The Ultimate Guide To A Plastic Free Christmas!

Scrabble spelling Christmas

With the Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness now behind us and everyone’s focus shifting towards the festive period. I thought now would be a good time to look into how we can all enjoy a plastic free Christmas. Think of it as your Christmas present to Mother Nature. If you are in a particularly giving mood at this time of year, there are many organizations you can donate to and get involved in, that are helping to clean up our plastic waste.

While it can be difficult to avoid plastic at the best of times, Christmas can be an especially testing time. There’re plastic trees, decorations, presents, wrapping paper and more we have to contend with as we enjoy and indulge ourselves. With the help of this article, I hope this is the year we can all start to become more aware of and try to reduce our plastic usage.

Get Into the Christmas Spirit

Christmas decorations using natural materials
Natural Christmas Decorations

I love Christmas. Although I am an adult with no children of my own, I still love it. The lights and decorations all around us help to lift my mood, in what would otherwise be a pretty miserable time of year with it being wet and cold all the time (I’m looking at you Manchester).

Despite my love for Christmas and all the decorations, I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that many of them are made from plastic and that many things will be disregarded to make room for new decorations or when the flimsy ones inevitably break.

So what can we do about it?

The first thing I would like to say is, if you do have a plastic Christmas tree or decorations, try to get as much use as possible out them before throwing them out, where they will most likely end up in a land fill.

dried orange decoration

Luckily for me, I have just moved into a new apartment with my girlfriend and because we have spent the last few Christmas periods in different countries, we don’t have a large amount of old decorations stored in boxes in the attic.

So how are we going to make the best of our clean slate and go completely plastic free with our decorations?

We are going to rent a Christmas tree. Yes, this is an option. You can rent a tree over the Christmas period and return it after, where it will then be re-planted to continue growing. The other option we considered was to buy an Eco friendly tree and returning it to be recycled.

There are so many alternatives to plastic decorations, I may even devote an entire article to it, but in the meantime here’s what we plan to do this year. To decorate our tree, we are going to use paper snowflakes, handmade glass baubles, dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks. This will give the tree style, color and a great Christmassy smell.

We are also going to bake some Christmas cookies and hang them on our tree for a quick treat and a replacement for the individually plastic wrapped candy canes.

Indulge Yourself

turkey with trimmings

While Christmas is known as the time of giving, it is also a great time for a little self indulgance. Whether you’re enjoying your Christmas dinner with all the trimmings or stealing one too many Christmas cookies off your tree, it is important to think about how much waste is being created.

For those of you who enjoy baking or would at least like to try, homemade snacks are a great way to reduce your plastic waste this Christmas. You can make biscuits, cookies, cakes and puddings that will ensure there is no one reaching for a packet of crisp to snack on.

When you do your Christmas grocery shopping this year there are a couple of important things to keep in mind It will help you reduce your plastic usage. These are; always take a reusable bag with you, buy your fruit and veg from your local market and try to avoid the individually wrapped puddings. I went into more detail about this subject in a previous article you can find here.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

gift in hands

Giving gifts is an important part of Christmas, but it is also one of the major sources of plastic waste in the festive period. Whether it’s Christmas cards, toys or wrapping paper there is always some wastage that goes with it. So here is a short list of ways you can avoid such problems this Christmas.

Plastic free gifts – There are a growing number of high street and online stores that are selling plastic free Christmas decorations and gifts. One such store is Plastic Freedom, which has many quality products that will make a great Christmas present.

Making your own – In a world where we are bombarded with marketing to buy our loved ones to the perfect gift, I still find that something handmade has an extra special touch to it. That’s why, this year my girlfriend and I will be making some lovely smelling soaps for our family and friends which will be plastic free and with minimal to no wrapping necessary depending on how good they look in the end (it’s our first time trying this).

Memories & experiences – Giving a voucher for an experience is a great way to give a zero waste gift. You can buy tickets to a concert or a comedy show, book a trip or just make a promise to spend some quality time together. It is something you can do together or let the giftee do it by themselves and just enjoy them telling you what a great time they had. With a little thought, a voucher can be a great gift.

Gift cards – while gift cards may seem a little impersonal, they can actually be a very thoughtful gift. Rather than simply giving someone a gift card for the high street shops, you can think of something for each individual. I have two personal examples of this working well.

Christmas Voucher
Christmas Voucher
  1. I bought my girlfriend an Amazon kindle a couple of years ago but I find it difficult to know which books she would like to read as many of them are in German, so I buy her a gift card and voila, she can get whatever she wants.
  2. My younger brother loves playing on his Xbox but I find it hard to keep track of what he is into at any given time. So buying him an Xbox gift card, he can buy any game or make any in-game purchases he likes. So whether it is Mario Kart, Minecraft, Fortnite or the next big thing, he is covered.

Bonus: Both of these gift card ideas are for digital products, meaning there is zero waste from start to finish.

