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How to Have an Ethical Christmas - 8 Tips

88% of us have decided to pursue a more sustainable norm, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent survey. As the festive season looms, and it looks as though we might be celebrating Christmas at a distance, how can we focus on making this an ethical Christmas?

Here are our top tips, in the guise of some of our favourite Christmas songs. Enjoy!

Explore hundreds of inspiring ethical and sustainable gifts that support charities, empower people and protect the planet at Good Things.

1. All I Want for Christmas Is You

Christmas giftIn at number one: give less, give better. It's easy to get swept up in the excitement of Christmas and find yourself panic-buying armfuls of gifts for your first cousin-twice-removed. If you need to give a gift, try to buy meaningfully and purposefully. Make sure they'll use it for as long as possible (or opt for something edible) and think about where you're buying from, what it's made of (watch out for gift sets swamped in plastic packaging), and who made it. You might like to check out our Top 10 Ethical Christmas Gifts that Give Back or explore Good Things for loads of ethical and sustainable feel-good ideas.

All I Want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey

2. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Christmas treeFor some, the biggest Christmas dilemma. Artificial or natural? A contentious point in recent years, but the scales seem to be falling in favour of natural trees. If you opt for an artificial tree you need to get 10+ years' use out of it to offset the carbon used to manufacture the plastic and then produce and ship an artificial tree. If you do go artificial try to source a pre-loved one.

The best option is to have your very own living tree which can grow in a container in your garden for most of the year. Check out this guide from the RHS for tips on growing your own. Or, if you're willing to go a little more left field, could you decorate a houseplant?

If that's not possible, and let's face it we don't all have the space, choose a tree that's been grown in a sustainable way. The FSC produce a list of sustainably-grown trees which can then be responsibly recycled.

O Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree

3. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Christmas dinnerThis year why not join the growing numbers going meat-free? It's estimated that cutting the meat in your Christmas dinner will reduce its carbon footprint by half, and there are plenty of delicious options available. Check out this list of 45 of the best vegan Christmas recipes to get you started.

The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole

4. Stay Another Day

Christmas waste

It's estimated a shocking 4.2 million plates of turkey and trimmings and 74 million mince pies are thrown away every Christmas. Two thirds of households say some of their turkey will end up in the bin.

Buying differently and catering for more people means you're likely to find yourself producing a lot more waste during the festive season. Carefully scrutinise what you buy, whether you need it, what it's wrapped in and try to use up everything you have. 

Stay Another Day - East 17 

5. Christmas Wrapping

Christmas wrapping paperWrap your gifts with care. Every year people in the UK throw away 108 million rolls of wrapping paper, and use 40 million rolls of plastic tape. Wrapping paper made with glitter and gloss can't be recycled.

Choose responsibly sourced wrapping paper from recycled sources if possible, or opt for reusable fabric alternatives. Using ribbon or string not only looks much more attractive than plastic tape but it also means paper can be used over and over again.

Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses

6. The Holly and the Ivy

Decorate naturally

Thankfully the era of gaudy plastic decorations is (mainly!) behind us. But think carefully about what you use to decorate your home and choose durable decorations you'll enjoy for years to come. We love these handmade felt dinosaur decorations. Or why not forage for natural decorations like pine cones or holly or make your own decorations from dried orange slices

Consider your Christmas crackers too, they're often the culprits of cheap plastic fillers that get thrown away very quickly. 

Holly and the Ivy 

7. With Every Christmas Card I Write

Christmas cards

It's estimated 33 million trees worth of Christmas cards are thrown away after Christmas in the UK every year. In a year when we may choose to write, rather than visit, it's important to make sure we're conscious of what our cards are made of and where they come from. Recycled cards that can go on to be recycled again are a good choice - for this reason avoid foil, glitter and gloss. Check out our range of recycled cards that make a difference, from planting trees to supporting charities.

White Christmas - Bing Crosby

8. Driving Home for ChristmasChristmas travel

This year is a good time to consider your so-called "love miles". It's likely lots of us will be opting for video chats rather than travelling long distances and while it may not be what we'd hoped for, this will have a positive environmental impact. Of course at times like these being with loved ones feels more important than ever so if you do travel try to opt for greener transport options, walk and cycle where possible, use public transport and share lifts if it's safe to do so.

Driving Home for Christmas - Chris Rea

Ethical and sustainable gifts and toys at Good Things

Good Things seeks out innovative, fair and eco-friendly gifts, toys and games that do great things. Like toy boats made entirely from recycled milk bottles, or cards that are changing the lives of orphaned young adults in Rwanda. Have a look at our collections.

Check out more Little Ways to Love the Planet or sign up to have Good Things popped into your inbox every weekend.

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