Here’s how to have a more ethical Christmas - from decorations to gifts

Considering the unprecedented events of 2020, your perspective on the festive season may have changed this year.

Though Christmas often ends up being a time of excess, it’s a great time to remember what’s important to you. For many of us, that boils down to enjoying and protecting what we love.

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If you’d like to celebrate a more simple Christmas this year - and make things a bit more ethical and eco-friendly, here’s how - from renting a Christmas tree, to homemade decorations.

Think about your Christmas tree

Research has shown that almost six million Christmas trees are discarded every year, and 250 tonnes worth of Christmas trees are thrown away in the UK alone, when they could have been composted.

That being said, going for a real tree rather than an artificial one is a good first step towards being more ethical. Artificial trees are generally made of more harmful plastics and chemicals, and are often thrown away after a few years, adding to landfill waste.

If you go for a real tree, try sourcing one that is locally and organically grown by a nearby farmer. This reduces the chances of pesticide use, and lowers your carbon footprint. Plus, organic Christmas tree farms provide a rich habitat for wildlife. To find a retailer selling organic trees, head to the Soil Association’s website.

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The Forestry Commission also has a list of Christmas tree sale centres where you can buy a sustainably grown local tree.

Another option is to rent a christmas tree. Renting meaning you will receive your tree in a pot, and after its use it will be returned to the ground, so it can happily live on. Forever Green Christmas Trees in Essex is one business offering rented trees.

Know where you Christmas dinner comes from

Shopping for the Christmas dinner can be a torturous experience - from running through supermarket aisles to fending off your neighbours for the last bag of potatoes. One way of avoiding the stress of the last minute rush is to shop local.

Sourcing local food will also help you know where it comes from. If you’re having turkey for your Christmas Day meal, go for a free range or organic bird from a local farm. The same method can be used for your winter vegetables and starters.

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Make a meal of your leftovers

The average family wastes around a third of the food they buy at Christmas. If you do happen to buy too much to eat on Christmas Day, you can plan meals using the leftovers.

Make a stock by roasting turkey bones and simmering them in water with leftover herbs. Use any spare meat for sandwiches at lunchtime, and make a hearty winter soup using any extra vegetables.

Change your wrapping habits

Research carried out by London Cleaning System last year found that 300,000 tonnes of card packaging is used at Christmas - enough to cover Big Ben almost 260,000 times. The amount of wrapping paper used for presents is enough to wrap around the equator nine times.

One way of being a little more ethical this year is going for more innovative ways to wrap presents. Try using items that can be used again, like tin containers or tote bags. Using old magazines and newspapers also works a treat.

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Another method is the Japanese art of furoshiki, or knot wrapping, where presents are gift wrapped reusable fabric pieces. You can get off-cuts from fabric stores for an even more eco-friendly option.

Go for an alternative Advent calendar

Going for a virtual advent calendar or creating your own are two ways to create less waste this Christmas.

You could buy second hand books from charity shops to treat yourself to a new book every day in the run up to Christmas, or get crafting with magazines and newspapers to create a personalised calendar that might be more memorable than the traditional chocolate one.

Try DIY decorations

Rather than spending extra money on Christmas decorations you’re likely to end up throwing away, why not have a go at making your own?

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Using natural flowers, mosses and foliage to decorate your home can create a nice, festive atmosphere. Simple decorations - such as hanging cinnamon sticks with red twine, or dried orange peel in a herb bag over a radiator - will make your home smell festive, too.

You can make your own wreath for your door by collecting foliage while out for a walk, using seasonal botanical materials which are completely eco-friendly.

Put extra thought into gifts

Checking the ethical credentials of the retailers you are buying from, and whether they are transparent in all their processes and supply chains, is a good way of checking. Supporting local businesses instead of going for the high street chains is another way of giving more ethical gifts.

So as not to overdo things and put pressure on others, it can be worth introducing a maximum spend with family and friends.

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If you want to add a personal touch to your gift giving, try handmade presents. Or go for something different like creative experiences or recycled products and books. This will help to keep costs down and create less potential for waste.

You might like to give a gift that keeps giving, such as planting a tree with the Woodland Trust, or donating to charity, which will leave a warm glow in your heart, too.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, The Star

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