Posted 20/12/2021

How to have an eco-friendly Christmas

AIM5 of our Corporate Strategy at Swan is to ‘Love the Planet’. Although this is a corporate AIM that is being addressed through a number of plans and policies, we know that being more sustainable is on a lot of peoples’ minds. Sustainability broadly means meeting ‘the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. With this in mind, how best can we enjoy a jolly old time without sacrificing any of the fun - and at the same time being mindful of our impacts on the future?

Ben Coombes, Head of Sustainability at Swan, shares some tips for being eco-friendly this holiday season.


There’s nothing quite as nostalgic as putting up holiday decorations. Yet some of the traditional Christmas décor is not positive for our planet. Christmas enthusiasts will no doubt already have their decorations up. For those of you who wait until nearer to Christmas, here’s my take on keeping your décor sustainable.


Up to eight million real trees end up in landfill each year. While the production process and end-life of faux plastic-based trees release harmful gases into the environment. For a more ethical choice, consider buying a real tree in a pot that you can replant in your garden afterwards and enjoy for many more years, or you can even rent trees from some nurseries now. Another option is an artificial tree made from sustainable materials such as wood. (You can even DIY!).


Crackers are a festive favourite, yet many Christmas crackers are not recyclable and the toys inside are often made of plastic. Look out for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified crackers, or reusable DIY crackers that you can fill yourself with eco-friendly festive favours. I bought some plastic-free Christmas crackers in Iceland (the supermarket), just this week.

Wreaths and centre-pieces

You can love the planet and enjoy some Christmas crafting by making your own wreath and table centres. Read how to make your own wreath here and your centre-piece and other decorations here. In terms of table décor, linen tablecloths and napkins have far less environmental impact than their paper or cotton equivalents.


An estimated five million puddings, two million turkeys, and 74 million mince pies go to waste each Christmas so make sure to get creative with leftovers (although personally I’ll be giving the Brussel Sprout Sauerkraut a wide berth!).

Vegetarian and vegan alternatives to turkey are naturally better for the planet, but if this sounds too much of a sacrifice for Christmas day itself, why not opt for a few meat-free meals during the rest of the week - which you could carry on into the new year to help reduce your carbon footprint.  Looking out for UK-grown produce is also an easy way to cut down on food-miles.

Gifts and greetings


With one tree being felled to make 3,000 regular Christmas cards, it makes sense to buy recycled cards which are widely available (and companies such as 1TreeCards go even further by planting new trees for every purchase). Alternatively, e-cards have become popular as has letting friends and family know that you’re making a donation to a charity instead.

Gift wrapping

We use around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year in this country which, if rolled out, would go around the world nearly 10 times.

You can help to reduce this figure by:

  • saving and re-using wrapping paper from gifts
  • buying wrapping paper made of 100 percent recycled materials this year from companies like Re-wrapped
  • wrapping gifts in old magazine pages
  • ditching the wrapping paper altogether and instead put gifts in an old fashioned (and fully festive!) stocking

Why not go the extra mile? Ditch the Sellotape and opt for string to tie up those loose paper ends.


‘Tis the season of giving and being sustainable doesn’t have to mean cutting down on gifting.

You can gift in a way that puts the planet first by:

  • buying pre-loved
  • purchasing experience gifts e.g. theatre tickets or afternoon tea
  • gifting vouchers for your time
  • selecting locally-made presents
  • sourcing presents made from recyclable materials
  • making your own gifts

Don’t forget your reusable bags to carry all your shopping home! 

Wishing you a very happy and eco-friendly holiday.