Let’s Wrap This Up

gift wrapped in natural materials

Wrapping paper – it is pretty standard for people wrap a gift using all plastic items (wrapping paper, tape, ribbon and bow), which is actually incredible if you think about it. All of that plastic and it just gets ripped to pieces and thrown away. The good news is there are alternatives to each. You can buy recycled wrapping paper, paper tape and use string as a ribbon. This means everything can be safely recycled.

There is also an alternative to wrapping paper, you can buy a nice scarf from your local second-hand shop which you can then use to wrap your gifts. It is cheap, stylish and reusable, which is the perfect combination really.

Christmas cards – Sending Christmas cards is something most of us do but it can be a problem. With many cards being individually wrapped in plastic or even made of plastic, it is important to find an alternative. As with wrapping paper, you can buy recycled Christmas cards which is definitely a good option but I am going another way this Christmas, as I will only be sending E-cards to my friends and family. This may not be for everyone but I personally think it is the best way moving forward.

An Idea’s for Life, Not Just for Christmas

So there you have it. I hope this article has given you some ideas of how to reduce your plastic waste this Christmas and that you can use the ideas going forward. Most of the things I have discussed today can be used for other major events and celebrations, just read through it and adjust the idea as necessary.

Thank you for reading my ultimate guide to a plastic free Christmas. As always, please feel free to comment and share. If you have any questions or suggestions, I am always happy to answer them.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Simon

17 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide To A Plastic Free Christmas!”

  1. Hi Simon: A plastic free christmas, is the best advise I heard of for a long time now. Plastic is a great ruin  to the environment and to our health. t

    The wider society might not even be noticing it, However, the whole world is at risk of going into a prolonged famine before long because of Plastic wast. It is Bioundegradable.

     Our people despose of plastic wast without regard for their health and the health of the environment. Your methods of doing your part to lessen the use of Plastic is good Lets hope that many Plastic users will get the chance to read your Blog and follow your principles.

    DorcasW

    • Hi DorcasW,

      I’m happy you like my post 🙂

      Plastic is definitely a problem we need to face sooner rather than later. I just hope this blog can help people to see how big the problem is.

      Merry Christmas

      Simon

  2. Hi Simon,

    your article is very interesting and inspiring. It is true that we all tend to buy those shiny, plastic ornaments and decorations. I like to buy ceramic decorations like snowman or the glass bowl with the decoration in it. I have also some stuffed, soft decorations, but there are also plastic ones.

    Although it is time for celebration, we shouldn’t forget about our Mother Earth.

    Every person who cares, does a lot for it. I collect plastic bottles and then give them for recycling, but I never thought about this – for Christmas. Maybe I get to carried away by shiness of everything. : )

    It’s still not an excuse, of course. So I see that you mention a rentable Christmas tree. I’m not sure that there is such an option here, but I will surely ask people and search on the Internet.

    Thank you for all the detailed explanations and also for your other post – 15 Easy Ways to Stop Using Plastic – this is a big help. I’m a vegetarian, so I buy fresh fruits and veggies, and I use eco-friendly bags. I have also organic shampoos and some bamboo natural toothpaste and toothbrush.

    The wrapping paper you mentioned – recycled – I love the most, because it gives retro look. It looks warmer, at least for me, and goes with any combination. So it is great to use, and again recycle.

    Thank you for all of this information, I am generally aware about plastic, but not on Christmas, to say honestly. This gave me some new ideas and I’ll try my best to use less plastic and more eco-friendly stuff on Christmas.

    Best wishes,

    Suzana

    • Hi Suzana,

      It’s great to hear that you are already doing a few things to reduce your plastic waste.

      Christmas is definitely a difficult time to avoid plastic. I went to the shop yesterday and checked out some decoration. In the store, there was a stand completely full of plastic decorations or wood with plastic packaging. It is hard to do the right thing when you only given these ‘choices’.

      This is why I have tried to make the list relatively easy, so it doesn’t feel like you have to go too far out of your way.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Merry Christmas

      Simon

  3. Hi Simon.  I found your site and post very informative.  The last year I have been trying to eliminate using plastic as much as possible.  I have even started sorting plastic and taking it where it can be recycled.  It is as shame how dependent we have become on cheap plastic that clogs our landfills.

    I did not think about recycling old Christmas trees before now.  However we tend to buy a tree and use it as long as we are able, and when we decide to buy a new tree we try to find a family that needs a tree and donate it.

    Most of our ornaments have become family heirlooms, we tend to add ornaments a little at a time and then when we put up our tree the next time we are reminded of memories of the past.  You are so right about not using plastic ornaments, I just never thought about how they contribute to our plastic waste problems.

    Your article has given me a lot of ideas to think about for making Christmas a great time to eliminate plastic waste.  Thanks again for your post.

    • Hi Raymond,

      I’m happy to hear you are already reducing your plastic usage. As you say, Christmas is a great time to reduce plastic waste. It is a time of traditions and if you start some new ones this Christmas, I’m sure you will find yourself doing these things for years to come.

