Eco-friendly wrapping present ideas include using recycled gift wrapping paper, draw-string sacks and newspaper. Picture: Instagram.
Eco-friendly wrapping present ideas include using recycled gift wrapping paper, draw-string sacks and newspaper. Picture: Instagram.

How to be eco-conscious this Christmas

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Dec 17, 2019

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When the tree goes up, it’s officially the festive season in most people's homes. From taking it out of storage to lighting it up with decorations  and adding the final touch of a glittering angel or star, there’s truly nothing more exciting.

However, with the startling effects of pollution and landfills making an appearance in our everyday lives, we’re starting to become more conscious of the waste that we produce, where it may end up, and how we can reduce our contributions.

From plastic decorations to the unnecessary packaging each ornament comes in to fake trees and plastic toys, there is a huge amount of waste generated during this time of year from Christmas trees alone. 

And, with most decorations being prone to breaking, getting tangled and often ending up in the bin, these once-off items have very detrimental effects on our landfills and environment. 

However attempting to cut out all waste from Christmas planning is an enormous feat. Starting small and building on that change is a more manageable approach to tackling this issue and opting for a waste-free tree seems like the most significant start.

Here are our eco tree and decorating ideas:

Forage for decorations

Go on the hunt for decorations whilst on a nature walk. Whether it’s pinecones, dried leaves in burnt orange and red hues, flowers, pebbles or seashells, whatever you forage for can be tied to your tree as a decoration. Use a nail and hammer to chip holes into the sea shells and a jewellery drill to carefully pierce through pebbles. Markers, paint and pastels will add the colourful finishing touches to the rocks before looping twine through their holes and hanging. 

Picture perfect

The perfect project to get the little ones involved, this photo Christmas tree takes up minimal space. Get the kids to choose their favourite family photos and peg them onto the tree. Adding warmth to the home and serving as a wonderful way to look back on happy memories, this idea has far more sentimentality than what cheap plastic baubles and tinsel could offer. 

Christmas bookshelf

Book lovers, this one’s for you. If you have quite the at-home library growing, consider rearranging your book shelf to form the triangular shape of a Christmas tree. Start by having 10-15 green spine books at the very bottom, and slowly, as you move up shelf levels, add 1-2 less books (depending on shelf numbers) until you reach the very top. Voilla, you have a beautiful eco-friendly tree that can be reused every year.

House plants

Use one of your beloved potted house plants in place of a Christmas tree. If it’s sturdy enough, decorate it with homemade ornaments that are light enough so they don’t damage delicate branches and leaves. If you only have very flimsy plants, don’t fret. Once all the presents are stacked below your flourishing pot plant, the full effect will be achieved regardless. 

Other ways to be environmentally conscious:

Wrapping paper

Instead of buying new wrapping paper every year, start saving paper, gift boxes and bags from birthdays and other celebrations throughout the year. Avoid getting into the cycle of repurchasing these once-off items every year when they can all be reused if kept in good condition. Old newspapers and brown paper grocery bags can also be decorated with paint for wrapping, plus they have that charming homemade appeal that people appreciate. Alternatively, you can invest in a Christmas sack that's filled with each person's presents that  can be reused year after year.

No plastic toys

The lifespan of cheaply made plastic toys isn’t longer than a few weeks, or minutes in some instances. The options for recycling plastic toys are limited as they are typically composed of various other materials too, often metals. The recyclable components can’t be separated and are therefore banned from recycling centers and bins. 

Wooden toys or plush toys are a better alternative. Made from organic materials, they are both better options for the environment. Whether it’s because of the durability or the fact that wood doesn’t shatter posing as a potential threat to children, more and more people are looking to replace plastic toys with wooden one's made from sustainably harvested resources. 


Children outgrow toys and clothes at an alarming rate. If you’re comfortable with the condition of pre-loved items that you have lying around at home, think about regifting them to friends and family with children. Christmas is also the perfect time of year to donate these items that can help make someone elses festive season a little more merrier. 


Sometimes avoiding waste is impossible. To counter this, make a point of recycling any rubbish that can be. Remember to rinse out any food containers to remove residue and remove metal (such as staples, screws and wires that secure toys in their boxes) when throwing away these recyclable items. 

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