How to Have a Merry Eco Christmas

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As you've probably noticed, at Small City we love Christmas! However we are not such huge fans of the waste that so often comes with it.

Did you know that in Scotland we use 19,000 miles of wrapping paper every year? That’s enough to wrap Scotland’s coastline 2.5 times! We also throw away 50,000 tonnes of food and we send 95 million Christmas cards, most of them newly bought.

This friendly and easy to follow guide will help you towards reducing waste in your household this Christmas, while still making it a very special occasion with friends and family.


Make your own wrap, tags and gift bags

As a child, I remember helping my mum to make Christmas gift tags from last year’s cards, using her trusty pinking shears (jaggy-edged scissors).

In the same spirit of remaking, a friend and I went recently to an Eco Christmas Wrapping event in Dundee. We had fantastic fun making our own envelopes, gift bags and tea-light holders – and soon we’re going to have an eco-wrapping session with friends and our kids, where we all make or decorate our wrap, gift bags and tags. Mince pies and mulled wine may feature too…
Check out what happened at the Little Green Ways Eco Christmas workshop.

Give an experience

Christmas gifts don’t always have to be things you can wrap in a box. The only limit is your imagination!

Christmas gifts don’t always have to be things you can wrap in a box. “Experience” gifting is getting more and more popular, as people look to get more out of their precious leisure time.

You could give vouchers for a massage or haircut, cinema or concert tickets, restaurant vouchers, a Perth Gift Card, a trip to a sports game, a boat trip, etc. The only limit is your imagination! Here are some useful links to check out:

Give your time

Here’s one that costs nothing but your own time. You could write out a voucher saying you’ll promise to make dinner every Friday and Saturday in January for your partner, or clean your parents’ car for a year, or take your loved ones for a picnic in spring.

My friend’s teenage daughter made a special certificate for her granny, saying she’d take her for coffee and cake in town – her granny was delighted. Easy, simple ideas, and they get the best gift of all – you!

Buy a foodie gift

Let’s face it, we’re spoiled for choice in Perthshire for food and drink! A foodie hamper or a couple of bottles of wine are lovely gifts and low-waste too. Just make sure you avoid plastic-wrapped stuff if you can. Here are some fantastic producers who’d love to supply you with Christmas gifts:

Enjoy being Second-hand Santa

My book group does a “Secret Santa” for our Christmas meet-up, where we all buy a book from a charity shop for someone else in the group. You could try this – it’s amazing what you can find, from recent bestsellers and biographies to vintage atlases and classic cookery books.

You could also source a unique piece of second-hand clothing, vintage homewares or upcycled furniture. Here are some reuse / vintage shops to try:

If you buy new, buy non-plastic

Make it your mission to seek out independent shops, and find lovely gifts made from wood, cardboard, paper, ceramic...

We’re eco-friendly, but we like to strike a balance between this and supporting our indie businesses. After all, without our local businesses we wouldn’t have our lovely town centres. So make it your mission to seek out independent shops, and find lovely gifts made from wood, cardboard, paper, ceramic, metal, glass, cotton, linen, canvas, jute or anything else you can think of that’s kinder to the planet. (Vinyl LPs are allowed, though, as they should last forever.)

You could also give soap or shampoo bars, house plants or garden shrubs and trees. I’ve set myself this as a no-plastic challenge this year!

Free buses

In case you hadn’t heard, too, Stagecoach is offering free bus travel every weekend before noon on Perth bus services, so you don’t even have to take the car into town!

Guides to shops and markets

Check out the Small City Big Personality Christmas gift guide and the Guide to Christmas Markets for inspiration and ideas.

Set a budget

Christmas is about family and friends, not spending hundreds of pounds or buying the glitziest gifts. Many families really feel the pressure of Christmas spending, so why not set a limit of £10 or £20 per gift?

Not only will it ease financial strain, it’ll also help curb the huge amount of waste that happens around Christmas. If you have a big family with lots of adult relatives, you could do a “lucky dip” and each buy for just one other adult.

Christmas is about family and friends, not spending hundreds of pounds or buying the glitziest gifts. 

Reuse your tree

Little Green Ways recently shared a story about an 11-year-old boy who grows Christmas trees, gives them out in December and picks them up again in January to keep growing.

Why not try keeping your real potted tree till next year, too? If you already have an artificial tree, try to hang on to it for as long as you can without replacing it. It’ll be vintage and retro-cool before you know it!

Make your own crackers, wreaths and table decorations

Last year we popped into Oxfam Books & Music in Perth and bought a set of “make your own” Christmas crackers, which consisted of the paper wrapper, the snap and the hat. We had kept our novelty gifts from the year before, so we just popped them in and wrote our own corny jokes. It was great fun and so much more eco-friendly than buying a new set of crackers with throwaway plastic toys inside.

You don’t even have to buy Oxfam’s set – why not get creative and make some out of old wrapping paper, wallpaper or newspaper?

You can also make or buy lovely wreaths and table decorations from natural materials such as holly, yew leaves, berries, pine cones and ivy. Bramble Thyme Flowers is holding a Christmas Wreath-making workshop on 8th December at Scone Palace – tickets are limited so book now!

Don’t forget to recycle!

When all of the festivities are over, don’t forget to recycle all of those bottles, foil trays, Christmas cards and bits of wrapping paper.

When all of the festivities are over, don’t forget to recycle all of those bottles, cans, foil trays, Christmas cards and bits of wrapping paper. For anyone who doesn’t have home-recycling facilities, Boots in Perth has started a reverse vending machine where you can deposit your drinks cans, glass bottles and plastic bottles – and get Boots Advantage points when you do!

The recycling centres in Perth & Kinross take metal foil, broken and working electrical items, metal items and old bits of wood, as well as paper, card and glass bottles. Your blue home-recycling bin will take Christmas cards and non-metallic wrapping paper.

Do something today

Hopefully you have been inspired to think “green” when you’re preparing for Christmas, just remember to have fun along the way. You don’t have to do all of these things, just what you can manage – every Little Green Way will help! Why not do a wrapping session with friends, too, with cheesy Christmas music and tasty snacks, and add a bit of fun to your eco antics?

And if you come across a person, business or charity that is doing their bit for the planet, please say a huge thanks to them and tell others.

For a little green inspiration, or if you have any ideas you’d like to share, please do contact Little Green Ways.

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