Christmas has become the season of waste. Emily Rose Williams, international student in Umeå, offers some suggestions for a more sustainable festive season.

Christmas is often dubbed “the season of giving”, which has become a huge part of everyone’s celebrations – giving the perfect present, secret Santa’s, white elephants, raffles and the rest. But amongst this lies a darker truth – that Christmas has become the season of waste and over-indulgence. Christmas around the world has become unsustainable – in the UK alone it is estimated 125,000 tonnes of plastic waste was thrown away (, despite the fact 70 percent could be recycled. Here are some suggestions to reduce the waste and have a more sustainable festive season. 

1. Stop before you even start! 
To avoid the fuss of recycling, don’t buy any plastic in the first place. Fake Christmas trees are a huge problem, as they would have to be used for 12 years ( to be as sustainable as a real tree that is burnt. Buy a real tree and enjoy the real deal. Go the extra mile and forgo the plastic decorations too – wooden, glass and metal are all more sustainable alternatives, just remember to reuse them next year!

2. Plastic Paper. 
Did you know most wrapping paper is not recyclable? All that glitter and metallic colouring may look pretty, but not when it ends up in landfill. To test if it is recyclable, scrunch it up into a ball – if it stays put, it’s recyclable. If you are still worried about using your wrapping paper, choose an alternative to wrap your gifts – fabric (which can even double as a gift!), reused gift bags, and newspaper are all great alternatives. 

3. Presence not presents.
Before you go on a pre-Christmas gift buying spree, think about whether or not the recipient actually needs it. Are you being sucked in by the sales? Or would they rather have something more personal – the gift of your time. A day out for friends you haven’t seen, a cooking class for the budding chef, a subscription to a course they always wanted to do. These memories will last much longer, and be more valued, than that box of chocolates.  

Finally, it’s important to remember what Christmas is really all about – friends and family. Spending time together is more important than spending money on gifts that will end up in the rubbish. 

Emily Rose Williams