      Thank you for your comment, Merry Christmas!

      Simon

  4. Hi! Thank you very much for these very useful ideas. I have really liked the examples you have laid of your own experience. Buying your girlfriend and your little brother giftcards enable you to give plastic free gifts, and they’ll definitely love you for them!

    I also love the idea of an extra special touch by making our own gifts! Thank you very much for this post!

  5. Nice tips for a plastic free Christmas season.  I recycle and I don’t throw out decorations unless they’re broken.  But I do see where you’re coming from.  I had no idea that you could rent a Christmas tree and return it for replanting.  Sounds like something worth looking into and I’m sure your family and friends will appreciate your homemade gifts. 🙂

    • Hi Margarette,

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!

      While it is great that you don’t throw out decorations unless they are broken, many things you believe you are recycling often aren’t (a lot cannot be recycled), unfortunately. Especially since China banned imported plastic waste, as many countries don’t have the infrastructure in place to recycle plastic themselves. So without doubt, the best way to avoid plastic not ending up in a land fill or worse (rivers, lakes, the ocean) is to not buy plastic products.

      Here is a better explanation than I can give in a reply https://qz.com/122003/plastic-recycling-china-green-fence/

      Merry Christmas

      Simon

  6. I enjoyed reading about having a plastic-free Christmas. We actually have metal balls and cloth decorations that we have put on the same artificial tree we’ve had for the past 20 years. We take good care of our stuff so it looks nearly as fresh as the day we first got it.

    I had not heard of renting a tree. That sure sounds like a very good option. I may suggest that to some of our Christmas tree farms around here. We have several of them and I bet they would think this was a great idea, too!

    I’d never thought of baking cookies to hang on the tree, either. Unfortunately, we have a dog and a cat who would probably think this was free-for-all snack time!

    What do you think of using newsprint for wrapping paper? I work for a newspaper and we recycle tons of newspapers every year. Perhaps some of it could be used before it is recycled?

    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, too!

    • Hi Karin,

      Thank you for getting in touch.

      Talking to your local tree farms is a great idea! To be honest, I only found out about renting Christmas trees during my research for this article, but my girlfriend and I loved the idea so much, we decided to do it ourselves. It may not be viable for everyone with transportation costs etc, but it can definitely work for many people.

      I had never thought about wrapping presents with newspaper but it is a cool idea and would be fun to find a good looking story/page to use (I just googled it and the crossword page looks great). You may get some funny looks from your friends and family but once you explain your reasoning, I’m sure everyone would love the idea. Anything that gets people talking about the plastic problem and thinking of solutions, is a win 🙂

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

      Simon

    • I’ve shared the rent a tree idea with one of our local tree farmers and they loved the idea. It’s a little too late to try it for this year, but they have it on their radar for next season! Just thought I would share that with you!

      Best wishes,
      Karin 🙂

      • Hi Karin,

        That is awesome! I’m so glad they liked the idea. Let’s hope they can implement it next year.

        Thank you so much for going the yard, it has made my day 🙂

        Simon

  7. These are some really great ideas, thanks. We won’t be doing much Christmas decorating this year due to our schedules. But for Christmases in the future, I’ll keep this in mind. Do you have any recommendations of best practices to keep a live Christmas tree alive? We always used plastic growing up and I’m nervous about the idea of using a live tree because of the fire hazard and keeping it alive.

    Another wrapping paper alternative I’ve heard of is using paper bags. You can then decorate the present to your hearts content. It sounds like a great option for kids. They get to doodle and use stickers. And maybe some glitter if parents are feeling adventurous, haha.

    • Hello Nicole,

      Thank you for reading!

      Unfortunately I am not qualified to answer your question about how to keep your Christmas tree alive longer. I did however, find a short and informative article that will answer your question.

      It is great that you shared your idea about using paper bags and letting the kids decorate them. Just be careful about how you decorate them as many stickers and types of glitter are also made from plastic. There in lies the problem, you eradicate plastic in one sense but it manages to remain in another. It is a battle of awareness.

      Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

      Simon

  8. Thank you for this helpful post.Christmas is a special event especially for children.Many people can’t understand christmas without christmas tree where they will put gifts for family especially for children.Most of those trees are plastic and they are not good for environment at all.

    In my family we can’t use those plastic trees.We just go to the forest and bring branches of trees and build a very wonderful christmas tree with such amazing smell all over the house.We take flowers from the garden and decorate our tree.It is amazing.

    • Thank you for reading my article Julienne,

      You idea of making a tree with branches from the forest sounds amazing. I love to hear about these kind of things as what may seem like hard work to some, actually becomes a family tradition everyone loves.

      If you have any photos of trees from previous years or if you could take one this year, I would love to see and share it on here, if you don’t mind sharing 🙂

      You can drop me an email at: simon@polyfreeplanet.com

      Merry Christmas

      Simon

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