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Ten tips for a green, sustainable and money-saving Christmas 2010

Nigel's Eco Store

One of the UK’s leading eco-retailers has come up with tips and advice that will help people save money and as well as the planet this festive season.

Nigel Berman, founder of Nigel's Eco Store, says there are lots of ways to have a sustainable Christmas, from saving energy to making sure gifts are low-carbon and useful. The company has also produced a free Xmas e-book you can download here.

Here are ten tips for reducing your carbon footprint at Christmas.

1) Don't forget to turn off your fairy lights
Lighting can account for 15% of household electricity and fairy lights left on for 10 hours a day over the 12 days of Christmas produce enough carbon dioxide to inflate 60 balloons. So make sure you get energy saving light bulbs for your house, and try these solar powered rope lights or these outdoor solar powered Christmas fairy lights for some winter sparkle without adding to your carbon footprint.

2) Christmas cards
An estimated 1.7 billion Christmas cards are sent each year in Britain. The equivalent of 200,000 trees and around 1 million Christmas cards are thrown away every year. Try to send recycled Christmas cards like these designer ones, but you could make your own, or send texts or e-cards instead. After the big day, make sure your Christmas cards don't go to waste – take them to a Woodland Trust recycling point if your local authority doesn’t pick up waste for re-cycling.

3) Recycled wrapping paper
There's no point recycling rubbish if you don't buy recycled products. It's estimated that 83 square kilometres of wrapping paper end up in our rubbish bins each year. That's enough to stretch around the equator nine times or to the moon if each sheet was laid end to end. Make sure you use recycled wrapping paper, and try to wrap presents with ribbon or string instead of sticky tape. Try our designer recycled wrapping paper by Lisa Jones. Or like the Japanese, try reusable gift wrap. In Japan it’s called ‘furoshiki’.

4) Candles
Paraffin candles are made from petroleum residues, so don’t do your health or the environment any good. Soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based candles are better because they biodegradable, are smoke-free, and are more eco-friendly. Some examples of natural candles here.

5) Deck the halls with real holly
Instead of spending money on artificial Christmas decorations that won't biodegrade, let nature decorate your home. House decorations can be made from organic, recycled and scrap materials. Try popcorn, dough, cinnamon sticks, bows, gingerbread, holly, seasonal berries, ivy and evergreen branches. Once you have finished with them, you can put them in the composter. Alternatively you can buy Christmas decorations made from recycled CDs and computer parts from Nigel’s Eco Store or beautiful baubles made from recycled glass.

Even better, why not try plantable Christmas tree decorations, which contain seeds. After Christmas you can plant them in the garden and make the festive season last well into the New Year. If you buy crackers, don’t forget to check they are made from recycled paper like these recycled Xmas crackers.

6) Christmas trees
if you've been wondering which is better, the simple answer is that real trees are the more eco-friendly choice. Although artificial trees last for many years, they are made from metal and derivatives of PVC which requires large amounts of energy to make, and also creates by-products such as lead which can be harmful to both the environment and human health. The average life of an artificial tree is just six years and, given that they are not naturally biodegradable, they will potentially pollute a landfill site for many years to come.

Most artificial trees sold in the UK are now made in Taiwan and China, so have additional energy costs associated with transport.

Real trees are carbon neutral, absorbing as much carbon dioxide as they grow as they will emit when burnt or left to decompose. They are also a wildlife habitat and a naturally renewable resource, and generally feel and smell much nicer in your home. If you buy one with roots or in a pot it can be planted in your garden after Christmas, and even used again next year.
Buy from a small-scale sustainable grower and/or make sure the tree has Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation. You can go to for a list of producers.

If replanting isn’t an option, most local councils run Christmas tree recycling schemes. Contact yours or go to or, this year, why not start growing your own? You can grow trees from seed or even buy grass Christmas trees or recycled cardboard trees.

