Whether you love or hate Christmas, there's no denying that it can be incredibly wasteful and unsustainable, with everything from gift wrap, uneaten food and christmas trees contributing to the environmental impact. Plus of course the frenzy of excessive gift buying, resulting in charity shops (or worse, landfill) stuffed full of unwanted presents come January.
However, there are many ways to reduce your impact, and make the festive season a much more sustainable and ethical affair. Here are some of our best tips below – if you like them, share them with your friends and family, and lead by example. You'll be surprised how quickly your own actions get others to think about what they're doing, and start to create real, positive change.
Last year, according to waste management company BIFFA, the UK alone sent 277,000 miles of wrapping paper to landfill after Christmas – enough to reach 90% of the way to the moon! The majority of this paper can't be recycled as it contains plastic in either glitter or laminate form.
What's the alternative? Opt for either plain brown paper which is recyclable (we love the old-school look of this too) or use a reusable gift wrap, which the recipients of your gifts will thank you for as they then get to pass it on! There are many places selling reusable gift wrap, including Wrag Wrap in the UK.
Between six and eight million real Christmas trees are sold in the UK alone every year, according to Dobbie's Garden Centres, with more than 160,000 tonnes of trees dumped each January – either because people do not know where their recycling facilities are, or are unwilling to remove decorations. Nordmann firs account for 80% of these trees, and they take 10-12 years to grow to 6ft.
Artificial trees certainly aren't any better, with research from the Carbon Trust finding that a 6ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint around 40kg CO2 – more than ten times that of a burned real tree. Most are non-recyclable too.
What's the alternative? By all means get a lovely real tree, but make sure you take it to be properly recycled afterwards. Accoring to edie, most local authorities in the UK offer tree recycling services, with the majority of trees collected this way being shredded into chippings and used at parks, schools or woodland pathways.
Again according to edie, around 1.6 billion tonnes of food goes to waste each year, representing about one-third of the food produced globally by weight. Christmas feasting plays a major part, with Brits alone throwing away an estimated two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings, 17 million Brussel sprouts, 74 million mince pies and two million kilos of cheese. Much of this goes to landfill, releasing toxins into the soil and harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
So, here at Immaculate HQ we're obviously not that into turkeys or dairy cheese – but we do love Christmas food! Especially now that there are so amazing vegan options everywhere. But whatever you're eating this festive season, reducing food waste should be a goal for everyone.
What's the alternative? It starts with being conscious of how much you actually need to buy, and not going overboard. Meal planning and buying small amounts every day or two can really help. Also, the internet is awash with free recipes that'll help you use up your leftovers, which is not only kind to the planet but kind to your wallet too! And if you can't eat all your leftovers in time, freeze them.
Sustainable & Ethical Gifting
From the products themselves, to the packaging they come in (over 100,000 tonnes of plastic packaging gets binned on Christmas Day in the UK alone) – many of the things we buy each other at Christmas are neither sustainable nor ethical. Plus the sheer amount of what we buy creates a waste issue in itself.
What's the alternative? A guiding principle is to buy less and buy better. If you're used to buying your loved ones several presents, why not spend the same amount on one really gorgeous, higher quality item that you know they'll love. Or pool together with others to buy someone a really special present that'll last for years and years (see our Investment Pieces Edit for some inspiration).
Excitingly, there are now many brands – from beauty, to fashion, to homewares – creating beautiful, stand-out products that have been designed with sustainability in mind along the whole supply chain, including using non-plastic materials and packaging, or making use of recycled and recyclable plastics. And of course also being cruelty free and animal free. Our Christmas & Gift Shop has lots of gift ideas for her, for him and for everyone. Here are some of our favourite sustainable and ethical brands:
UpCircle create pioneering vegan skincare that uses a repurposed core ingredient in every product. The London-based brand was founded in 2016 by siblings Anna and William Brightman, and since then they've rescued 60 tonnes of coffee from cafes and coffee shops across London, transforming it into their coffee-based skincare range. They also repurpose chai spices into beautifully scented palm oil-free soaps.
Their mission is to leave the world better than they found it by transforming ingredients that would otherwise be discarded into natural, organic beauty productss, and evidently people are on board with their ethos: UpCircle has won the FSB London Ethical Business of the year, been awarded the natural products 30 Under 30 for 2 consecutive years and had their vegan scrub selected as the Editor’s Choice at the Beauty Shortlist Awards.
All their products are natural, organic, vegan, sustainable, cruelty free, palm oil free, handmade, UK made, and in recyclable packaging (99% plastic free packaging across range).
Watson & Wolfe specialise in beautiful unisex vegan accessories, including wallets, purses, pouches, card holders and belts, all made from a high quality sustainable vegan leather. Their collections are made in a small boutique factory that has a long history of producing the highest quality accessories for luxury brands all over the world.
They use innovative, sustainable materials – for example their vegan leather has a base layer made from non-food grade corn, and the final material contains more than 50% plant material. The corn is from a renewable source so the material has a much lower CO2 footprint and is more environmentally friendly than a regular vegan leather. Their wallet linings are made using 100% recycled plastic bottles, which use 94% less water, 60% less energy and 32% less CO2 to manufacture than virgin polyester.
A sun-bed epiphany in the coastal resort of Kalkan in Turkey sowed the seeds of Lüks, an East Sussex based textiles brand run by former Design Director Rachel Ward. With a focus on natural materials and versatility, Lüks works with small family ateliers and master weavers in Turkey, using gentle, centuries old craft to create hand loomed textiles for home and travel.
Utility is a core theme running through in their range, with peshtemals that can be used as towels, scarves or sarongs, and lounge gowns and throws for both indoor and outdoor living.
Committed to longevity and with a ‘buy less choose well’ mentality, Lüks offer a 20 year repair or replace guarantee on all of its products, which are woven from locally grown, spun, and OEKO TEX certified cotton. Marrying traditional weaving with contemporary design, the Lüks range is made with a lifetime in mind.
Sun.day of London is an all-natural home fragrance apothecary creating vegan Botanical Candles, Diffusers and Fine Mists. Each product is formulated with the use of natural oils and plant-based ingredients to harness the power of nature. Inspired by her Macedonian roots, founder Natasha wanted to translate the ancient remedies made by her grandfather from the wild herbs found in the mountains of the region, into home fragrances that will stir memories, evoke calmness and promote well-being.
All their products are handcrafted, vegan and are 100% free from synthetic perfumes, chemicals and paraffin. Candles are housed in apothecary jars produced in the UK, and filled with GMO-free coconut and palm-free plant waxes, pure cotton wicks and generous doses of uniquely formulated aromatherapy-grade essential oil blends. Sun.day's ethos is grounded in sustainability and working with nature, using plants and botanical oils to enhance well-being, whilst ensuring no toxins or chemicals are used to fragrance your home.
Not sure what to give as a gift? Give the gift of choice with an Immaculate Vegan gift card, knowing that your giftee will be able to take their pick from over 1000 ethical and sustainable products in our store.
Gift cards are delivered by email and contain instructions to redeem them at checkout. They come in denominations of GBP, from £25 to £300 – however customers paying in USD and Euros on our site can use these gift cards towards purchases made in USD and Euros too.
We hope you found our tips helpful. If you like them, please share them too. And most importantly – we hope that you all have a wonderful, sustainable and ethical Christmas!
For more Christmas gift ideas, see our Christmas Edits – for her, for him and for everyone.
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To find the perfect ethical and sustainable gift for her, for him and for everyone, browse our Christmas & Gift Edits.