Zero waste christmas, wasteful traditions

Whilst Christmas is a great time of the year, it’s also the most wasteful time of the year. The UK produces nearly 300m tonnes of waste each year. It’s estimated that every Christmas tree bought in the UK this year put end to end, would be the equivalent of a return trip to New York City. How crazy that Christmas trees alone could be enough waste for a return trip! It goes to show how wasteful we actually are. This doesn’t even touch gadgets, toys, food or wrapping paper either. Our traditions are highly wasteful.

Last year I created an article that listed nine ways to become more eco-friendly at Christmas, you can read it here. Designed to reduce the amount of waste our western traditions create for the planet. Now we face a climate emergency this change it’s ever so important.

Wasteful Traditions

Wrapping paper

This wasteful tradition can be made sustainable if done right. What makes wrapping paper a waste is when the paper is wrapped in sticky tape, ribbons and tags. These items make the paper unrecyclable and thus just thrown into landfill. You could reuse your wrapping paper the following year if you keep it in good condition. Or you could use zero waste alternatives such as cloth, newspaper, or plain old no wrapping. The alternatives are always a good shout, I wrapped mines in brown paper I had from a package that arrived. Also I had previously used a little drawstring bag I made to give my mam, she loved the gift and the bag (which she reuses). So win-win and no waste.


At Christmas everyone freaks out and over cooks. There’s probably enough food to feed two families and the rest goes into the bin. It’s so wasteful and gives off tonnes of methane gas adding to the blanket of greenhouse gases. It is estimated that the UK throws away around 4m tonnes of food during the festive season due to surplus or spoiling the turkey/ boiling the sprouts dry. Food plays a huge part in making the perfect Christmas, and planning the meal out thoroughly can prevent wasting food. You could save yourself money by only purchasing food you actually need and not get extra “just in case”.

If you have leftovers, use them the following days. If you eat meat, keep some turkey for Boxing Day and freeze the rest. Keep the veg in airtight containers in the fridge for the next day. Have Christmas dinner round two! This is a tradition in my family, any leftovers were used on Boxing Day to avoid throwing it in the bin.


You may have bought your children some toys that they don’t like or play with. Then you might feel like throwing them away, because having them around is just taking up space. Instead of throwing them away, rehome them. Take them to a children’s hospital, drop them off at a charity shop or give them to a shelter. Anything is better than throwing away. I’m sure other less fortunate or sick children would be happy to receive something new.

Christmas cards

Cards are one of the most wasteful traditions of all time. Why do people continue to do it? They are just a huge waste of money and resources. I have never been one to like receiving or sending cards, being the environmental freak I am. Trees being cut down for a few seconds in someone’s hands then into the recycling bin. I just don’t understand it, especially in today’s digital age. We can send e-cards, messages, or post on friends and family’s pages. Endless paperless options out there, why are paper cards still around? That’s just my opinion, it is a wasteful tradition.

These are some of the wasteful traditions or things about this festive season, we can make changes to make it less wasteful. You can make your Christmas sustainable by using my nine eco friendly tips, I mentioned above. Check them out!



  1. December 1, 2019 / 7:46 PM

    Christmas is such a difficult time for creating waste – I’ve been having a few conversations with people upfront about things I won’t be doing this Christmas to try and have a festive season that doesn’t harm the environment as much. We don’t waste food and our wrapping is pretty much zero waste, but I’m always looking for what else I can do!

    • sophie
      December 4, 2019 / 1:57 PM

      I do agree, it is a tough time for minimal waste! But that is so great, you are doing well. I hope you have a great Christmas, Sophie.

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