A Minimal Waste Christmas Guide

Christmas, a time of giving and receiving, joy and thankfulness but it has also become a time of waste and excess. Recent statistics on UK waste tell us that over the festive season the UK creates 30% more waste than usual. 1 billion Christmas cards end up in the bin, 6 million Christmas trees are discarded, 40 million rolls of sticky tape used, 277,000 miles of wrapping paper thrown away and almost 100 million bin bags full of packaging.

With these statistics in mind we’ve put together a simple guide to help reduce waste this Christmas.


When it comes to choosing your tree there are several different options available. The least wasteful options are a living natural tree in a pot that you can keep for years; a rented natural potted tree (we couldn’t find an option in Cornwall but came across a couple elsewhere in the country - see this cute video here) or for the more experimental out there you could try alternatives such as up-cycling a discarded branch, wooden boxes, ladders and such to make your own alternative up-cycled Christmas tree, or you could look to buy one, we’ve seen a few options popping up at farmers markets and craft fairs (see search here for ideas or image below). If you wanted a more conventional reusable tree you could look to go artificial but keep in mind that due to the resources used to create that tree you would need to reuse it for at least 12 years (see article here). If you opt for a traditional cut Christmas tree ensure it gets shredded and composted, Cornwall Council should offer this service in the new year.

zero waste christmas tree.png

For decorating your tree and home try to stick to the normal zero waste guidelines- if buying look for second hand first, if not available when buying new see if you can find items made from up-cycled materials or buy high quality items that will last you for many Christmases to come. And remember to shop local - we’re spoilt in Cornwall with a number of lovely craft and farmers markets with talented people making gorgeous crafts. You can also look to make your own, there are loads of creative guides to help you (see image below for some inspiration). We have also discovered plenty of make your own wreath workshops in and around Cornwall, below are a few of our favourites. You can also look for natural options such as lemon and orange peel, cinnamon sticks and go foraging for holly and mistletoe.

Willow Wreath at Mount Pleasant Eco Park

Living Wreath at Potager

Foraged Wreath

upcycled christmas decorations.png

Food and Drink

For a minimal waste Christmas it’ll take a bit of planning with the food and drink. As with your normal zero waste food shop look to shop local - farmers markets, farm shops, greengrocers and butchers are great places to pick up unpackaged fruit and veg as well as local meat that you can arrange to pick up with no plastic packaging. Head to your local refill / zero waste store to pick up any grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit for your recipes, all package-free.

Look to make as much as possible from scratch as this is a great way to avoid packaging - Christmas cake, mince pies, mulled wine, brandy butter etc (keep an eye out on the blog for recipes coming soon!)

When it comes to prep and storing food try to avoid unnecessary clingfilm; using tupperware, glass jars, plates and wax food wraps instead. (click here for great guide for storing food without plastic).

Food waste is huge at Christmas, try to avoid the urge to over buy, looking for quality over quantity.

No Christmas table would be set without crackers, this year why not look to make your own, avoiding useless plastic gifts, filling instead with meaningful little gifts or treats (check out this guide here).

Gifts, Cards and Wrapping

When buying gifts its so easy to get carried away and swept up in the joy of buying presents for others but come back to the general zero waste rules of only buying what is necessary and needed, looking to buy second-hand or if buying new look for high quality items that will last. Its also a great time to hand make meaningful gifts for others or look for experiences to gift rather than items. (For inspiration check out our gift guide here).

With wrapping try and avoid wrapping paper and instead look to up-cycle, perhaps using newspaper or look for recycled brown kraft paper that can then be easily composted. Fabric is also great to use, keep an eye out for secondhand scarves or up-cycle old clothes. Look to use fabric ribbon or string and use natural trims such as holly and cinnamon sticks. Avoid sellotape, if tape is needed look for paper kraft tape instead. Throughout the year we now stash any wrapping paper, ribbons, cards etc that can be reused.

If buying cards look for designs made on recycled card and with eco-friendly inks, or again look to make your own! You can also do ‘e-card’ versions, sending your Christmas wishes online.

zero waste christmas.png

Advent Calendar

For the countdown to Christmas there are loads of awesome diy advent calendars, below are a few of our favourites.

make your own advent calendar.png


Try and prepare for the post-Christmas waste by having recycling and composting bags and boxes ready and organised, ensuring you still recycle what you can rather than sending it to landfill. Avoid throwing food waste away, instead see what you can re-use and make into new meals post Christmas.

We hope this has given you a few things to think about when planning your Christmas this year.

Wishing you a wonderful, mindful, waste-free Christmas!

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”

― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!