Waste Free Christmas – The Complete Guide

A waste free Christmas is a great thing for both the environment and for your budget. Avoid buying wasteful plastic or non-biodegradable products at Christmas to add to your eco friendly life.  Here are some great tips to help you have a waste free Christmas.

Waste free Christmas tips

  1. Choose zero waste decorations
  2. Recycle old decorations
  3. Buy fair trade decorations
  4. Choose natural Christmas tree alternatives
  5. Use a real living tree
  6. Try an alternative Christmas tree
  7. Avoid using disposable plates and cutlery
  8. Use eco friendly place cards
  9. Use a natural centerpiece
  10. Try eco friendly bon bons
  11. Avoid food waste by making use of leftovers
  12. Choose eco friendly gifts
  13. Try secret Santa for your friends and family
  14. Choose eco friendly wrapping paper alternatives
  15. Give digital Christmas cards or use recycled

So let’s explore more about how we can have a waste free, eco friendly Christmas.

Zero waste decorations

Reuse decorations you have had sitting around the house in new and creative ways

Decorating your home is one of the most fun things you can do with your kids to spend some creative family time together.  It is really tempting to grab some of those brightly colored decorations sitting on the supermarket shelves. But the question is, do you really need to buy more decorations? One of the best things we can do around our home is not to purchase unnecessary things. I have aimed to be really mindful when it comes to purchasing decisions so it is important to ask ourselves if we really need more stuff in our home. Check out some great ideas below.

Recycle old decorations

I know over a few years we have collected lots of decorations for our tree. They are in some fairly random colors that don’t relay match but it certainly makes for a colorful tree.  I think some of the best decorations that I cherish are those made by (or for) my kids at preschool. I appreciate the time that the teachers at preschool spend with my kids helping them to make decorations for our tree.  I try to reuse what I have year to year so I’m not bringing in more stuff and then needing to get rid of the extras.

If you are up for some new decorations this year then try to make a mindful decision about what you purchase.  There are lots of places to purchase natural fiber and paper decorations. There are lots of crafty blogs that will help you make your own out of recycled paper or old newspapers.


Another way that your Christmas can go towards helping others and the environment is to purchase from a fair trade supplier.  Companies that give back some of their profits and support local jobs are a great way to feel good about making your house look beautifully decorated. 

Here are some great craft ideas for making eco friendly Christmas decorations.

Natural Christmas Tree Alternatives

A Christmas tree has become an essential part of our Christmas celebrations.  Putting up our Christmas tree has signaled the start of the festive season for our house.  Watching the Christmas pageant and putting together our plastic Christmas tree is something I remember doing as a child.  It is a tradition that I have continued with my children however as I attempt to reduce the amount of waste and plastic used in our household, I am questioning the Christmas tree purchase I made a few years ago.  

I feel that if you already have a Christmas tree like us, you should keep using it.  I’m going to see how many years our Christmas tree will last and keep using it for as long as possible. This is a great way to look at reducing our waste. Not only will it save you money, but it will save the amount of waste that heads into landfill.  Stick with the decisions you have made and make the best of them.

Use a real living tree

Using a real living tree in a pot can be a great eco friendly alternative

If you are in the market for a new tree there are many more sustainable and environmentally friendly choices.  I love the idea of using a real living tree in the home as the Christmas tree. Different to using a pine tree that has been cut down, there are many small trees that will grow great in pots throughout the year.  You can then bring them inside for the Christmas period, decorate them and then put them back outside to be used another year.

Trees that are great as living Christmas trees

You could grow a traditional pine tree.  There are dwarf versions or you could also go non traditional and grow a lilly pilly.  They are green all year round and will grow great in pots.  Bring them inside for the month of December and return them to your yard for years to come.

Swap to a natural christmas tree alternative

I have been loving the new trend to create a christmas tree from a branch or some cuttings taken from a tree.  Using a natural material that can be returned to your compost is a great alternative to using a plastic tree. Using a branch can look really modern and interesting.

Check out some great pics and ways to create your own Christmas branch tree.  Here are 10 more sustainable Christmas tree alternatives.

Table settings

Having a beautifully set table is one of those special things about Christmas. I can’t think of another time in the year that I actually lay out plates and napkins or think about a centerpiece for the table.  Having a zero waste table means avoiding disposables and thinking more creatively about where we source our table decor. Check out these great ideas for ways to have a zero waste table setting.

Avoid the disposables

This is a really obvious one but it does take some planning.  Using real cups instead of plastic and real plates means that we aren’t adding extra garbage into landfill from plastic or paper plates.  It is important to remember that often paper plates can’t be recycled if they are covered in food. They will contaminate the other recyclables.  It might seem like a more sustainable choice but they end up in the same place as plastic plates, landfill.

To avoid disposables, especially if you are entertaining a large crowd you might have to source some more cups, plates and cutlery than normally sits in your drawer or cupboards.  This is where turning to family and friends can be a great option. Ask to borrow some extra glasses, cutlery and plates for the day. That way you don’t need to purchase extras just for the occasion.  You could also visit a thrift store and pick some up for cheap. As long as you have somewhere to store them they can be a worthwhile choice. Don’t worry if they don’t match the rest of your plates, having a random mix can look really good on your table.

