St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Zero Waste Christmas

It’s been two years since I first wrote about waste at Christmas and my how attitudes have changed in that time! This year Christmas is looking like it won’t be exactly as we’ve known previously so let’s prioritise the things that matter; the people, pets and friends we love and minimise our impact on an already overburdened planet. Remembering the waste hierarchy we know that reducing our consumption is the quickest way to cut unnecessary waste. Of course I’m not suggesting we all revert to Ebenezer Scrooge type behaviour but for many of our traditions there are less wasteful alternatives. Or we could even make new traditions, this year would be the year to go for it after all!


Martin Lewis says it much better than I can in his article “Is it time to ban Christmas Presents“.  If there are people who you simply cannot go without buying for why not make your own gifts, buy second-hand, or gift experiences instead? There is also the option of buying charity presents, the recipient doesn’t get necessarily get clutter or stuff that fills up their home but they know you’ve supported a worthwhile project on their behalf. We’ve launched our own crowdfunder this year with rewards we think would make pretty fun presents. With restrictions still in place for most areas evenings are now the perfect time to get creative.

When wrapping your presents remember to plan ahead and avoid anything laminated or covered in glitter – neither can be recycled. Have you heard of fabric wrapping? Fat quarters (small squares of fabric used for quilting and other smaller fabric projects) are relatively cost effective and are a bonus gift for the recipient, especially if they’re crafty too. Fabric wrapping also known as “furoshiki wrapping” it’s beautiful and easy to do. If you don’t fancy fabric brown paper is often cost effective. It’s thicker too so easier to reuse. You can also individualise it with stamps, string and even adding a little candy cane or sprig of holly.


My colleagues Hannah and Freya recently shared a blog on how to make your own Christmas wreath. At our staff Christmas social in 2019 we all spent a very fun few hours making our own wreaths with items foraged from St Nicks. A more traditional option for tinsel like decorations is popcorn and dried cranberries threaded and strung up. If you have young children or particularly food motivated pets make sure they are strung out of reach. You can also make hanging decorations for the tree, or threaded again into bunting from citrus peels. Simply use cookie cutters to shape them and then dry them. You can even use them as gift tags if you wanted to.

Christmas trees

If you don’t fancy trying to keep a potted tree alive between Christmases why not hire a real one instead? Real trees grown locally and disposed of properly have a lower carbon footprint than artificial trees but of course like anything if your fake tree is in good condition do please keep using it. If you want to make the switch make sure you dispose of it responsibly by donating it to a family in need, a charity shop or a local care home (with their permission!).

If you cannot replant your tree, many animal rescue organisations and zoos ask for Christmas trees to provide enrichment for the animals in their care. Contact them before you travel to avoid mutual frustration.


Like any time of year planning ahead is the quickest way to reduce the volume of food you waste. Plan your meals and ways to use up the leftovers. Only buy what you need – a bargain isn’t a deal if you weren’t already planning on buying it! If you have lots leftover, or have been gifted lots of food presents you won’t be able to get through donate it. Reliance on food banks is higher than ever, so I’m sure they would be grateful of any of your still sealed excess. Apps like Olio, free groups on Facebook and our own “Free Stuff Friday” thread on Zero Waste York are great ways to get rid of items you’ve tried and not liked or are homemade.

If you are on Facebook, Zero Waste York is a fantastic little resource. People share where they’ve bought plastic free parcel tape, where you can rent a Christmas treee, they swap and donate items and there are directories of the local food banks and zero waste shops too.

Post written by Waste and Recycling Manager Sam Taylor. For any waste questions please email Sam at If you are able to please support our Precious Plastic York crowdfunder. We hope to kickstart the plastic revolution in York taking us one step closer to zero waste.



3 December 2020 | Categories: Inspiration, Waste and recycling | Tags: buy nothing, Christmas, craft, crafty, low waste, make do, mend, rent a tree, zero waste, zero waste york