The Waste Hierarchy sounds like the dullest thing imaginable, but I have to confess that I kind of love it.

I've recorded a podcast episode on the subject, but I figured that with Christmas bearing down on us it was worth a reminder and a look at how it can be applied to all things festive!


I guess technically you could refuse to participate in Christmas all together but there's nothing very "ish" about that is there?!
However there are still some things that we can 'refuse' without coming across as the Grinch who wants to steal Christmas:

  • Christmas cards - a billion Christmas cards end up in the bin each year, and lots of people are now choosing to make charity donations instead, or to send e-cards.
  • Presents for grown-ups - 81 million unwanted gifts are received each year, an average of 3 per household. Have 'that conversation' with friends and family and think about whether you could only buy for the kids, and make all go out for a nice meal together instead.
  • Anything new! 
    It's totally possible - we did it when we spent our year buying nothing new (check out this post here for all the nitty gritty). Buy secondhand, make, or gift experiences instead of 'stuff'.

If you can't REFUSE some or any aspects of Christmas entirely, then at the very least try to reduce them:

  • All of points in the REFUSE section can be REDUCED if total refusal would cause family upset!
  • Food waste - around 250,000 tonnes of food is wasted in the UK alone over Christmas. Meal plan, and make sure you include what you're going to with any leftovers.
  • The amount of plastic entering your home - buy loose fruit and veg and use re-usable bags; look for drinks in glass bottles rather than plastic. For other tips for shopping plastic-free at the supermarket, check out this post here.

Christmas has not only become a retail festival, it also seems to have become a celebration of both excess and single use. See how many things you can re-use this year, here are some suggestions:

  • Christmas jumpers - according to research done by the guys at Hubbub we spend around £220 million on Christmas jumpers each year in the UK and a quarter of those will end up in landfill or are only used once. Wear the same jumper year on year - make it a part of your Christmas traditions.
  • Your office party Christmas outfit - I guarantee you no-one will notice if you wear the same outfit again. And if they do, that they will even care. Make a 'thing' of it and use the opportunity to start a conversation about all that is wrong with fast fashion 😉
  • Christmas cards - cut off the fronts from your favourite cards, and use them as gift tags next year. Alternatively turn them into festive postcards to send instead of needing envelopes.

If there's anything you no longer want or need, don't ditch it, re-home it!
Try out these different options for decorations, artificial trees, unwanted gifts and anything else to:

  • eBay - if you've got unwanted gifts you might get lucky selling them on eBay and go a little way towards replenishing your bank account at the same time as saving things from landfill.
  • Freecycle/Freegle
    Pass on anything you don't want anymore to people in your community via your local Freecycle or Freegle group.
  • Charity Shops
    This is a great option, but just be aware that most charity shops will be inundated with donations after Christmas  and resist the temptation of using them to salve your conscience about sending stuff to landfill. Only donate stuff that is clean and in good condition. 

This isn't an obvious one for Christmas time - the most obvious thing I can think of is the fairy lights! Have a go at fixing them before ditching them - you might be pleasantly surprised.


Note that this is the last resort before 'rot' - if you've paid attention to all the other ideas in this post and the others on this blog, hopefully you won't have too much to recycle.

  • Christmas cards can be recycled in the bins that appear outside the supermarkets in the New Year.
  • Glittery or metallic wrapping paper CAN'T be recycled. Do the 'scrunch test' - scrunch your paper into a ball and it it stays in a ball it can go in the recycling.
  • Batteries - if you've not got round to replacing your regular batteries with rechargeable ones, make sure you recycle them - many supermarkets have recycling points, if not there should be one at your local recycling centre.

​Hopefully your waste to landfill should now be pretty minimal, but do remember that 'rot' also includes composting. 

  • If you have a food waste collection, make sure you use it!
    If you don't, consider asking Santa for a hot composter to go in your garden - these can take cooked and uncooked food, as well as meat.
  • If you had a real tree, most councils will run a special kerbside collection of them in the New Year, and will take them away to mulch. If not, then you should be able to take it to your local recycling centre to add to the garden waste.
How many of the '7 R's' will you be doing this Yuletide?
And what have I missed? Comment below with more suggestions to add to each of the categories!



Crap Free Christmas

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  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

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