Swap to reusable napkins as well.  You can always use something you already have.  If you read my previous article on huck towels, this could be the perfect use for them.  If you are crafty remember you can sew a beautiful pattern into them. White huck towels with red stitching looks really festive.  

Use Eco Friendly place cards

Place cards are a nice touch when you are setting your table.  Other than weddings, we rarely care about where we all sit at a table. It is really nice to find your place at the table with your name all set out but we really want to avoid using another throw away item for this.  

For an eco friendly alternative you can use a natural replacement.  The easiest thing to do is to head out to your backyard or local park and pick a beautiful looking leaf, and with a sharpie or permanent texta write your guests name on it.  

Use a natural Centrepiece

A centerpiece made from natural materials will look great without the waste

A centerpiece can really make your Christmas table look complete.  I know I have in the past gone out and bought something that looks beautiful, and if you have done the same then keep reusing it.  It is always best to keep using what you have already got instead of sending it to landfill. You could also make your own from decorations you already have, reuse old baubles or Christmas tree decorations.  The other option I love is to use a natural alternative.  I like flowers from the garden or even a pretty branch can look really good.  

Eco Friendly Bon Bons

Skipping the Christmas bon bons can save you both money and waste. Often made from cardboard and plastic with little plastic toys and hats, they aren’t exactly environmentally friendly.  I know that the little toys usually have about 10 minutes of entertainment value so there is probably a better way to spend our money.

Other options to replace the christmas bon bon could be a small edible gift for each person at their place at the table.  That could be some dried fruit, some home made christmas cookies or gingerbread men. Be creative with the small gifts left on the table or skip it all together.  If you are serving a great meal, I’m sure that is more than enough to satisfy your guests.

Avoid Food Waste – Be Mindful about what you serve

Christmas is known for being a time for abundance, treats and special foods.  This can lead to an overabundance of leftovers with a risk of food being wasted. One of the best things we can do for the environment and to save money is to make best use of the food we have.  There are many ways we can avoid food waste so here are some great ideas.

Other than trying our best to serve the right amount it can be tricky to guess how much people want to eat.  The best plan is to have a plan for the potential leftovers. Rather than allowing anything to go to waste, have some great recipes on hand to use them up.  I know I have watched many Jamie Oliver specials where he has come up with recipes for leftover ham, turkey and roast vegetables.

Here are some great recipes for Christmas leftovers to have on hand for after the main Christmas meal is served.  Check out Jamie’s Christmas Leftover recipes here.


Avoid unwanted presents that get left in storage and give experiences like a gig, a meal out, a short weekend away, a spa treatment or massage.  Or even a yoga session. An amazing experience will outdo a gift that is used for a short time and adds to the growing amount of stuff we have around our houses.

Other great gifts are memberships to something your loved ones can enjoy all year.  Try giving an online course on sewing, yoga, meditation, woodwork or bike maintenance.  What about a gift card for tennis lessons, or ten pin bowling. There are so many options that don’t create waste.  Most of the time the gift cards can remain digital so you don’t even need to print anything. You could also make a small edible gift to let them know about the gift you have got them.  Check out some great experience gifts below.

Eco gift ideas for foodies

Cooking lessons, cheese or wine tours, a weekend away in a foodie location, a meal out or a voucher for high tea at a hotel.

Eco friendly gift ideas for Crafty people

Pottery lessons, sewing classes, a painting class, glass blowing lessons, welding lessons or wood turning lessons.

Eco friendly gift ideas for kids

A voucher for bowling, a pass for an indoor playspace, local pool passes, tickets to a local play or kids musical, kindergym vouchers, zoo passes, aquarium passes, fun park passes or mini golf passes.

Eco friendly gifts ideas for outdoorsy people

Surf lessons, a hot air balloon ride, sailing lessons, water ski passes, a national park pass, abseiling lessons, bungee jumping voucher, wilderness survival course, white water rafting vouchers, a high ropes course or whale watching experience.

Eco friendly gifts ideas for active people

Tennis lessons, an indoor rock climbing gift card, indoor snow pass, horse riding lessons, segway tours or a walking or bike tour of the city.

Eco friendly gift ideas for spiritual people

Meditation classes, yoga classes, Raiki voucher, a massage, a sunset cruise or ghost tours. 

Eco friendly gift ideas for sciency people

Tickets to the planetarium, an escape room voucher, a museum or gallery viewing.

Secret Santa

To go even further and reduce the amount of gift purchases you could organize a secret Santa among your friends and family.  This will save you money and mean that each member of the family can get a larger gift. Instead of buying for 10 people, buy for just 1 which means you can purchase a larger experience.

Eco Friendly Wrapping paper

Don’t go out and buy more paper to wrap presents that is thrown away straight after.  Get creative and use paintings brought home from preschool or school by your kids, take pages from old coloring books or even newspaper.  

You could also make eco friendly wraps from natural material such as jute or grab friends old magazines and wrap adults presents in a theme that matches their interest.

Christmas Cards

Forget the christmas cards – go digital or natural.  If you really want to give christmas cards choose ones printed on recycled materials.

So there are 15 great tips on ways to move towards an eco friendly waste free Christmas.  Give at least 1 of those ideas a try at your next Christmas event and don’t forget to check out more ways to live an eco friendly life below.

Find out more eco friendly changes you can make at home here: