As one of the most celebrated festivities in the UK, Christmas is a tremendously busy time of the year, and conveniently one that significantly costs the most.

According to Sustainable Living, one in ten unwanted Christmas presents ends up in landfill, the equivalent of two million turkeys end up in the bin each year, and only 1% of consumer goods are still in use 6 months later.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can have a truly sustainable Christmas. In this guide, we talk you through the environmental impact of Christmas and the ways you can have an ethical Christmas, without excessive spending and waste.

1. Buying a tree? Shop locally

Artificial trees are typically the preferred choice in the UK due to cost savings and recurring use. With that being said, artificial Christmas trees, when disposed of, take a long time to break down in a landfill. This means that a fake Christmas tree would need to be used for at least 10 years in order for it to have the same carbon impact as a real tree every year.

In the UK, around two million Christmas trees are imported each year. So although you may think that buying a real tree is more ethical, you should really try to shop locally from shops that stock locally grown trees.

For this reason, you should try to shop artificial if you intend to keep it for several years or, alternatively, shop real if you intend to shop locally. Alternatively, you can invest in a potted tree that can be reused and enjoyed in the garden during the summer months.

2. Switch to LED Christmas lights

Though it might sound like common sense, making the simple switch to LED Christmas lights can save an estimated 60,000 tonnes of CO2, just in December alone. The great thing is, you’ll also be saving a small fortune on your energy bills, too.

You can even go one step further by investing in an electrical timer so that Christmas lights (internal and external) are only in use when they need to be.

3. Buy ethically-sourced Christmas food

The average UK household spends around 80 per cent more on food shopping in December, compared to the regular month. This is due to excessive bulk buying and the habit of stocking up, especially with more of us becoming wasteful around this time of the year.

Instead, try to only buy what you need. Any spare food you have can be taken to a local food bank or frozen for future meals. There are also some fantastic food saving apps, such as Too Good To Go – a relatively new app with the sole aim to fight food waste and to sell food at a discounted price. The food is either close to its sell-by date or that the retailer wasn’t able to sell, and would otherwise be thrown away. 

A huge amount of food found in local supermarkets is imported from around the globe, with consumers increasing the demand for out-of-season food that cannot be grown locally at specific times of the year. You can even support local farmers and suppliers by shopping in your local markets and farm shops. This reduces the distance your food travels to your plate, and quite often results in less packaging used.

4. Reusable advent calendars

One of the greatest things about Christmas is the anticipation and the build-up, so there’s no surprise that, in the UK, we consume around 16 million advent calendars each December. Unfortunately, most of these will contain single-use plastics that cannot be recycled. 

Instead, you can invest in a reusable advent calendar that can be used year after year. This also means that you can fill it up with a variety of meaningful gifts!

5. Send Christmas e-cards 

An estimated one billion Christmas cards are binned each year. With postal companies experiencing exceptional demand every December resulting in inevitable delays, sending a thoughtful Christmas e-card is far more convenient and reduces paper waste as well as unnecessary delivery costs. 

The money saved on the costs of buying and distributing your Christmas cards can even be donated to your favourite charity, instead!

6. Eco-Friendly Gifting

Christmas is a time to give – so it wouldn’t be Christmas without a hoard of magical presents for our loved ones. Realistically, we’ve all been the recipient of a present that was promptly discarded after a few weeks.

Instead, you might wish to consider being kinder to the environment by purchasing eco-friendly gifts that your loved ones will appreciate, as well as the environment.

We recommend taking a look at some of our favourite eco-friendly Christmas gifts for some savvy ways to ethically gift your loved ones, or buying pre-loved items which are especially popular with accessories of high-quality brands.

If you want to browse an array of environmentally friendly and sustainable Christmas gifts, all you need to do is download the GoEthical App for IOS or Google Play. On it, you can chat and connect with like-minded community members and discover detailed listings for ethical and eco products, from small sellers to well-known global brands.

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