My Plastic-free (well reduced, anyway) Christmas

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how to have a plastic free christmas

how to have a plastic free christmasA month ago, I asked Zero Waste Week participants WHY they were taking part in the week.

Answers ranged from wanting to protect resources for future generations to not wanting to harm wildlife to saving money.

And this answer from Helene made me curious!

She wrote: “I’m subscribing to Zero Waste to save resources, cut carbon emissions and reduce plastic pollution. I know it’s early, but I’m also trying to plan a plastic-free Christmas.”

I know many subscribers love the idea of a zero waste Christmas, so I invited Helene to share her ideas. She does point out that “I’m retired so have plenty of time to make food, presents and decorations, but I recognise that other people are not so fortunate, so would recommend Christmas markets or farmers’ markets to buy alternatives to plastic.

Here’s what else Helene had to say:

Food.

Christmas pudding – a dilemma!  Whether to buy one in a plastic basin and wrapping, or spend up to 8 hours steaming a home-made one when the dried fruit and sugar came in plastic packets. (No, I’m not giving it up!).  The topping’s OK, though.  Brandy butter, or tinned cream.

Christmas Cake.  A bit the same, but with no basin. I do make my own, though.  Glace cherries always come in a plastic tub, and marzipan comes wrapped in plastic foil.

Mince pies. Easy.  I make my own.  They’re quick and easy (and cheap) with no plastic packaging.

Christmas dinner.  We’re both veggie, so the meat’s not a problem, but if I were buying it I’d go to a proper butcher to avoid that horrid polystyrene tray.  I buy my fruit and veg. loose at the local market, and they’re happy to let me use my own bags.  This goes for nuts, too.

Cheese is brilliant at Christmas.  There is so much more available in wax coating, and not in cling-film (a bug-bear of mine!)

Advent calendars, cards, wrapping and crackers.

Chocolate Advent calendars invariably have the chocolate in plastic bubble packs.  I usually send animated e-Advent calendars, but this year I may make or buy fabric ones (Christmas markets are great for things like this) and fill them with little treats each year.

Cards don’t use much plastic, but they’re heavy on other resources, so I only send one or two conventional ones to elderly relatives.  The rest are animated e-cards.  One special friend and I swap the same cards each year!

Wrapping.  So much wrapping paper has a plasticised finish.  I use brown paper tied up with green garden string.  I make my own labels from old cards, and embellish the parcel with a couple of ivy leaves.  This year I’m also making gift bags from old magazines, maps, etc.

I don’t use crackers, but if I did I would invest in re-usable ones and refill them with non-plastic treats each year.

Presents.

This is easy.  I just don’t buy plastic presents.  There are plenty of alternatives to buy, grow or make.  I do find children a problem, though.  For them, Christmas is filled with brightly-coloured plastic toys.  I will buy books, clothes and experiences (how about panto tickets for the whole family), plus maybe a small, good quality plastic toy from a charity shop to fill the plastic ‘void’.  I probably shouldn’t pander to them!  A friend of mine once bought almost all her presents second hand, with just her brother, a headmaster, wanting a ‘proper’ present!

Decorations.

I won’t be throwing anything I’ve already got away just because it’s plastic.  This should be zero waste as well as plastic-free.  My alternatives for plastic decorations are:

Tree  –  Buy a real one.  Those planted in tubs can last a couple of years.

Lights  –  Candles and tee-lights in jars (not recommended where there are children, pets or inebriated adults in the house)

Tinsel  –  greenery, or fabric or paper bunting, home-made or bought.

Tree decorations  –  Christmas markets are great for unusual, hand-made decorations, or you can make your own.  Here I must recommend a book, “Rubbish Revamped” by Danielle Lowy.  In it she shows how to make cards, decorations, packaging and small gifts using old cards, bits of wrapping paper, buttons and other scrapped materials.

Thank goodness wine comes in glass bottles!!

how to have a plastic free christmas

I’ve linked this post to Rosie’s Going Green Linky. Please head over and discover lots of blog posts for creating a green Christmas. You’ll find a tutorial for a lovely driftwood Christmas Tree, unusual Zero Waste gift ideas and even ways to scent your home over the Christmas season without the use of toxic chemicals!

A Green and Rosie Life

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Rachelle Strauss
Rachelle Strauss
Rachelle Strauss is founder of MyZeroWaste.com and ZeroWasteWeek.co.uk Both are leading websites for helping householders reduce landfill waste. Her work has attracted media stories and engagement in documentaries, film and radio both locally and abroad.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the great ideas for reducing waste and plastic at Christmas. It’s so easy for people to do things because they are traditional, or they have always done them. My top tip is question everything! Do you need it, and can it be done zero waste or plastic free. Visiting from #GoingGreenLinky

  2. I’m planning on using reusable wrapping this Christmas. They are some great companies out there that sell ready made ones or you can buy material from charity shops and make your own. I may also make my own mince pies this year although my baking/cooking skills are not great! #GoingGreenLinky

  3. busygreenmum says:

    Great tips. We don’t send many cards so usually buy the ones son designs at school which unfortunately do come wrapped but raise money for school. I make our Christmas crackers and try to make some of the food – don’t really like Christmas cake or mince pies so those are easy to avoid.

  4. Thanks for linking up to #GoingGreen and I am going to go and link this great post to my post: The Ultimate Collection of Green Christmas Ideas.

    PS – I had the same dilemma baking my Christmas cake with so many of the ingredients coming in plastic … I can get some of them loose at my local organic shop but they are soooo expensive. I do think I will have a go making the marzipan this year though!

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