7) Be battery wise
Families can get through a lot of batteries, particularly at Christmas. Batteries contain toxic chemicals, don't degrade and are difficult to recycle. You could try these AA size USB rechargeable batteries. By opening the cap and plugging into a USB connector, you can recharge them pretty much anywhere there's a USB socket. You'll never have to search for a charger again.

8) Buy an organic turkey
Ten million turkeys are eaten every Christmas. If you can, try to make sure yours has been reared in humane conditions. Organic turkeys taste better too. Try to source your Christmas food locally, shopping at farmers’ markets or buying direct from the farmer is far cheaper than buying organic in the supermarket. Think of the benefits – the taste of chemical-free food, the reduction in food miles and CO2 emissions, and reduced dependence on oil. Buying locally produced food also boosts rural jobs.

9) Recycle your unwanted presents
Unfortunately everyone receives at least one unwanted gift at Christmas. Recycle unwanted presents by giving them to charities. Local hospitals and hospices are often very pleased to receive unwanted smellies to give to patients. Or you could try the regifting forum at Nigel’s Eco Store - and swap them for other people's unwanted gifts!

10) Give a charity or environmentally friendly gift
With a little planning anyone can give presents that are thoughtful, original and make a difference to the environment too. Here are some gift ideas from Nigel's Eco Store.

Or you could sponsor an animal, or give a membership to a charity or environmental organisation for Christmas.


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Notes for Editors

Winner of Yahoo Finds of The Year - Best Shopping Site & Highly Commended at The Real Homes Eco Awards, Nigel's Eco Store is an award-winning online retailer of environmentally friendly products that can help everyone reduce their carbon footprint, conserve resources and save money. The store carries home furnishings, kitchenware, gadgets, office products, kids' toys and energy saving devices.

Christmas waste and recycling facts and tips from WRAP

In the UK approximately 250 tonnes of Christmas trees that could have been recycled are simply thrown out after Christmas. Increasing numbers of local authorities provide either a doorstep collection service or set up local drop-off points where trees are gathered and sent for chipping and composting. The product is a rich biomass that be used as mulch or soil improver. Alternatively, buy a living tree that can be planted in the garden when you’ve finished with it.

An estimated 500 tonnes of Christmas tree lights are discarded in the UK over the Christmas period. Even lights that are beyond repair can be recycled! Check whether your local authority waste collection site will accept them.

Every year the UK throws out an estimated 4,500 tonnes of tin foil over the Christmas period. This is enough to cover around 1500 square miles - roughly the size of Suffolk! You can drop off waste foil at your nearest recycling bank or check on your local authority’s website to see whether your kerbside collection scheme accepts it.

13,350 tonnes of glass is thrown out in the UK during the festive season – from champagne and sherry bottles to mincemeat and cranberry sauce jars. Recycling all of them could save 4,200 tonnes of CO2 equivalent being produced, which is equivalent to taking around 1,300 cars off the road for one year or to not taking around 630 around the world flights. 

Christmas may affect your local council’s kerbside recycling scheme. To find your nearest recycling centre or learn more information about your kerbside collection scheme over Christmas and New Year contact your council for a recycling calendar. Find details of your council at

A whole range of jars - from cranberry sauce to mincemeat and baby food - can all be recycled: just give them a rinse in your leftover dish washing water and recycle them with your other glass.  Don't worry about removing labels; they will come off in the recycling process

Remember to tell guests where your recycling bins are and what goes in them when they stay over Christmas

Remember there are lots of unexpected Christmas items you can recycle like chocolate tins and mincemeat jars. Go to to find out more

Look out for gifts with packaging that can be reused or recycled easily. Gift bags can be reused again and again. Some retailers are packaging goods in tins that can be easily recycled or plastics containers that can be used for food storage at home

The wire ties that often accompany gift packaging can be kept aside and reused as garden ties as they are not generally recyclable

With a mass of new gifts being given and received this Christmas, there are bound to be clear outs of old furniture or tired models of equipment. Why not contact the Community Recycling Network as they distribute unwanted furniture and household goods to those in need.