• 40 million Christmas crackers end up in the bin each year
  • 99% of people in a survey said that they just threw their Christmas cracker gifts in the bin at the end of the day
  • And that's before we even think about the hats and the jokes

Clearly we could simply just not bother with crackers at Christmas, but would we want to? For many of us it's just not Christmas without a cracker, but clearly they're generating a pretty massive waste mountain, as well as using up resources and emitting 'a lot' (technical estimate) of carbon in their production and getting here to us.

Fortunately it's becoming easier and easier to go plastic-free and lower impact with your crackers, with choices for every budget. 

Make your own
If you're the crafty type OR you're desperately trying to think of ways to keep the kids occupied as excitement levels reach fever pitch, this might be your cracker of choice. You can go full on Blue Peter with loo roll inners and wrapping paper, or you can download and print off templates.
If you don't fancy that, then you can get 'make your own cracker kits' that come with everything you need and you can simply assemble whilst watching a Christmas movie with a glass of something mulled at your side. These ones here even come complete with eco-friendly gifts.


You can even get eco-friendly cracker snaps to go with your homemade crackers. These ones here are recyclable, compostable and made in the UK.
It does say that they are 'silent snaps' and therefore pet friendly and I haven't tried them, so you might need to channel your inner Barbara Good (this reference will make no sense to anyone under a certain age) and shout "BANG!" as you pull your cracker..

Go reusable

We bought a set of reusable crackers from Keep This Cracker several years ago and they're still going strong. All you need each year is the snaps.
We have a Christmas tradition whereby everyone picks a name out of a hat, and then has to fill the cracker for that person - a homemade hat (newspaper/comics/wrapping paper); a personalised joke; and a plastic-free gift with a budget of £2. The kids really enjoy having actual money to spend and having to think of something the recipient will actually like, as well as searching for 'hilarious' jokes...

Buy fill your own

Oxfam have bought out 'fill your own' crackers this year - they are recyclable, and come complete with snaps, hats and jokes. All you need to provide is the gift which means people are much more likely to get something that won't end up in the bin within 12 hours of opening.
John Lewis and M&S also do their own versions, or why not look on somewhere like Etsy and support an independent business in what has been a really tough year for many small businesses. Just remember to look for cracker outers that are paper/cardboard without any glitter or metallic/shiny bits on them (this will render them unrecyclable).

Filling your crackers...

- Again, you can full on Blue Peter and make your own from newspaper, wrapping paper or old comics etc. It can be helpful to have an idea of everyone's head circumference, especially if you've got young kids and adults to equip, but it's not the end of the world. And isn't it kind of a Christmas tradition that the kids end up with hats that slip down over their eyes?
- OR if you're a dab hand with the sewing machine you can make your own fabric reusable 'crowns'. There are loads of templates for patterns on Pinterest. 
- OR you can buy a set of reusable fabric crowns. Depending on your budget, there's some here, or some here.

Go crazy on Google Ecosia and find a joke that suits the recipient.

What you choose will depend on your budget but there are lots of options to suit all purses:
- a homemade biscuit eg a gingerbread man etc if you want to keep it festive
- chocolate coins
- a scratch card (probably not entirely plastic-free, but we're invoking the 'ish' here)
- a packet of seeds to grow in the winter
- a small bar of soap/shampoo bar
- an alcoholic miniature
- an ethically made face mask - there's a great selection here
- bicycle inner tube keyring
- upcycled earrings
- twig pencils
- Play n choc - like a kinder egg but ethical and plastic-free!
- collapsible reusable drinking straw
- mini bar of Tony's Chocoloney (your nearest Zero Waste store might well stock this, or I think Sainsburys do)
- a pair of ethical socks
eco friendly lip balms

Pic from Eco Vibe

Buy ready filled plastic-free

If all of that feels like just too much and that thinking about finding eco-friendly gifts that will actually fit inside a sodding cracker might well be the straw that breaks the camel's back this Christmas, don't worry!
There are an increasing range of plastic-free crackers available this year - most of the major supermarkets are doing their own versions. 
-  these ones here have a packet of seeds in instead of a plastic toy
- the RSPB do these ones with a sheet of paper and some origami instructions
- Nancy and Betty do a range of gorgeous designs with different plastic-free gifts. The crackers are made here in the UK, and they plant a tree for every box bought. 

Are you a cracker fan?
What are you doing this year?
Let me know in the comments!

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