Our guide to a greener Christmas

What can you do to make your Christmas more environmentally friendly? Here are our suggestions:

  • Use your ‘Christmas pound’ to buy and invest in things that will help create the world you want to see (perhaps organic, fair trade or plastic free).
  • Shop local. Shopping local directly supports your community and families in your area. By buying from local, independent shops you’re not helping the CEO buy a third holiday home, you’re helping a little girl get dance lessons, a family put food on their table or a student save up for University. Independent Birmingham have listed some of the great Birmingham businesses you can support this Christmas here.
  • If you are sending Christmas cards, avoid any with glitter. Glitter is a micro plastic. As they are teeny tiny, they will inevitably be washed into rivers and finally the sea. These bits of plastic leach chemicals and also attract pollutants (POPs). All of which are then ingested by marine life. Plastic is being found in fish that we consume – so there is proof it is coming back into the food chain. Yuck!
  • Make sure you recycle the cards you receive. You could even use them to make labels for presents next year! There are now even cards that contain seeds in the paper that will grow if you plant them!
  • Advent calendars usually have a whole layer of plastic to protect the chocolates. Why not make your own? You could use odd socks/gloves and challenge yourself to only include either home-baked surprises or natural items. Some inspiration can be found here.


  • Plan your meals. Food planning will reduce the amount of food you waste. Less food waste doesn’t only mean you save money, but is also a great way to help save the planet. A third of all food we produce as a planet goes to waste. A staggering number. You can read more on how food waste and the way we grow food affects the climate here.
  • Did you know? According to Unilever, in 2014 – 4.2 million Christmas dinners were wasted across the UK. That’s the equivalent to 236,000 turkeys; 7.5 million mince pies; 740,000 slices of Christmas pudding; (love ‘em or loathe them) 17.2 million sprouts; 11.9 million carrots and 11.3 million roast potatoes!
  • Looking for leftover inspiration? Love Food Hate Waste is a fantastic resource to use to spice up the plainest of ingredients.
  • Rather than using cling film, use reusable food storage containers or beeswax wraps to store leftover food.
  • Many Christmas treats, sauces and sides are sold in layers of plastic packaging. Take the pressure off Christmas Day itself by planning and making Christmas foods in advance. Many can be frozen until they are needed, such as cranberry sauce, bread sauce and red cabbage – and will taste much better too.
  • Plastic free food shopping is getting easier. Choose unpackaged foods at the supermarket or shop at your local greengrocer, corner shop or the Bull Ring Indoor Market. Specialist zero-waste shops such as The Clean Kilo in Digbeth and Bournville (who also deliver) and The Weigh Forward in Sutton Coldfield are also great places to pick up food staples.

Wrapping paper

  • Wrapping paper is extremely wasteful – in fact The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimated that the amount of wrapping paper used for Christmas 2018 could have wrapped up the island of Guernsey
  • Decorate or make your own wrapping paper – use brown paper, newspaper or magazines. These can be decorated with drawings, potato prints, ribbons or twine.
  • A lot of wrapping paper can’t be recycled as it has plastic in it. The rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t scrunch up, don’t put it in the recycling bin. Equally, if the paper has a metallic look to it, it shouldn’t be recycled. Cellotape is also plastic so should be removed from paper before it is put in the recycling bin. Twine, ribbon or (as long as they are reused) decorative bags, are also great alternatives to tape.
  • Furoshiki are a traditional Japanese cloth used to wrap and transport gifts. A great alternative to paper and can be kept as another present. Silk scarves can be bought very cheaply from charity shops. Lush also sell a good range of colourful fabric gift wraps. Learn how to artfully wrap presents using scarves here.
  • For an even more lo-fi approach, use items you have already around the house to wrap presents, for example, pillowcases and decorative boxes.
  • Don’t wrap presents at all! Make hunting from presents into a game, hiding them around the house and giving clues to help your family find them.


  • Don’t know about you, but we’d be quite happy with receiving less ‘things’ this Christmas. Why not buy an experience for friends and family? Options may be limited in a Tier 3 Birmingham (as of writing), but why not consider something they can treat themselves to later next year – and if you’re buying vouchers from local businesses now, you’ll be helping them out massively during a very difficult time.
  • Buy second hand. Charity shops, eBay and Depop are great options.
  • Donate a gift to others who need it. Oxfam have a great range of fun ‘unwrapped’ gifts such as buying a goat, access to safe water or an education for a girl for those who are less fortunate; dedicate a tree to help the National Forest create natural habitats; or even donate to us! Helping Birmingham become a greener and healthier city.
  • Make your own gifts – bake a cake or make some decorations for their tree.


  • Rent a Christmas tree! Yes, it is possible. The living trees spend a few weeks with you and are then re-planted to grow a little more at the end of the season.
  • Equally, if you have space, buy a living tree and pop it in the garden in January to use it again next year.
  • If you do buy a living tree, you don’t need to worry about how to dispose of it in the new year. Donate to Birmingham St. Mary’s Hospice’s Treecycling scheme and they will collect your tree for you. Birmingham City Council also usually offer tree recycling at many of their parks. They are either chipped to top up pathways or used to create biomass electricity. We will update with details of this year’s arrangements once they have been confirmed.
  • Mix it up and don’t have a traditional Christmas tree at all. Some inspiration can be found here.
  • Create a natural door wreath, using foliage from holly, conifers and other evergreen plants. There are some online workshops taking place organised by Birmingham businesses to help you make your own.
  • Home made Christmas tree decorations such as dried oranges, pine cones, etc… or make your own out of other things found around the house. YouTube is a great source of inspiration for this – for example make a mini Christmas tree decoration out of an old magazine.

Together we can make Birmingham a greener and healthier place to live. Donations from people like you are essential to ensure we can continue our important work across the city. Find out how you can help us tackle the big environmental issues in Birmingham here.

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