Christmas is a time that traditionally revolves around excess, but what if you want to have a more environmentally-friendly Christmas this year? We've put together a few tips for lowering your carbon footprint, or the amount of waste sent to landfill in London this Christmas. It's very much a work-in-progress, so share your own tips in the comments section to help your fellow environmentally-conscious Londoners out.
Recycled Christmas cards and gift wrap in London
According to London Recycles, Londoners get through 38,000 tonnes of paper and card each Christmas, enough to wrap Big Ben more than 34,000 times. Obviously, that's not great, so considering alternatives is a good way to go.
As a general rule, avoid any cards or wrap that are shiny or have glitter on them, as they probably can't be recycled. When shopping for cards, look for ones that are made from recycled paper and card. When it comes to wrapping paper, there are several alternatives, depending how maverick you're willing to go (top tip: old newspaper isn't the best option for wrapping a white cashmere jumper). Fabric wrap is one option, removing the use of single-use paper, or, why not give the gift in something that can be reused — a flower pot, perhaps?
For the more traditional, London-based company Re-Wrapped offers plenty of paper and cards for the eco-aware. All of their products are made using 100% recycled unbleached paper and card and environmentally-friendly vegetable-based inks, and all can be recycled again after use.
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Marylebone haberdashery VV Rouleaux sells environmentally-friendly ribbon, with seven 1-litre plastic bottles being recycled into 100m of ribbon. It's not recyclable itself (yet!) but if you do use ribbon to wrap your gifts, this is a more environmentally-friendly option than your usual reels. The same store also suggests using lining paper and natural cotton tape as an alternative to the usual wrapping paper and sellotape — the paper can be recycled, and the tape reused.
Eco-friendly and sustainable Christmas markets in London
These days, it's not too difficult to find eco-friendly brands, whether you're after fully vegan brands, cruelty-free beauty products or items made from recycled materials. We won't list them all, but special mention to Wearth London, a website which has 125 UK brands selling eco-friendly and ethical products including beauty items, toiletries, homewares, furniture and gifts. Everything on the website is vegan-friendly and hasn't been tested on animals, and you can search by your values (organic, refillable or plastic-free, for example).
Beyond the year-round brands out there, a few eco-focused Christmas markets pop-up in London in December, offering sustainable and zero-waste Christmas gift options.
Pebblefestive - 30 November 2019
Taking place in Flat Iron Square, Pebblefestive is a conscious Christmas market with a focus on sustainability. The event centres around an 'ethical high street', with brands such as Awake Organics, Doc Cotton and Lucy and Yak selling Christmas gift ideas ranging from cosmetics to clothes to chocolate.
Alongside the shopping opportunities, Pebblefestive offers a range of talks on topics such as reducing your festive food waste and how to get involved in community activism in 2020 — plus there's a vegan and organic beer tasting session from Freedom Brewery. Workshops available include how to make zero-waste Christmas decorations, and how to fabric wrap Christmas presents, avoiding the use for wrapping paper.
London's Sustainable Christmas Market - 1 December 2019
Yes, it's a promo event for Buyagift, but the Sustainable Christmas Market has a good ethos at heart. Sustainable scents and skincare, conscious fashion and upcycled jewellery are some of the items for sale from brands which have been handpicked for the innovative ways they are approaching sustainability.
Once you've done your shopping, wrap your gifts for free at the eco-friendly wrap station, and refuel on vegan and sustainable food and drink. Free minimal-waste workshops run throughout the day too, including jumper upcycling, soap-making and wreath-making.
London's Zero Waste Christmas Market - 7 December 2019
London's Zero Waste Christmas Market is now an annual event, with funds raised going towards tree-planting projects, and a zero-to-landfill ethos applied to the event itself. Over 50 zero-waste brands exhibit and sell their wares, and workshops include making a wreath and creating your own Christmas crackers, and there's sustainability-themed storytelling for younger visitors.
Not convinced? For every 10 tickets sold, a tree is planted.
Eco-friendly Christmas trees in London
It's a dilemma many of us face every year — real Christmas tree, or fake one? Inviting a genuine spruce into your living room involves cutting down a tree, something we're supposed to be avoiding, and not many Londoners have the garden space to replant it outside and watch it flourish once the festive season's over. But many fake trees are made from plastic, and isn't that something we're supposed to be avoiding too? It's a much-debated issue with no right or wrong answer, but Friends of the Earth offer the following advice: if you opt for a fake tree, keep using it for as many years as possible. If it's a real tree you're after, buy one that's FSC-approved (Forest Stewardship Council) so that you know it's been grown and chopped down in the most sustainable way possible.
London-based Patch Plants sources all its trees from the British Isles, and plants a new tree for every one cut down.
Still can't decide? Have you considered — and bear with us here — renting your Christmas tree? Companies out there will provide you with a real tree, and deliver it to your door in time for the festive season. Then, once Christmas is over, they'll come and collect it and take it back to the farm where it was grown, and replant it until next year. Some companies will even keep track of 'your' tree, so you can have the same one back next year. Alas, London Christmas Tree Rental is sold out for 2019 (hiring your tree is big business apparently), but office plant company Ambius is among other companies still offering them.
Recycling your Christmas tree in London
Come early January, London's pavements often double up as a Christmas tree graveyard as spruces and firs are chucked out. Plenty of London boroughs will recycle your Christmas tree for free — we'll be updating our guide to recycling your Christmas tree with this year's information once the boroughs announce it.
Add your tips for an eco-friendly Christmas in London in the comments below.