Ways to reduce waste and save money this Christmas

The run-up to Christmas in the UK is feeling bleaker than usual due to the recession and ‘Cost of Living Crisis’, affecting everything from food prices to sky-high energy bills.

We recently looked at ways where green shopping could save you money, we wanted to do the same for Christmas. Most of us need to spend less money on Christmas this year, but hopefully by doing so, we could save a load of waste as well.

Over 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging (more than the weight of 3.3 million emperor penguins!) is thrown away in the UK every Christmas (Source: WCL) so let’s look at some ways to save money and waste….

Eco-friendly Christmas decorations and wrapping

Most people probably reuse their Christmas decorations every year; but if you’re in need of a new set – instead of buying them, make your own decorations! There’s loads of inspiration across the internet e.g. this guide from Skint Dad where you can use everything from twigs to toilet rolls, or this round-up at Money Saving Expert where you could can see a Christmas tree from stacking books, and home-made wreaths from foraging in your neighbourhood 

(Photo credit: Nina Mathews Photography_

You can make your own Christmas crackers too e.g. this guide from MumintheMadHouse – as well as being fun to make and saving money; you’ll be saving on the packaging that crackers come in and saving on some of the pointless plastic tat that some crackers use as the gifts 

We’ll come on to presents in a minute, but if you are giving physical gifts you don’t need to buy tubes of wrapping paper covered in plastic that’s nearly impossible to recycle. Quite often local councils won’t recycle that wrapping paper as there’s bits of plastic or glitter embedded in them. We recommend using plain brown wrapping paper and plastic-free sellotape (you can buy them from No Waste Living) but to take it a step further, why not use your old newspapers and magazines as wrapping paper? These will have a novelty effect as well as saving waste and cost!

Eco-friendly physical Christmas gift ideas

One of the biggest costs at Christmas is probably buying gifts for your friends and family, to save money (and waste) how about trying:

Buying second-hand gifts e.g. from charity shops, Facebook marketplace, eBay; this is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, reduce a load of plastic packaging and save a load of money

If you want to buy something new, why not make it something that helps save the planet a little e.g. buying a nice reusable coffee cup could save quite a few disposable coffee cups going to landfill; or some beeswax wraps to store food which saves people using cling film which is very difficult to recycle. Again, you can buy gifts like these from No Waste Living.

Photo credit: Which

Last Christmas I got a beautiful, reusable water bottle for a friend so that she’d try and quit her habit of buying bottles of water!

One of our volunteers, Heledd

And if you just want to buy some nice treats, why not look for something that’s also eco-friendly for example eco-friendly companies like WearthPasoluna and Peace with the wild  and Floral Fox sell everything from jewellery to ceramics, from home cleaning products to make-up, from candles to socks – they have something for everyone and hopefully within your budget too

Eco-friendly alternative Christmas gift ideas

To save even more money and packaging, there are alternative gifts you could consider, instead of giving an actual, physical present…

Giving a gift of time or help and making a pretty voucher that you can give as a gift e.g. offering to babysit for someone with a young child; taking a friend’s dog for a walk once a month; cleaning your nan’s house etc. These gifts cost nothing but could mean a lot to the recipient.

If you do have some money to spend on gifts but haven’t got a clue what to get them, rather than create unnecessary waste and unwanted gifts that end up in landfill, you could buy experiences instead of gifts e.g. cinema vouchers for families; a coffee voucher card, local restaurant vouchers – these can be a great way to create memories and support local business while reducing waste.

You could give the gift of trying to save our oceans – we at CLEAR have a new e-gift shop where you could buy a gift that helps our teams in Indonesia who manually clean up rubbish, for example, for just £5 you could buy a set of books that helps our volunteers out there log the waste that’s coming into our waste banks (and helps the villagers get paid for recycling that waste); for £12 you could buy a bamboo basket and set of gloves which the volunteers use to pick up rubbish to take to the waste bank.

Reducing food and packaging waste at Christmas

Tons of food gets wasted every Christmas, especially turkey meat, potatoes and vegetables (Source: WRAP) and a lot of this food has come wrapped in soft plastic that’s hard to recycle so why not consider:

Making your own food – instead of buying heavily-packaged Christmas treats, why not try and make your own – for example, this Sainsbury’s guide has recipes like clementine marmalade, carrot jam and party rings. They could make great gift ideas too!

One of our trustees, Trevor, with his Spicy Tomato Chutney which he makes and gives as gifts 🙂

My brother in law makes sloe gin and haw brandy as gifts for the drinkers. There are still haws in the hedgerows and some sloes if you’re quick. I make sourdough crackers with the leftover starter and rosemary from my garden.

Another of our trustees, Robert

Going plastic-free – we found in our saving money guide that you could save money by buying meat, fruit and veg loose (with no plastic packaging) from your local butchers and greengrocers instead of your local supermarket. It’s worth shopping around to compare prices.

Try refilling – It’s also a good time to try your local zero-waste shop if you haven’t already – it’s definitely cheaper to buy things like herbs and spices there which you might need for Christmas, but they also refill things like cleaning products and cupboard stables like pasta and lentils which you might need more than usual over the Christmas period

Hopefully some of these ideas have inspired you. Let us know on social media if you can think of any other great tips we’ve missed – we’d love to see photos of your eco-friendly Christmas! Find us on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter