. “I will dig your ….”
  • Experiences or visits to local conservation centres.
  • Vintage or second-hand. Charity shops are ideal for this and support a good cause at the same time.  If you can’t get out to the shops many charities offer an online service too.
  • Make your own gift and cards. I have made cards or decorations such as mini Christmas stockings to fill with chocolate or coins. Felt is ideal if you don’t sew because it can be glued and doesn’t fray. Old scraps of fabric can be added for the child’s initial.

Not everyone will be comfortable with buying second-hand so here are a few other ideas on presents:-

  • Make you own beauty hampers using plastic free cosmetics such as the Lush range of Stripped Back products.
  • How about a day-trip gift pack containing re-usable coffee cup, water bottle and shopping bags and perhaps a family rail card (budget dependant).
  • Incredible Edible Winchester suggested buying a sharpening tool to sharpen gardening tools rather than buying new tools and learn a new skill
  • There are some brilliant online ethical stores easily found using a search engine. Just be aware that Fairtrade might not be low carbon so it’s worth checking the site credentials carefully.
  • Avoid glitter wrapping paper as it gets into the environment very easily and doesn’t break down. Try old newspaper or recycled Kraft paper instead.
  • You can also buy recycled Christmas wrapping paper in shops such as the Oxfam shop which then supports their work.
  • Finally when you are shopping avoid parking stress by leaving the car at home and taking the bus to town.

So that’s the tree and gifts sorted, now onto the food:-

  • Try to buy food from local, independent retailers. For example , you could challenge the family to find a whole cheeseboard of English cheeses, English wines/bubbly. You can find details of suppliers and events via
  • If you are having meat, generally poultry is more sustainable than beef.
  • Prepare for leftovers – do you have enough storage containers and exciting recipes to hand? has some great recipe ideas.
  • Focus on quality, seasonal and sustainable food over quantity.
  • A staggering 74 million mince pies are thrown away each Christmas so reduce waste and don’t buy too much – consider storage and how much you can actually eat before it spoils. The shops are only closed for a couple of days.
  • Consider packaging – do you need all those individually wrapped treats?
  • Plan to “Grow your own Christmas Dinner 2019”.
  • Consider edible plants (such as UK sourced fruit bushes or seeds) rather than pre-cut flowers or houseplants as gifts
  • Donate surplus food stuffs via food banks or food sharing sites such as
  • Fill the oven up when it’s on rather than cook one thing at a time.
  • Cook your Christmas pudding in the slow cooker or microwave rather than steaming on the hob and save at least 1/3 of the electricity.

So the key to a more sustainable Christmas is reducing waste and reducing the amount you buy (not necessarily how much you spend).  I hope you enjoyed our top Christmas tips and from everyone here at WinACC have a lovely Christmas with friends and family.

Alison Skillen

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