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sustainable christmas
© Arina Habich

Pretty Paper: Tips For A More Sustainable Christmas

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year. Spending time with your loved ones, giving and receiving gifts, gorging on delicious foods, and generally having a very jolly time.

It can also be a time where over-consumption can be brought to the forefront of our minds. Christmas can become a time for rampant consumerism, over-spending, and a great deal of wastage and this is not good news from an environmental perspective. Thankfully, there are plenty of tips on how to have a greener Christmas.

In recent years, we have become a lot more environmentally savvy and many of us are planning to reduce, reuse and recycle this festive season.

When it comes to paper and wood products, we have some tips on how to ensure you keep your Yuletide celebrations ecologically kind.

Wrapping Paper

What would Christmas morning be if it wasn’t for ripping open your presents from under the tree? Brightly coloured boxes adorned with bows and ribbons have looked so enticing and soon all that careful wrapping will be strewn across the lounge floor. This may seem pretty wasteful in itself but luckily paper is easily recyclable and has one of the highest recycling rates in Europe with almost 74% of paper and 83% of paper packaging being recycled1.

What some may not be aware of, is that there are some types of wrapping paper that you may assume to be recyclable but in fact, are not. Metallic effects and glitter are good indicators that this wrapping paper is no good for the recycle bin. These effects are often created with plastic laminates so cannot be recycled with normal paper products.

Paper is easily recyclable and has one of the highest recycling rates in Europe with almost 74% being recycled

When choosing a good, sustainable, and recyclable wrapping paper, avoid these fancy additives as they may look pretty but they are not so kind to the environment. A good test to know whether wrapping paper is recyclable, it to use the ‘scrunch test’. If you can scrunch the paper and it stays scrunched, you know you have a good paper-based wrap. If it unfurls, it contains a plastic laminate – no good for recycling!

You will also find a good selection of wrapping paper made from recycled paper plus don’t forget to check to see if the paper you purchase is from a certified source from an accreditation scheme such as FSC or PEFC. (Read more about accreditation schemes here)

Christmas Cards

There may be less people taking part in this tradition of sending out Christmas cards, however a personal greetings card is always a welcome thing to receive. Whether you are sending cards or simply receiving some this year, there are a few ways to ensure that this seasonal habit is still kind to the planet.

Like wrapping paper, when choosing which cards to send, avoid ones with excess glitter and metallic additions. These are usually derived from plastics and make the cards harder to recycle.

Look out for the forestry certifications, ensuring the paper used has come from a responsible source. Once the festivities are over, make sure you recycle your cards in your assigned paper recycling bins. Or, if you are particularly crafty, why not use the cards to create your own labels and decorations for next year!

Christmas Trees

When it comes to picking what type of tree to have this year, you may ask what is more sustainable – a real tree or an artificial one?

Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, the real tree wins hands down on the environmental factor. Natural, biodegradable, and sustainable, the benefits of a locally sourced tree far outweigh that of an artificial tree. Canadian firm, Elliposos carried out a study into the lifecycle analysis of Christmas trees and found that real trees have less overall impact in terms of distribution, disposal, and average carbon emissions than their artificial counterparts 2

An artificial tree would need to be reused for 20 years before they can match the comparable benefits of a real tree.

In fact, an artificial tree would need to be reused for 20 years before they can match the comparable benefits of a real tree.

When choosing a tree, ensure you are buying from a sustainable source. Look out for the BCTGA symbol (British Christmas Tree Growers Association) or an FSC accreditation. The BCTGA members’ growing process is subject to strict practices including undertaking environmental reports on the area and ensuring that harvesting is respectful wildlife. Finally, ensure you buy locally. This way you know your tree hasn’t had to travel far and thus keeping the carbon footprint low.

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Having a sustainable Christmas needn’t be a chore and through small changes and research, we can make a conscious decision to be greener in our festive celebrations. Paper and wood products from sustainable sources enable us to enjoy the creativity and magic of Christmas without a guilty conscience and ensure that some of our favourite Christmas traditions can continue and be kind to our planet.


  1. CEPI, 2020 & Eurostat, 2018