Frugal Family

Keep Christmas Green (And Save Money Too!)

Each year (starting in October) we see hoards of Christmas paraphernalia swamp the shelves of every superstore, market square, garden centre (especially the garden centre) and independent retailers. We practically trip over the baubles and VIP invitations to visit Father Christmas as soon as we step outside of our front door. Is it possible to have an eco-friendly Christmas?

kids at christmas

But many of us also feel deflated at this time of year. Money is tight, our pay pack is precious and quite often the whole season feels like a big money pit. Then there is the waste! Wheelie bins over flowing before the big day and when the bin men finally make their way on their collection rounds, the streets are lined with empty cardboard boxes, and ripped wrapping paper floats down the street. That first realisation that Christmas is over, looks very grey and weary indeed.

Here are my tips for you to have an eco-friendly Christmas (and save you a few precious pennies and valuable time too!)

  1. Start Christmas shopping early, but only buy what you know someone will want. If you spot a cheap bottle of whisky in March that you know Dad will love, but it and store it somewhere safe!
  2. Every home loves a Christmas tree, and quite often multiple trees can be found in many homes. Buying a real tree does smell lovely, and certainly adds that extra little dash of ‘festive’ to the room. But buying a fake tree can save you mega money when used year after year. 60 million Christmas trees are grown in Europe each year for our homes, by buying a fake tree you will save the worry of knowing that a tree had to be grown for years and chopped down just for you to enjoy it for a matter of weeks. That’s land, time, machinery, transportation and of course water that your tree won’t be needing that will add to pollution.
  3. Don’t go overboard with dinner. It’s hard, I know. I’m not suggesting that you scrape the sides of the bowl when it comes to the main event. But if you buy less, you’ll spend less and less food will end up in the bin. Did you know that all of the left over turkey from The Big Dinner would equal 263,000 turkeys? That’s sad. Really sad. Why spend more going crazy, when you can saved a little money buying only what you know you will eat?
  4. Learn how to use leftovers- 10% of each festive meal is thrown away in the UK. This equals to £64 million of wasted food. Why chuck that food away when you can whip up an awesome Boxing Day bubble and squeak? Make your left overs last longer and experiment with dishes.
  5. Recycle as much as you can! All of that wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and food packaging can all be folded up and squashed into the recycling bin. Most councils will accept bagged recycling too if left curb-side the first collection after Christmas has been. Try to cut up boxes and fold packaging then you shall fit more into your bin too. If your bin gets full and a neighbour has room in theirs ask them if you can share bin space.
  6. If you have a compost bin, use it. Some paper and cardboard can be added to your bin, as can and gone off veg (if you haven’t used it for left overs!) just leave out the meat, fats and bones.
  7. Don’t go shopping with an open mind. You WILL spend more. Make a list and stick to it. Know how many Christmas cards you want to send, who you want to buy for and what present, and plan your festive shopping list in advance. This way you will minimise impulse buys ands shopping will take less time… giving you more minutes at home in front of the fire with a glass of mulled wine.
  8. Freeze any left overs that you wont eat right away. Cooked and sliced meats can be frozen and so can cooked Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes! You can freeze (cooled) gravy in bottles for future Sunday roasts too. 11.3 million roast potatoes are chucked each Christmas. Bag ’em and freeze ’em guys!
  9. Buy as much as you can local. Not only will your ethical choice be supporting local business who work hard all year round competing against the big chains, but you will be saving on all of those air miles too that products quickly gather. Buying local also means that you get to have an up close look at what you are buying, meaning less stuff will have to be returned, a common problem when buying online. Buying local food from market traders and local farm shops also means you are supporting local farmers who are battling with the supermarkets. For every £1 spent when buying local, you shall be boosting your local economy by 63p! Also, I bet you’ll find that quirky and weird gift made just for your brother…
  10. Cut down on sending cards. It’s easy to get carried away when writing cards, but I like to send special hand made cards to my nearest and dearest and buy a cheap pack for my kid’s class mates. Not everyone needs a card, it isn’t a competition. In the UK a huge 1.8 billion cards are sent each Christmas. That’s a lot of paper!
  11. Try not to buy overly packaged presents or food. Amazon were recdently featured in Hughes War On Waste due to their over use of packaging. Small items were arriving to buyers in boxes much bigger than needed, and all of this extra packaging is creating quite a problem when it comes to landfill. I quite often see food produce in supermarkets packaged similarly. When buying local (as mentioned above) you shall notice that packaging is drastically reduced.
  12. Have a go at making your own presents. This year I have been making simple knitted dishcloths and Christmas puddings for friends. There are YouTube tutorials these days for making near enough anything you can think of, so have a look online and see what tickles your fancy. Learning a new skill is fun and may lead to a money earning hobby!
  13. Shop around for the best prices. Many shops now follow Price Match style promises. Argos is brilliant for this!
  14. Walk to town for a spot of Christmas shopping and deliver your Christmas cards on route. Not only will walking to town give you a chance to check out everyone’s fabulous Christmas decorations, but you can enjoy a few minutes peace and quiet in the still frosty air. Let the car stay at home, save on crazy parking prices and ever rising fuel costs. £700 million is spent each year on unwanted Christmas gifts. Having a nice steady walk around town will give you more time to think gifts through and minimise those impulse buys.
  15. Vintage is in. Why buy new ‘vintage-look’ Christmas decorations when you can find the real deal in charity shops! I picked up some fabulous tree decorations in our local reuse centre for pennies. They look superb! Hanging things on trees comes from Druid times, when they believed that the tree was the bringer of all good things.
  16. Turn Christmas lights off when you’re going to bed, or going out. Not many people are going to enjoy those lights at 3 am (unless they’re walking home from the pub) so the electricity you are burning is going to waste.
  17.  Stick to wrapping PAPER and use minimal tape. There is such a huge range of fancy wrapping ‘papers’ available now. Sadly the pretty foil kind are rarely recyclable. They may look gorgeous under the tree, but they will look rancid for hundreds of years in landfill sites.
  18. Make your own cards, or even better, if you have kids get them to make them. Everyone loves receiving a cute card made by their adorable little family member. Just remember that glitter IS necessary!
  19. Keep all of your old Christmas cards for nursery, ready for when the kids go back. My local nursery love card donations. The children use them for arts and crafts, including making their own cards next year!
  20. Choose decorations that use LED lights. LED uses much less energy to power, yet shine really brightly. LED lights also don’t get really hot (I’m sure we all have memories of touching a hot tree lightbulb in our youth) which also reduces the risk of Christmas tree fires. Have you ever seen a Christmas tree on fire? It goes up fast. Also LED’s will last you for a good few years longer than standard incandescent bulbs which last approximately 1,800 hours of use, whereas LEDs last up to an astonishing 4,000 hours! I can’t comment on the untangling though.

Do you have any more useful tips for making Christmas greener? Let me know in the comments below.


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Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 daughters and a son, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting and gardening brands.

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