Father Christmas on the beach

Six sustainable Christmas ideas for 2024

The Christmas period is a great opportunity to get involved in creating a more sustainable future. There are many things you can do to have a more ocean-friendly festive season. From reducing your plastic use to mixing up the seasonal menu, we share our top sustainable Christmas tips this year.

Make this Christmas season single-use plastic free

11 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year, but small steps can help reduce this and make a big difference to the health of our seas.

Could you vouch to avoid single-use plastic this season? From the cards you send and the gifts you buy or make to the wrapping paper and gift bags you package them up in, there are plenty of plastic-free options for more sustainable gifting.

Look for cards without plastic film or glitter and opt for recyclable wrapping paper, such as FSC-certified brown paper, old newspapers or magazines, or opt for re-usable wraps instead. You can also reuse paper gift bags from past presents, removing or leaving the gift tag blank so your recipient can reuse it again!

Avoid Black Friday impulse buys

Black Friday has become an increasingly large shopping event and it's easy to feel like you should buy something during it and take advantage of offers, particularly in the cost-of-living crisis.

However, according to Which?, only 2% of Black Friday deals were at their cheapest price. The majority of offers (98%) were available at the same or a lower price within the six months before or after Black Friday.

So, before you make any impulse purchases, pause and ask yourself if you really do need to buy them.

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If you are buying something in the sales, try to opt for sustainable options - avoiding plastic where possible and choosing clothing that is made from ethically sourced materials, like those in our TeeMill store.

Or, why not give the gift of making a positive, lasting difference with a gift membership? For loved ones with a passion for a cause, or those who insist not to get them "anything - I have everything I need", this is a great option. Or, you can make a donation in their name instead.

Christmas gifts

Credit: Olesia Buyar

Use gentle but effective eco-friendly cleaning products

If you're hosting festivities at yours, you may be cleaning up in advance of guests (and Santa) arriving. You don't need to use countless bottles and sprays containing bleach and harsh chemicals to tackle dirt and grime - there are more ocean-friendly products which will leave your surfaces sparkling.

From surfaces, to bathrooms, kitchens, ovens and even windows, you can make a great and simple multi-purpose cleaner using a few household ingredients: lemon juice, white vinegar and water. You can use essential oils instead of lemon juice if you prefer a different scent.

Swap the lemon juice for olive oil and use as a furniture polish, or add baking soda for a deeper clean - great for stubborn cooking stains and cleaning drains.

Lemon juice cleaning product

Credit: Precious Plastic Melbourne

There are plenty of other sustainable cleaning substitutes you can use, from an abrasive natural mineral compound which is similar to Borax, to tabs designed to target specific areas like kitchens, bathrooms or anti-bacterial which you add to a bottle of water and shake to activate.

Washing up

We all dread tackling the piles of Christmas dinner dishes, but some simple swaps can make the post-meal clean-up a bit kinder to the ocean.

Swap your plastic dish brush for coconut or sustainable bamboo alternatives, and replace your dish cloths with natural, compostable sponge alternatives.

Opting for a dish soap made with natural ingredients such as olive and coconut oil, helps prevent chemicals washing down our drains and into our waterways. These often come in recyclable cardboard packaging, rather than single-use bottles, so it's another win for our seas.

You can get refillable washing-up liquid, too.

Dish cleaning products

Credit: Sarah Chai

Mix up the menu

If fish features on your festive menu or you're thinking of swapping turkey for something a bit different, check our Good Fish Guide to see sustainable seafood options. Download the Guide straight to your phone from www.mcsuk.org/goodfishguide

Here are some great options to make your festive feasts more ocean sustainable:

  • Swap smoked salmon for smoked farmed trout – available in most supermarkets and farmed in freshwater ponds here in the UK. Trout has a similar taste to salmon, and your guests might not even notice the difference!
  • Serve farmed shellfish - choose hand-dived or farmed scallops for minimal impact on the seabed, or impress with classy canapés of stuffed mussels.
  • Make sure the prawns in your prawn cocktail are from sustainable sources; look out for the small pink prawns with the MSC blue tick label, or the larger tiger or king prawns, labelled Organic.
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Beach clean or litter pick

For many, a long walk on Boxing Day is a festive tradition. Or, you might be thinking of getting out in the fresh air for a while in the hours before your Christmas dinner.

If you’re lucky enough to be based by the sea, why not get family and friends involved in a bracing beach clean? This is a great way to make a positive impact and give back to the environment this festive season.

If you’re unable to get to the coast but still want to do your bit, why not clean up your local area instead? Simply take a bag and gloves with you and clear litter as you stroll around. You can do this anywhere: streets, parks or along rivers. So much of the litter found in our seas originates inland – so you’d be cleaning up the ocean if you take part in a Source to Sea Litter Quest!

If you are heading out, make sure to wear something with high visibility, so you can be easily seen in the dark and dreary weather.

Making a difference this Christmas

By following some of the sustainable Christmas ideas suggested above you can celebrate the season safe in the knowledge that you have made a difference. Though they may seem small, these changes will ultimately reduce your overall effect on the oceans at a time where our impact on the environment tends to be greatest. Also, by taking the chance to make some of these changes this season, you may find them becoming standard practice for you throughout the entire year, further reducing your personal impact on the seas and its marine wildlife.

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