Sustainable Christmas decorations: Cate St Hill's top tips

Sustainable Christmas decorations: Cate St Hill's top tips

Posted 19th Dec 2019

Interior designer and influencer Cate St Hill has partnered with Buyagift’s Sustainable Christmas Campaign, which seeks to educate the public on all the clever and easy ways to incorporate sustainability into your Christmas. Here are her top tips:

It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed at this time of year with presents to buy and all the seductively shiny decorations in the shops. But if you take a simple, considered approach you can create a stylish Christmas at home that’s easier on the planet - as well as on your wallet and wellbeing.

Slow down and take a moment to think about where your Christmas decorations come from and how they’re made. Eco-friendly alternatives don’t have to cost a fortune. Take inspiration from the Scandinavians and bring an element of wild nature indoors, or flex your creative muscles and add a thoughtful, homemade touch to festive decorations. Your guests will appreciate the little details and your home will be all the more cosier for it. 

Choose an eco-friendly Christmas tree 

It is estimated that 8 million real Christmas trees are bought in the UK every year, the majority of which will likely end up in landfill. While artificial trees can be used year after year, they still carry a large carbon footprint and are made of plastic that’s not often recyclable.

If you do go for pine, make sure it carries a FSC certification logo to ensure it’s come from sustainably managed forests and take it to a recyclenow drop-off point come January – they’ll shred it into chipping for use in local parks and woodland areas. Even better, choose a tree in a pot or container that you can keep and bring inside each year.

Some farms and garden centres also now offer Christmas trees to rent. Alternatively, recreate the minimalist Scandi look with a pared-back contemporary tree – all of the style but none of the pine needles dropping everywhere! 

Make your own plastic-free advent calendar 

Get creative and craft your own advent calendar – it will delight both children and big kids alike. Pinterest has plenty of DIY ideas that are sustainable and stylish – you could string up a foraged branch and hang numbered newspaper parcels from it; fill small, brown paper envelopes with surprises and clip them to a cork pin board; or if you’re a pro with the sewing machine, make a reusable fabric advent calendar with pockets to fill each year. 

String up LED Christmas fairy lights 

Not only do LED lights last 20 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, they also consume up to 85% less energy. They emit less heat, require less maintenance and come on instantaneously – no flickering and the odd dud bulb ruining the look when you finally untangle them and string them up. Make the simple switch and save money on your energy bills at the same time. 

Make your own festive scented candles 

Nothing says cosy and sets the festive mood quite like candlelight. But did you know that some scented candles can give off toxic chemicals that can be harmful for both your health and the planet? Make your own with rapeseed or soy wax and use organic essential oils such as frankincense, clove and orange to fill the home with a warm, inviting aroma. Use old jam jars and vintage stoneware marmalade pots to give as presents, or refill a candle vessel you’ve already got instead of throwing it away. 

Craft a wreath or garland with locally foraged greenery

Making a beautiful homemade wreath is easier (and cheaper) than you think. Look to nature for inspiration and forage for branches, twigs and winter foliage on a local walk. You can use an old wire clothes hanger or reusable metal hoop as a base, tying sprigs of greenery with flexible florist wire. Add pine cones, citrus slices and dried flowers to give interest and a festive flourish. If you’re not sure where to begin, try a wreath making workshop. 

Consider your flower air miles 

Especially in the cold of winter, cut flowers are mostly grown in warmer climates such as Kenya and Columbia, then refrigerated and shipped over on carbon-guzzling flights. Even if they’re grown closer to home in the UK or Holland, the heating and lighting of greenhouses will greatly add to their carbon footprint. Think about where your flowers have come from and try and source alternatives closer to home, such as hellebores, snowdrops, rosemary, ferns, ivy and lichen-covered twigs. 

Replace single-use crackers with reusable ones 

Consider making your own crackers for the Christmas dining table – not only will each person end up with something more thoughtful than a tacky plastic toy or nail clippers (again!), you can also reuse them next year. Take the paper tube from a toilet roll, fill it with a treat and a joke, then sew a natural linen cover that can be tied with ribbon or twine at each end to create the cracker form. Add a holly leaf for decoration. Alternatively there’s cracker making kits made of brown recycled card that you can fill and assemble yourself. 

Craft your own place names for the Christmas dinner table 

Add a personal touch to a festive dinner table with your own place names for each guest. You don’t have to be an expert at calligraphy to make a beautiful, thoughtful display on each place setting. Think outside the box – use a white pen to draw onto foraged leaves or clip a name card into a pine cone. 

If you do buy new, buy built to last 

With every purchase you make, think about how it can fit into your home in the long term. Instead of trend-led decorations that you may tire of and later throwaway, choose Christmas decorations that are beautifully crafted and built to last. They’ll be inherently sustainable because you can treasure them for years to come. 

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