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Merton Green Parents on how to celebrate a low-waste holiday season

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Blog by Hanna

Sustainable Merton Community Champion

& Merton Green Parents Coordinator

Hi, I'm Hanna, one of Sustainable Merton's Community Champions! In summer 2021, I helped relaunch Merton Green Parents - a growing community of eco-conscious parents who have come together for three events this year.

In September, we met in Wimbledon Park to discuss renting children’s clothes rather than always buying new and in November, we held a reusable nappies demo in Morden. Our last meet-up of the year, in December, was all about celebrating a low-waste festive period, so ahead of the holidays we’re wondering – is it even possible? Most of us have children who might have very specific ideas on what a perfect present should be, others have relatives who aren’t coming round to the idea of homemade Christmas crackers and second-hand presents wrapped in newspaper.

Merton Green Parents is a judgement-free group that is open to everyone regardless of where they are on their green parenting journey, we’re all trying to do our best for our families and for the planet, so read our ideas below but don’t feel pressurised – do what you can and if none of the ideas seems do-able, don’t worry about it, there’s always next year!

Here are our ideas on how to get through the holiday season with as little environmental impact as possible – the basic principle being “Buy less and start new traditions”.

💚 Give second-hand or homemade presents (for example a face mask, seed balls, Christmas biscuits, jams etc.). Try to support local businesses, donate to charity or buy experiences rather than “more stuff”. Maybe it’s worth asking the person if they need something specific this year or do a Secret Santa rather than buy a present for every family member.

✉️ A lot of people still enjoy writing Christmas cards – remember to buy FSC certified and plastic-free cards as they can be recycled, and avoid glitter! You could also send digital Christmas cards and cut any cards you have received up for next year’s labels.

🎁 When it comes to wrapping presents, you can re-use packaging from previous years, use old fabric scraps or newspaper. You can always add some greenery or dried oranges to make the presents look festive.

🕯️ A topic that has been discussed a lot on our WhatsApp group is decorations: cardboard stars, little houses made of old juice cartons, salt dough decorations, making new candles out of old wax, using pinecones, oranges, cranberries, and greenery. You can even make a big star out of old clothes hangers. There is a lot of inspiration online!

🍗 When it comes to avoiding food waste, the main recommendation is to plan your meals and leftovers, use your freezer and make signs in the fridge to say “eat me first” so other family members know what will go off soon.

🧶 Christmas jumpers can luckily be re-used year after year, but you could always buy children’s ones at your local charity shop or give cross-stitching a go and turn a normal jumper into a Christmas jumper.

🎉 Using old loo roll to make your own Christmas crackers seemed a popular idea on our group. But you could also write down a joke and just hide it under the plate, make Christmas hats using newspapers – there are lots of alternative ways.

📅 A bit late for an Advent calendar now but ideas for next year are to make your own to avoid lots of little pieces of individually wrapped toys and sweets, you could also take part in a reverse advent calendar or make a pay-it-forward calendar. Someone suggested a-joke-a- day Advent calendar which seems like a lovely idea.

🌲 Another hot topic on our Facebook group has been renting a Christmas tree. A couple of us managed to get our hands on one, so hopefully it will be a success. Did you know that artificial trees need to be used for at least 10 years to make up for the carbon footprint? They’re also non-recyclable. So rent a tree or buy a pot-grown tree, see if you can get an organically grown one and make your own – a fun thing to do with children.


There will be lots of exciting events in 2022! Keep an eye on the Sustainable Merton calendar for upcoming events.

You can also connect with other local green parents through our WhatsApp and/or Facebook group - email to join!


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