Presents wrapped in brown paper against a green background

A Sustainable Christmas

The festive break is fast approaching and the University of Reading Sustainability Services have kindly shared some top tips about how to have a more sustainable Christmas.

Gift Giving

Every year Christmas generates added waste to our landfills, from unwanted gifts to excess packaging. So here are some tips to bear in mind while you are present shopping.

  • If you are considering how to give a waste-free gift that’s still personal, why not think about an experience like a night out at the theatre, adopting their favourite animal, buying a subscription to a vegetable box, or consider a charity membership such as the National Trust.
  • Get creative – making gifts is a great way to give a personal gift. If you have any skills in knitting, sewing, woodwork or even baking – there is a whole range of gifts you can give that are useful, edible, cost-reducing and almost waste-free.
  • If you do have unwanted gifts, you can always re-gift them, or look to local charities that are donating gifts to those in need. Or you could consider selling them on a second-hand marketplace – Depop, Vinted, eBay and Facebook Marketplace are all great for buying and selling second-hand items.
  • Clothes hanging in a charity shopAs well as donating to charity shops, they can also be a treasure trove of unusual and different gifts to buy. They support reuse and raise much needed funds for great causes. You never know what you might find! They are also a great source of second-hand clothing – a fantastic place to find Christmas clothing for the festive season.
  • If you still want to buy new – think about buying from independent stores. There are many independent stores that make-to-order and use recycled materials to make their products. It’s also great to support local independent vendors. There’s a whole range of independent stores in Reading, from game shops to quirky gifts. Or visit the Old Merch Store on Whiteknights campus which will be selling an array of gifts from independent merchants around Reading. If a trip to Reading isn’t on the cards before Christmas, check out Etsy for online independent sellers.

Wrapping and cards

If you still have Christmas cards to send or presents to wrap, read on for some ideas on how to make these aspects of Christmas a bit more sustainable.

  • Consider an E-card which is both more sustainable and guaranteed to arrive on time.
  • If you’re feeling creative you could make your own card. People appreciate things that are made with an added personal touch. Designs can be as simple or as complicated as you like – check out Pinterest for great simple ideas.
  • Try to buy wrapping paper which is packaged without plastic film and is fully recyclable (no glitter) from an FSC source. Even better, reuse paper from a previous Christmas or get creative with using fabric wrapping.
  • Plastic tape is not recyclable – try to use paper tape or jute string.


Traditional Christmas turkey dinner. Top view panoramic table scene on a dark wood banner background.Sadly, Christmas generates a lot of food waste – it is estimated that two million turkeys go to waste every year. Food waste costs money and generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. So what can we do to minimise food waste over the festive period?

  • Try to plan your meals over the festive break and only buy what you need.
  • If you do have leftovers, freeze what you can and get creative after Christmas to use up the rest.
  • Think about eating more seasonal vegetables and less meat.
  • Consider the source of the food you buy – try to buy UK-based produce and, if possible, from a local source.
  • Look out for sustainability certifications such as products containing RSPO certified palm oil, MSC certified sea food, and Fairtrade endorsed products who support farmers to have a better quality of life and support their local environment.


If you haven’t put up your Christmas decorations yet, here are a few things to bear in mind.

  • Someone making their own christmas crackerReusing what you already have is more sustainable than buying new.
  • LED lights will save money as they are more efficient.
  • If you plan to buy crackers, look for ones that don’t contain plastic gifts and can be fully recycled after use. Or if you are feeling extra creative this year and have some jokes up your sleeve, look into making your own.
  • If you are having a real Christmas tree then consider planting it in the garden once the Christmas period is over or rent a tree! There are many services that will rent a Christmas tree to you, then collect and re-plant it once the festive period is over.

Share your tips

Got some sustainable tips of your own for the festive season? Share them with us at, or via Facebook or Instagram.