Dreaming of a Green Christmas

With the fallout of COP26 fresh in mind, we look for sustainable swaps that don’t compromise on sparkle.

Between disposable decorations, one-hit-wonder gifts, discarded trees and unrecyclable wrapping paper – an estimated 227,000 miles of it, in fact – the UK’s household waste levels rise by a staggering 30 per cent post-Christmas. While it’s easy to lose sight of issues such as traceability and the environment with all the fun and glitz on offer at this time of year, we can do our bit to implement small changes that, collectively, will have a big impact on the planet.

While most artificial trees are made from PVC or PET, two of the most common types of plastic, there’s still something to be said for going faux if you’re looking for a more sustainable solution. Just as artificial flowers and houseplants have seriously upped their game on the realism front, so too have luxurious faux firs. The White Company is a brand that’s leading the artificial revolution with its range of incredibly realistic Christmas trees. The abundant Grand Spruce is hand-painted, boasts authentic shaping with naturally irregular branches, and comes in the exact shade of green that will leave house guests none the wiser. If you choose to go faux, unsightly metal stands can be successfully hidden with woven tree skirts in natural wicker, while scented baubles or discreet hanging scented sticks are an ingenious addition if you’re missing that intoxicating smell of fresh pine needles. Of course, investing in a high-end faux means you can pack it up neatly and store it away to be used and re-used for many Christmases to come.

From £295 (thewhitecompany.com)

’Tis the season to sparkle and while the eco-conscious may be lamenting the loss of glitter this Christmas, a simple get-around is to reuse, upcycle and repurpose. The brainchild of Shivani Jaiswal, The Picture Tales is a brand that takes pre-loved festive decorations sourced from local charity shops and transforms them into wonderfully vibrant Christmas wreaths. Expect a mix of feathers, bows, disco balls, elves and angels, alongside some more sophisticated tonal arrangements. The one-of-a-kind wreaths are available at Selfridges as part of the store’s Project Earth for Nature initiative.

£165 (selfridges.com)

There’s nothing quite like the scent of a real Christmas tree to evoke that warm and fuzzy feeling, but rather than heading to our nearest garden centre and choosing a freshly chopped 6ft spruce, a more sustainable option is to plump for a pot-grown tree. Deemer Cass, a Christmas tree and decorations specialist at London-based Fantastic Services recommends a pot-grown tree that can be used for many years to come. “Once the holiday season is over, our customers can move their tree outdoors with the pot so it can thrive and continue growing,” he says. If you’re looking for longevity, it’s worth noting that there’s a difference between potted and pot-grown Christmas trees. “Potted ones have been grown in soil, dug up, and popped in a pot for Christmas,” explains Deemer. “In the process, their roots are damaged and the tree will have experienced dangerous stress from re-planting once already. Our pot-grown Christmas trees have been in the pot from seedlings and have all their roots attached, so they adapt well when transplanted. They’re the most sustainable tree choice.”

From £69, or £39 for Fantastic Club members (fantasticservices.com)

When it comes to gift wrap, one company that’s tackling Christmas waste head on is Wrapuccino. The female-led brand offers a range of eco-friendly, reusable and multi-purpose fabric gift wraps and bags. Borrowing from the ancient Japanese art of furoshiki – essentially wrapping gifts in cloth in an aesthetically pleasing way – the fabric wraps are designed to be used time and time again. What’s more, a number of Wrapuccino’s textiles are made from recycled plastic bottles – but you wouldn’t know it thanks to their wonderfully silky feel.

From £5.99 (wrapuccino.com)

If you like to decorate with cut flowers at Christmas, make sure you choose a company with a conscience. Arena Flowers has been ranked as the UK’s most ethical florist for three years running. Having banned all plastics in 2017, Arena ingeniously use stem cut-offs and leaves to create the paper that wraps the bouquets, while for every purchase, whether that’s a beautiful Christmas bouquet or a festive DIY wreath, two mangrove trees will be planted in Madagascar in order to help rebuild the eco-system. In playing a small part in a wider sustainability initiative, these really are feel-good flowers.

Christmas bouquets from £32 (arenaflowers.com)

We can all do our bit this Christmas by looking for sustainability in the smallest details. Another brand that’s pushing to make our festivities greener this year is Nancy & Betty. Alongside reusable cotton napkins, eco-friendly cards and even recyclable patterned sticky tape is a range of Christmas crackers that boast impressive eco-credentials. Yet they don’t compromise on luxury. The designs are printed on wonderfully thick, sustainable paper stock with vegetable-based inks and, importantly, they contain plastic-free gifts. The crackers are recyclable, save for the plush ribbons, but of course we’ll be re-purposing those for next year’s gifts.

From £26 (nancyandbetty.com)