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How to have a greener Christmas

Christmas tree decorated with natural ornaments at Ham House and Garden, Surrey
Christmas tree decorated with natural ornaments at Ham House and Garden | © National Trust Images/Chris Davies

If you're dreaming of a more sustainable Christmas, you might be surprised to learn how easy it is to achieve with the help of our top tips and ideas. From making your own decorations to giving nature a helping hand, find out how you could make a real difference to the environment over the festive period with just a few simple changes.

Use less, recycle more

Make your own decorations

Why not try decorating your home for Christmas without a trip to the shops? Try making your own paper chains with used wrapping paper, or pick up a handful of pine cones from your local woodland. For a fragrant addition to your decorations, bake slices of oranges studded with cloves and fasten to your tree with red ribbon. What's more, if you store your decorations carefully at the end of the season, you can reuse them for many years to come.

Lessen the impact of lights

If you're thinking of buying a new set of Christmas lights, consider choosing solar powered or LED options to minimise the energy needed to keep them twinkling.

Plan seasonal meals

Spark joy this Christmas with warming dishes packed full of goodness and seasonal, low-carbon ingredients. Sprouts, cabbages, leeks, pears and cranberries are some of the tasty fruit and veg you can harvest yourself or buy locally in December.

Minimise your food waste

With some simple steps, you can help to reduce food waste this Christmas. Buy only what you need, compost or make stock with your vegetable peelings, be creative with leftovers and, if you’ve bought too much, give what’s spare to a food bank.

Christmas gifts wrapped in brown paper underneath the tree at Polesden Lacey, Surrey
Christmas gifts wrapped in brown paper underneath the tree at Polesden Lacey | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Shop greener

Save paper and plastic

If you’re throwing a party, try not to buy disposable plates and cutlery. Instead, ask each guest to bring crockery with them and take turns doing the washing up. When it comes to wrapping paper, go for a recycled variety, or simply wrap your presents in brown paper and a reusable ribbon. Your gifts will look festive and authentic and you’ll save money too.

Steer clear of glitter

Although it can look pretty, glitter is difficult to recycle and may escape into the environment. Even biodegradable glitter needs special treatment to break it down. Try to avoid buying anything that's decorated with glitter, including some kinds of wrapping paper and Christmas cards.

Buy local

We love sustainably produced, local food and gifts because they're better for the places we look after and the planet as a whole. If you'd like to reduce your carbon footprint this Christmas, try buying from local craft makers or stopping by one of our farm shops or a nearby farmer’s market. You’ll find small-scale producers selling some of the best food your region has to offer.

Buy British Christmas trees

If you choose to buy a real Christmas tree, make sure it's grown in Britain, ideally as close to where you live as possible. Look out for the British Christmas Tree Growers Association mark. If you buy a potted tree, look for one that's been grown in peat-free compost. If you look after it well, you can reuse your potted tree for years to come.

Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) on homemade pine-cone bird feeder at Sheringham Park, Norfolk
Blue tit on homemade pine-cone bird feeder at Sheringham Park | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

Give back to nature

Care for wildlife

Would you like to give the birds in your neighbourhood a helping hand this winter? Easy-to-make, natural bird feeders such as fat cakes are a great way to keep your feathered friends happy and full over the winter and early spring.

Go on a winter walk

Whether you’re celebrating with family or looking to meet new people, there are plenty of fun things to do at National Trust places over Christmas that have a minimal cost to you and the environment. What's more, the time you spend with us during winter helps us look after nature, beauty and history for everyone to enjoy.

Visitors exploring the Christmas decorations inside the house at Killerton, Devon

Get into the festive spirit

From wreath-making workshops and carol concerts to winter illuminations, find Christmas days out near you.

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Gift membership 

Looking for an alternative Christmas present that helps to protect the environment for everyone, for ever? Give someone you love a year of adventure with National Trust membership.