1. Count down the right way
You deserve an Advent calendar whatever your age.
It’s a calendar, obviously useful, and it contains chocolate, even more useful. What’s childish about that? Make yours the reusable Wooden House Advent Calendar from Fortnum & Mason and it’ll double up as Christmas decoration, too. In the future you get to fill it with your own favourite choccies; we’d keenly suggest mini bars of the slavery-free Tony’s Chocolonely. (£1.49 per 45g bar; tonyschocolonely.com)
2. Be smart with your deco
Here, have a stat: if every UK household used LED fairy lights rather than the normal power draining, house fusing ones, we’d save 29,000 tonnes of CO2 over the 12 days of Christmas.
And it’s time to stop buying cheap trinkets and chucking them away, please. The Ethical Shop has all sorts of sustainable decorations, such as jolly Fairtrade llamas or baubles made from recycled paper (ethicalshop.org). Or just buy a few, really good decorations that you’ll keep and re-use year after year: may we recommend festooning your tree with Liberty’s painted glass toucans? (£9.95; libertylondon.com)
3. Pines and needles
Christmas trees: they’re nostalgic, twinkly and — if you’re into the genuine variety — smell pretty nice to boot. But they’re not as green as they look. Each fresh-cut, 6.5ft tree could create a CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) footprint of 16kg if it is left to rot in landfill. Synthetic varieties aren’t any better: they can contribute up to 40kg of C02e each. But help is at hand: rent a tree from London Christmas Tree Rental, which will deliver, collect and replant borrowed buddies each year. If you’re into the, er, minimal approach, look to Demelza Hill’s reusable ‘Branch’.
Made from sustainably sourced maple and shipped using DHL’s carbon neutral courier service, this one’ll save you picking needles out of your socks (from £220; demelzahill.com). And, if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, grow your own and replant it each year. It saves on transport and composting emissions. Halo not included.
4. Tipple your fancy
Look, you know Baileys is enjoyable for that mouthful you wildly neck during the heated last minutes of Monopoly. Get some eco-friendly booze down your throat, too. It’s better for the hangover, honest. Start with Ketel One Vodka (£25.75; thewhiskyexchange.com): its distillery runs partly on power from its own windmill, one of the largest in the world. Or Ramsbury Estate Gin (£32.25; masterofmalt.com): everything in the bottle is sourced from its Wiltshire estate, from the wheat to the chalk-filtered water and juniper. They even give the spent wheat to the estate’s pigs. For Christmas lunch, opt for wine from Tillingham Wines, the UK’s only natural vineyard and winery, in Sussex. That means no pesticides, fertiliser or funny stuff added to the bottle (£29; tillingham.com).
5. Eat well
Ethical Christmas food? Stressful. Many plant-based food replacements are made with soybeans, thus potentially responsible for deforestation. Or nuts, flown around the world, which take litres and litres of water to grow in the first place. You could just stick with roast potatoes and bread sauce, which would be no hardship (especially if you make the bread sauce with oat milk — carbs before carbon, as they say). If you do want turkey, go for the highest quality bird possible.
Fosse Meadows is our hero: its birds are grown for twice as long as commercial turkeys, so they get to spend more time free-ranging and foraging (fossemeadows.com). Don’t forget the leftovers. Overestimated your guests’ love of sprouts? Been given six Terry’s Chocolate Oranges too many? Get on Olio. The food waste app hooks you up with neighbours who’ll take extra food off your hands, and you might find someone looking to offload the cranberry sauce you inevitably forgot to buy, too (olioex.com).
6. Resist next-day delivery
Amazon, Yodel and DPD delivering all your panic buys within one-hour time slots is useful. But it’s got a huge carbon footprint, from the diesel-emitting vans to all the cardboard packaging — and if you’ve seen Sorry We Missed You, there’s also the extremely dubious ethical issue of zero-hours drivers. Cheery! Maybe just don’t get all your stuff delivered? Leave enough time and buy it in person. It’ll get you in Christmas mood, you’ll be supporting local businesses and you can stop for mulled wine when it all gets too much. Win.
7. Swerve more stuff
Some of your loved ones don’t actually need more stuff. So, instead, give them a gift with a conscience. Every purchase you make at Help Refugees’ shop, Choose Love, goes towards a similar item for a refugee in need: last year, the sale of life jackets raised £38,594, which enabled Refugee Rescue to assist 1,399 people crossing the sea from Turkey (choose.love). Struggling not to buy useless tat for the office Secret Santa? Look no further than The Soap Co, which makes a delicious geranium and rhubarb bar soap. It’s vegan and handmade in the Lake District by a social enterprise that employs the blind and otherwise disabled (£9; thesoapco.org).
Or, just make a cake. Everyone loves cake. It will get used (ie eaten), hopefully partly by you, and it shows you care more. Try the masala-chai carrot cake from Benjamina Ebuehi’s new book, The New Way to Cake, and then gift them the lightly floured book, too (benjaminaebuehi.com; £16.99).
8. Wrap it up
And finally, if your family won’t settle for any of the above, at least rethink your wrapping. Wrapping paper is the most unbearable waste of time, money and the planet’s resources, especially for those who leave the wrapping-up until 90 seconds before they’re due to meet the recipient. ‘Why don’t you leave the paper on a bit longer to appreciate it!?’ you screech of the lumpen bundle. So make sure the stuff is eco-friendly. Rewrapped makes extraordinarily chic wrapping paper from post-consumer waste with unbleached pulp, printed in the UK using environmentally friendly vegetable inks (£2.05 a sheet; re-wrapped.co.uk). And the chicest thing of all? Use old copies of ES Magazine, obviously.