Welcome Wandsworth Radio listeners! How to have a sustainable Christmas

Filed in Blog by on November 9, 2015 3 Comments
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sustainable christmas wandworth radioGeorgina hosts the radio show “Wandsworth Matters” – a talk show focusing on environmental and social issues.

She covers diverse topics from air pollution to Zero Waste with the aim of giving listeners the opportunity to find out about the issues which affect them most.

I was thrilled when she asked me to join her for a show discussing how we could plan a more sustainable Christmas.

We chatted about food, the tree, gifts, wrapping paper and cards.

Here are some of the tips we shared:


According to Love Food Hate Waste, we throw out the equivalent of 2 million turkeys, 5 million Christmas puddings and 74 million mince pies during the festive season in the UK; yet one in nine people in the world do not have enough food to sustain themselves.

The most important aspect of a sustainable Christmas then, is to buy only the food you need.

Buy locally where possible. If you’re planning a traditional Christmas dinner a local butcher can supply you with a turkey and farmers market can supply seasonal vegetables. If you have nothing local to you check out box delivery schemes.

If you’re vegetarian you don’t have to stick to a nut roast; many of which are a bit indigestible! Make the most of the rich array of seasonal vegetables around or go for something completely untraditional as I did one year – by planning an Indian-style buffet!

For Christmas Puddings be aware that many contain palm oil – check that yours is sourced from sustainable palm oil. Or why not make your own? Stir it up Sunday is the last Sunday before advent (22nd November this year) and the traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding, whilst making a wish.

For leftovers, make friends with your freezer or why not plate up a meal and take to an elderly neighbour?

Christmas trees

Around 6 million Christmas trees are sold in the UK every year. Gerogina mentioned that one of the sights that saddened her most was seeing dying Christmas trees on the kerbside every January.

I shared one of our family traditions which is to cut a few branches from our magnolia tree. We put them in a bucket and decorate the branches. Later in the year the branches are dried and we use them on our wood burner.

If you’re prepared to turn your artificial Christmas Tree into a heirloom it’s probably better for the environment than buying a real tree every year. Georgina shared that her Mother In Law had a 40 year old tree that was going to be passed down the generations! But if you only keep them for a few years then a real tree is best.

Some companies hire real Christmas trees to their customers. This is a great way to enjoy the best of both worlds.


According to one source, we spend £700 million on unwanted Christmas gifts. Just imagine the positive difference we could make in the world if that money was diverted to those in need.

Yesterday I shared a blog post about zero waste Christmas gifts – you’ll find ideas from experiences to home made to charity donations.

If you want to have a go at making your own things, Pinterest is a great source for inspiration.

Georgina shared that she was once given a toilet for Christmas.. No, she wasn’t having her home remodelled, it was a charitable gift!

We also reminded listeners that supporting WAHM (Work at home mums; you can find lots on Etsy) and British brands is a great way to buy more sustainable gifts.

Wrapping paper

I used to laugh at my Grandmother who would meticulously unwrap gifts, iron the paper and use it again. Now I realise what a wise woman she was. In the UK we use enough wrapping paper during Christmas to cover the island of Guernsey.

We shared alternative ideas such as furoshiki (the art of wrapping with fabrics, which can then be reused), using a ‘gift’ as wrapping – such as a scarf, tea towel, tin or box and even using newspaper; which can look stunning when done creatively.

If you choose to buy traditional paper, look for recycled brands and steer clear of metalicised products which can’t be recycled.


In 2014, we Brits bought 900 million boxed Christmas cards. I don’t know what that looks like in trees, ink and bleach, do you?

Alternative ideas include e-cards for people who don’t mind not receiving traditional cards, supporting local artists with handmade cards, “Tree Free” cards or making your own.

I shared that I only send to people who receive real meaning and value from a traditional card – such as elderly relatives and friends. While Georgina reminded us to personalise the message inside cards if we’re going to send them, to make them worth sending!

What about you – what are your ideas for a more sustainable and ethical Christmas?

The show was aired at 7pm on Mon 9th November 2015 and will be available as a podcast here by the end of this week.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (3)

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  1. Christine says:

    You’ll have the entire high street complaining that you are trying to put them out of business and that they rely on the Christmas trade to stay in business the rest of the year. In which case I would say that we have too many shops? And does Christmas need to be a time of rampant consumerism? Yes I’m a big cynic about all the trappings of the season and whether it makes us one bit happier.

    • Mrs Green says:

      It was fascinating to discuss many issues with Georgina from vegetarianism to real vs plastic trees – what struck me is there is no easy answer and that every time we make a choice we vote with our money either for or against someone. I don’t believe for one minute there are *that* many people who really love everything to do with Christmas consumerism. Of course there are some, and that’s fine, but for most people I think they find it a time of obligation and a burden. it’s so sad that, what could be a wonderful time of celebration and being with those you live, has become a time of excess and stress…

      • Christine says:

        I think you have it in one there Mrs Green! But how we change that burden of obligation is difficult to know.

        And no there is no easy answer to Christmas – and I wonder if HFW will be back in the New Year with another war on waste covering Christmas. Perhaps that is what is needed. It would chime with your zero waste wouldn’t it?

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