The Holly and the Ivy (but not the tinsel, plastic packaging or batteries)…our guide to making this festive season a little bit greener

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Christmas is a time for giving

Do you struggle to buy presents for family and friends because they already have everything they need? If you find yourself buying novelty Christmas items just because you “need to buy something”, then consider a family/friend gift exchange (also known as Secret Santa). Not only does this drastically reduce your Christmas shopping list, it also means you can spend a little more and buy something the recipient will really appreciate. No more novelty reindeer socks (unless they’re homemade)! For lots of ideas, try the College Lake Artists’ Christmas Fair  near Tring, or Amersham Museum’s Christmas Fair .

College lake christmas fair


If you do decide to give individual gifts, why not give something pre-loved or homemade? Get your kids on the case too and stimulate their creative juices on wet winter weekends! With a bit of planning you could make lavender bags, home-made chocolates, or gingerbread. If creativity doesn’t come naturally, why not take advantage of the many local Christmas craft workshops to get started? 



When its finally time to hand over the present, be aware that most wrapping paper is not recyclable (ie anything shiny or glittery). A good rule of thumb is that if you scrunch up the paper and it stays “scrunched” you can dispose of it in recycling. To avoid any doubt, package presents in reusable gift bags, fabric tied with string or twine, or even newspaper and make use of last year’s Christmas cards by cutting out festive shapes to make gift tags or labels.

Don’t forget if you receive something you’re sure you won’t use, take it to your local charity shop, or hang on to it for regifting later in the year - just remember who gave it to you!


Deck the Halls, Kitchens, Living Rooms…

Kids do love to make decorations! Paper chains made from magazine cuttings will keep them entertained for hours - and help ‘littlies’ develop their fine motor skills. Don’t forget to supervise the scissors!

Dough, cinnamon sticks, gingerbread, holly, seasonal berries, ivy and evergreen branches can be used to make decorations in the run up to Christmas, and they can all go in your compost bin afterwards. Just make sure wherever you get the greenery from isn’t someone else’s garden (unless you have permission of course). Mistletoe is available at most garden centres and Christmas tree sellers (we don’t recommend trying to find your own).

In recent years there has been a noticeable increase in wreath-making workshops in the Chilterns, a great idea to exercise your creativity and make something beautiful at the same time. Find a wreath workshop here – these are usually very popular so booking early is recommended!

We love a Christmas Tree as much as the next person, but what happens in January when they all get thrown away?  Rotting Christmas trees produce tonnes of CO2 so make sure you use a council recycling scheme  where the trees are chipped and used as compost or mulch. If you do choose a cut tree, make sure it’s from an FSC approved supplier such as the forestry commission at Wendover Woods, which guarantees the most sustainable growing methods. Alternatively you can now rent a potted Christmas tree which is then replanted afterwards – or grow your own in a pot replant outside afterwards.


Feed the world

Sadly even the festive table is not exempt from your carbon footprint – crackers, for example, are often full of plastic items that go straight into landfill in the new year. Click  sustainable crackers  to find out how to make them or you can buy recyclable Christmas cracker kits.

Remember that just because “it’s Christmas” doesn’t mean you have to buy more food than you’d usually eat in a month – with the excess going in the bin. Beware of buy-one-get-one free offers that retailers love at this time of year. Plan ahead to avoid temptation – make a list of what you actually need. Try to buy locally, so you can keep the food miles down while supporting your community - win win! See our round up of some excellent local food suppliers in the Chilterns for inspiration.


We're fortunate to have a number of turkey suppliers in the Chilterns including: Potash Farm, Long Grove Wood Farm and Walters Turkeys. There are also many farmers markets locally for example Tring and Chesham or try the lovely folks at Ten Mile Menu who will deliver your turkey, veg and all the trimmings, sourced from producers on the Bucks/Oxon border. The best thing is they deliver all year round so you can keep it local for 2020.

Chesham Community Fridge is a fantastic initiative where volunteers collect unsold food from supermarkets and other sources so that others can enjoy food that would otherwise go in the bin. Everyone is welcome, there’s no charge for any of the food, all of which would otherwise have gone to waste. Bring your own clean containers and bags as some food is not packaged. There’s also a community fridge in High Wycombe.

Above all remember that Christmas shouldn’t be stressful or more expensive than you can afford. Making some relatively small changes can have a really big impact.  

Have yourself a merry green Christmas.



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