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Madeleine Olivia’s 9 Top Tips for a Sustainable Christmas

Madeleine Olivia is a content creator and author who shares her sustainable lifestyle online. Based in Cornwall, she documents her old Cornish farmhouse renovations, recipe creations and sustainable living tips.

Read on to find out her top tips for enjoying Christmastime with the planet in mind.

It's Christmas!

Portrait shot of Madeleine Olivia

As we approach the festive season, while I often find myself brimming with excitement for everything to come, a little stress can also creep in.

We’re excited to spend time with family and friends, eat all the treats and take time off from work to relax. But we may also feel overwhelmed by all the advertising, the pressure to spend money we don’t have and confused at how to approach Christmas in a more sustainable way. I wanted to share some things I have changed, learned or adapted over the years to make Christmas that bit more sustainable. Just remember, we can’t do it all, but we can try our best to do our bit, whatever that means for us. 

Glass jar filled with homemade chutney

1. Make homemade and edible presents

I want to start off with something I believe that everyone can do. If you’re tempted to purchase useless stocking fillers, or looking for a secret santa gift with a low budget, then one of the most thoughtful options is to make your gift from scratch. This could be making some simple homemade chocolate truffles or biscuits, cooking up some chutney to gift in cute jars, homemade tree ornaments, or making your own candles. There are hundreds of fun ideas online to choose from, and it’s a time to tap into your hidden creative talents to impress your friends and family. 

Pair of hands adding foliage to Christmas wreath

2. Forage for decorations

Instead of purchasing a wreath for the front door or a garland for above the fireplace, you can forage for foliage in the great outdoors! Every year growing up I would trek down the lane with my family to collect bags of ivy to take back and adorn our house with every December. Since then I have carried on this tradition, and pick out cuttings from my garden and nearby public footpath to make my own wreath. Just make sure to be responsible of the surrounding area by taking no more than you plan to use, avoid rare species, and instead pick leaves that are plentiful, and stick to public land.

Green Christmas bauble with red flower pattern hanging on tree

3. Make your own decorations and crackers

You may be sensing a theme here, and that’s to make more at home. Not only is it a sustainable choice, but it is fun, festive and often cheaper! Making your own ornaments for the tree can be the perfect activity to do with friends and family, and will be a memory to cherish every year you adorn your tree. Similarly making your own Christmas crackers can take away the waste that comes from the presents inside crackers that very often end up in the bin. Other options for the presents inside the crackers could be chocolates, challenges for you to play, or your homemade decorations!

Shop display with organic vegetables

4. Shop locally for your Christmas dinner

The Christmas meal is the main event every year, and so sourcing the ingredients locally not only will support your local farmers, but make your meal more sustainable. Choosing organic, free range and local food for the table reduces the impact the food will have, and will definitely taste more delicious than food from further afield. 

Christmas packages wrapped in brown paper in front of tree

5. Wrap presents in re-used paper and bags

I have been doing this for a while, and therefore and haven’t bought wrapping paper in a few years (which is a nice little money saver). Throughout the year save any nice brown paper, tote bags, ribbons, tissue paper, paper bags, or anything that you pick up along the way that could be used for gift wrapping. Keep space in a drawer at home for everything, and you’ll have beautifully and uniquely wrapped presents under your tree. 

Real Christmas trees

6. Recycle your tree

Did you know that you can recycle your Christmas tree? Many councils in the UK are now collecting trees to be recycled, or you can take it to your local recycling centre to be recycled in the New Year. 


“Pick ethical, sustainable and conscious brands who care about the planet and are open about the materials they’re using and where their products are made.”

Selection of ethical gifts in front of Christmas tree

7. Shop mindfully for presents

We all know the pressure and stress of buying presents for everyone at Christmas. We want to make sure we get the perfect gift they’ll love, within our budget, and in time for the big day. That’s why it’s important to shop more mindfully. Try visiting local shops for gifts, where you can support local businesses and find unique gifts. Make lists for each person you’re buying for, so you don’t get carried away. Have open conversations with loved ones about whether they want to exchange gifts this year, what they really want, and if you should stick to a budget. Pick ethical, sustainable and conscious brands who care about the planet and are open about the materials they’re using and where their products are made. 

View inside vintage shop with bric-a-brac items

8. Regift and buy secondhand

There is a stigma about re-gifting presents, or purchasing secondhand, but I’d like to see this change. How often have you read a beautiful book, and wanted to pass this on to a friend you think would love it? Have you found something in a charity shop that you know your friend would look amazing in? Do you own something you have barely used, but know someone who would use it all the time? Gifts don’t always have to be brand new! 

Woodland scene with light snow on the ground

9. Spend time outside

Finally, spend time outside this Christmas and connect with nature. Remind yourself why you are making changes and steps to be more sustainable at this time of year. 

Feeling inspired?