8 tips for a sustainable and ethical Christmas

An ethical christmas with zero waste

From zero waste wrapping to choosing eco friendly gifts

We all want to do our best to create a sustainable and ethical Christmas, both for our loved ones and for the planet. But the sheer scale of waste at Christmas is enough to make your eyes water – bin bags full of non recyclable gift wrap shedding microplastic glitter across your driveway, flimsy decorations which are breaking even before the big day, and the innards of crackers, glanced at then discarded, cleared away along with the detritus of Christmas lunch.

Aside from the trimmings, a mindblowing 21 million (MILLION!) people in the UK receive an unwanted gift. And their loved ones are spending over £5 BILLION on items destined to end up in landfill or shoved in the back of a cupboard. Assuming that most of these gifts will have been bought new, that’s an awful lot of virgin resources, packaging and travel miles for something that’s neither wanted nor needed.

We can do better!

I’m determined to have my most sustainable and ethical Christmas ever in 2022. Here’s how I’m going to do it…

1. Food glorious food - where does yours come from?

Food is one of my favourite things about Christmas. I start on the mince pies in November (only ever AFTER Halloween!), then add in gorgeously stodgy Stollen, rich, roasted chestnuts and jewel-like dried fruits. I still need an orange in my Christmas stocking, and no, Terry’s won’t do!

But as well as often coming in plastic packaging, the food we eat on December 25th may have travelled thousands of miles to get to your Christmas table, and is sadly often wasted.

To get around this, while still having a rich and varied array of delicious foods in the festive season, I try to make as much of my own food as possible. Slightly wonky mince pies or a Christmas cake which could’ve been iced by a 3 year old might not look perfect but they taste all the sweeter for having made them yourself (and if you have children in your life, Christmas cookery makes a brilliant activity to keep them busy, involved and having fun).

I know my limitations though, and when I do have to buy food I try to stick to the criteria of “local, independent, ethical” as much as possible. If you’re a meat eater, did your Christmas turkey enjoy a life outdoors? And for vegetarians and vegans, was your nut roast grown in the UK? The veggies in a traditional Christmas dinner tend to be seasonal, so your local veg box scheme should be able to supply them – Google “veg box + your location” to find yours. 

For foods that have to come from further afield (such as coffee – a must for the parents of excited little ones who are up at the crack of dawn to check if Santa’s been…), check that they’re Rainforest Alliance Certified or Fairtrade. Your local zero waste refill shop is a great place to stock up on bits like this. 

2. Gift consciously this Christmas

We all want to be generous and treat our loved ones at Christmas but unwanted gifts aren’t the way to do it. Try to find out what your gift-ee would really like – maybe there’s something they’ve been wanting but haven’t taken the plunge. 

If you’re buying for little ones, ask their parents what they need and want; kids’ interests change so quickly that it’s hard to keep up!

If asking would spoil the surprise, consumable gifts such as chocolates are a great go-to that can be enjoyed in the moment. Bonus zero waste points for making something yourself and presenting it in a beautifully wrapped, recycled box!

3. Shop small, independent and local

Money spent locally, stays locally, so a great way to support where you live is to shop small, local and independent this Christmas. 

Most towns have some amazing artists and makers locally – if you’re not sure where to find them, try your local craft fairs (I’m super excited to have been featured alongside some of my absolute favourites at The Welbeck Winter Weekend, and I’ll be at Nottingham Contemporary Christmas Craft Fair on Friday 2nd December).

Christmas craft fairs are fab because you get to chat to the makers themselves, and wandering past the stalls with a mince pie in hand and a glass of something mulled is guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit!

Shop my Best Selling Animal Inspired Jewellery

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4. Support businesses with strong ethics

Make sure that the businesses you spend your money with, have ethics you agree with – and really live by them!

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” ― Anna Lappe

There’s a lot of greenwashing around and it can be difficult to work out who is really doing what they say they are! Don’t be afraid to get in touch with a business and grill them on their ethics and policies. Whether it’s fair pay for their employees, greener energy use, or a commitment to using more sustainable materials, if it matters to you, make sure it matters to them!I LOVE when people get in touch to ask about my ethical policy and the uniquely environmentally friendly way I make my jewellery – it’s so important to me that my business is a force for good in the world and I want to shout about it!

5. Foster your Christmas tree

Cutting down the 8 million trees that Britain consumes each year is hugely polluting, both from the machinery needed to harvest and transport the trees, and the carbon released as those trees rot in landfill. 

Fostering, or renting, a Christmas tree, means that your tree will continue to lock in carbon for years to come. Your tree is delivered alive and in its pot to grace your home over the festive season, before being picked up and cared for on a farm for the rest of the year.

Just make sure you care for your tree to keep it healthy while it’s inside!

6. Make someone else’s Christmas brighter

It’s easy to get swept up in the materialism of Christmas and forget that what it’s really about is spending time with the ones we love and caring for one another. 

Studies have shown that giving to others actually relieves stress and depression – something many of us need in the darker months, and teaching children to practise altruism helps their mood and can even reduce bullying.

Look to local causes that may need some extra help over the festive period – homelessness charities are often particularly overrun and would appreciate the support to provide a nourishing and joyful Christmas meal to the people they work with. 

7. Go zero waste

Gift wrap, packaging, decorations – there’s a lot of waste at Christmas but the good news is that with a little thought, you can avoid most of it. 

Try reusing gift bags or tissue paper you’ve saved from last year (if you didn’t save any, make a point of doing that this year!) or use a beautiful piece of fabric or a silk scarf to wrap your gifts. This article shows various ways of wrapping even tricky items in fabric which will take your gift game to the next level! Plus the recipient gets a 2-in-1 gift of a lovely scarf. Charity shops are great places to source these. 

Brown paper tied with jute twine or raffia, and decorated with dried lemon slices, pine tree springs or herbs like rosemary look stunning, stylish and sophisticated under the tree and are all recyclable and compostable.

8. Gift experiences, make memories

Receiving things is nice, but the gifts that will really make an impact are the ones that help us form memories of those we love. 

I adore making bespoke commissioned pieces at this time of year – the idea of someone opening a necklace or pin in the form of their beloved animal companion on Christmas day makes my heart leap for joy! If your loved one has a special animal friend, why not help them keep them close by commissioning an ethically made, recycled silver piece? Get in touch to find out more (if your order is too late, I can make them a special IOU to open on the big day),

A gift of your time – a trip to the theatre together, a picnic lunch somewhere beautiful, an offer to babysit the kids or walk the dog so they can have some much needed me-time – can be one of the most wonderful things to receive.

What are your favourite ethical Christmas tips?

I’d love to hear from you, just leave a comment below, or get in touch

Love Rosie xxx

Thanks for reading…

Here’s a few things you might like to check out:

My ethical policy—This tells you everything you need to know about how I make my jewellery, my packaging, what makes me different in the jewellery industry and my overall ethos

About me—Hi! It’s nice to meet you. Find out about me, Rosie, and how and why I started Elouise Makes

Shop the collection—Looking for something specific, or just want to browse? You’ll find it all here

Caring for your silver jewellery—Learn how to keep your animal friends looking their best

My shipping policy—OK, this isn’t exactly the most exciting reading material, but if you order from me you need to feel secure that your piece will make its way to you safely!

Find me on Instagram—Follow me on Insta for lush pictures of my recycled silver animal jewellery, and fun tidbits about the creatures I create

The best way to hear from me is to sign up to my newsletter for more news and special offers. I only send one per month so there’s nothing spammy and it’s the best way to keep in touch!

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