Alliance logo
The Alliance

10 ways to reduce reuse and recycle this holiday season

Alliance logo
The Alliance
URL has been copied

December 21, 2020
3 min
URL has been copied


Cutting down plastic waste during the festive season doesn’t mean compromising on sparkle and joy; taking the time to reduce, reuse, and recycle can be a great way to bond with loved ones and give unique gifts.

1) Get creative with wrapping gifts

Most shiny wrapping papers and tapes contain plastic to keep it crinkle-free, making it hard to be recycled. There are many alternatives to wrapping paper, such as reusing gift bags and baskets, or turning scrap fabric into wrapping cloths, like the Japanese art of fabric wrapping, or Furoshiki. For a classic look, wrap gifts with brown eco-friendly paper and twine, and decorate with foliage from the garden.

2) Say no to the one-shot Christmas jumper

Novelty jumpers are almost always made with synthetic fibres and often contain glitter, sequins, and other plastic notions. Try rewearing a festive jumper you already own, swap jumpers with a friend or using apps like Depop, or get creative with an ordinary jumper, adorning it with small Christmas decorations for the season.

3) Give unwanted presents a new life

Think twice before you consign this year’s unwanted presents to the dustbin. Consider upcycling or adjusting them, such as taking poorly-fitted clothing to an alterations shop. If a present really just isn’t for you, consider donating or (subtly) regifting it to someone who would really appreciate it.

4) Shop smarter by buying in batches

Over 161 million tons of packaging is generated annually, but less than 20 per cent is recycled. Cut your contribution by making a list of all gifts you need to buy online, then order them in as few batches as possible. This may also reduce the amount of driving required for delivery, minimising vehicle emissions.

5) Look out for eco-friendly card options

If you don’t have the time to make your own cards, look for cards made from recycled paper, plantable cards (compostable and embedded with seeds), or send an electronic card. Try to stay away from individually wrapped cards, and those covered with glitter and other plastic decorations.

6) Reduce waste when preparing Christmas dinner

Plan dinner carefully to minimise food waste and unnecessary packaging, such as by visiting a market to pick up loose veg or ordering a seasonal vegetable box to your door. If you are cooking a bird as your centrepiece, look into locally-sourced meat from a butcher; it may be less expensive than you expect.

7) Buy new gifts only as a last resort

There are countless ways to give without consuming: by gifting experiences (such as tickets), a subscription to an online service, pre-loved items, donating to a charity meaningful to the recipient, or making your own gift. This doesn’t have to be time-consuming; baking a large batch of homemade brownies, for instance, could have everybody’s presents sorted in a single evening.

8) Upgrade from tinsel to tasteful and sustainable decorations

Plastic decorations are cheap and shiny, but they are easily damaged and cannot usually be recycled. Reuse, repair, swap, and upcycle your existing decorations. As a fun family holiday activity, try crafting sustainable decorations together, such as a wreath with a willow hoop, twine, and foraged items like pinecones, holly, fir, and mistletoe.

9) Rent a living tree for the holidays

It’s not just about the plastic waste; according to The Carbon Trust, an artificial tree must be used for at least a decade to have a lower carbon footprint than natural trees. If you don’t already own an artificial tree, look for a sustainably sourced (FSC certified) pine, or go a step further by renting a living tree for the season. Many companies offer delivery and collection services.

10) Make your own memorable crackers

How many of those plastic cracker gifts have you thrown away over the years? Christmas crackers don’t have to be so bland; make your own with a cardboard tube and decorative paper, and fill them with personalised gifts and jokes. Look for cracker snaps from a craft shop for the authentic experience.