Let's Celebrate a Greener Christmas !

We all love Christmas, but sometimes the festive holidays can seem fraught with planet-harming excess, from spending on unwanted plastic and single use trinkets to creating food waste by going crazy at the supermarket tills. Remember to enter our Green Advent Competition !

December 2019

December 2019

We all love Christmas, but sometimes the festive holidays can seem fraught with planet-harming excess, from spending on unwanted plastic and single use trinket to creating food waste by going crazy at the supermarket tills. Switching on ‘old school’ sparkly lights and contributing to landfill with over-packaged gifts are another two culprits. But we don’t want to be Green Grinches; here’s our quick guide to enjoying Christmas while still keeping environmental impact to a minimum. Enter our Green Advent Competition


Not surprisingly, a natural tree is your best bet when it comes to the real ‘v’ artificial debate. Here’s why:

  • Usually farmed (so not taken from the wild); buying from a local grower means you’re supporting the rural economy.
  • Real trees can be recycled into mulch or woodchips.
  • A pot-grown tree can be re-planted in the garden.
  • Artificial trees are generally made of plastic or plastic-based materials. If you have to go with this option, try and buy a good quality secondhand one.


Tree baubles, tinsel, wreaths made from fake holly and many other decorations are often made of plastic-based materials. Go for decos made from glass, wood, fabric or real foliage and berries – they can last longer (except for anything plant-based obviously) and by sticking to traditional styles and colours, won’t go out of fashion. Always go for LED fairy lights – they use a wopping 75% less energy and can last up to 25 times longer than regular tree lights.


Plan your big meal carefully; no-one wants to run short on Christmas Day, but according to The Independent, four million Christmas dinners go to waste every year.

  • Take time to sit down, work out your numbers and write down exact quantities.
  • It sounds obvious, but a detailed shopping list (don’t deviate from it, no matter how tempting those selection boxes look) is crucial in the run up to Christmas.
  • Shop wisely. Where you can, support your local independent food stores by buying your meat from a trusted butcher or farm shop; ditto mince pies and treats – use your baker’s if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, or buy homemade from small Christmas fairs.
  • Let’s face it, the leftovers are often the best part of festive food, but even once the classic Boxing Day turkey sandwiches have been eaten you can still use up plenty of what remains:
    • cheese board offcuts make great macaroni cheese
    • leftover roast potatoes and sprouts can be fried up to make bubble and squeak - delicious with cold meat or just about anything
    • Blitz other veggies like carrots and parsnips with stock (use the turkey bones if you want) to make a delicious and nutritious soup
    • Some people swear by frying up spare slices of Christmas pudding – whatever, it’s an excuse to tuck into more brandy butter
    • If you’re throwing a party, use a glass loan service instead of single use plastic cups – Waitrose will lend them for free.



At Green Tourism our mantra when it comes to Christmas gifts is buy less, buy better. We think it makes sense to get a carefully considered, ideally ethically sourced single gift rather than a random selection of cheaper items. Secret Santa doesn’t just have to be limited to office parties – why not try this for the adults at your festive gathering so the family doesn’t end up with a pile of unwanted gifts destined straight for landfill. Choose presents that are well-made, durable, even repairable where you can.


While more and more people are choosing to email digital cards these days, saving on postage and, of course, paper, sometimes it’s still nice to write and send a proper card, especially to someone who’s not online. Go for those printed on recycled paper, ideally with a fundraising element and if you receive any, you could turn them into postcards (just cut the front off) or gift tags.

Wrapping presents sustainably can be tricky – much of the Christmas giftwrap on sale has a coating or metallic content meaning it can’t be recycled or even burned in an open fire because of the chemicals involved and speed of burning. Instead use plain brown paper decorated with leaves and tied with natural fabric ribbon or raffia or even wrap using old fabric offcuts – there are some great tutorials online showing you how to do this. https://mymodernmet.com/fabric-gift-wrap/

  • Transport systems account for 20-25% of the world’s energy consumption and carbon emissions, with road transport a major contributor also to local air pollution.
  • Currently 95% of the energy used by transportation comes from petroleum.
  • The Mayor of London has pledged that by 2041, 80% of all Londoners’ trips will be made by foot, cycle or public transport.

If air travel is the most damaging in terms of emissions, road travel must be next in line. But there are plenty of ways to lessen the impact, from the manufacture of lighter buses to changing driving style, reducing tyre friction and of course, the purchase of electric, hybrid and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles, whether for commercial, public or private use.

Electric rail and tram travel is a solid sustainable option with cycling and walking coming out top in so many ways – zero carbon emissions and health promoting at the same time. That’s why we suggest if you run a tourism business, whether that’s hospitality based or a visitor attraction, it’s a great idea to encourage visitors to arrive by bike, on foot, or via public transport, with incentives and facilities to back up your pro-green travel values.

There’s no doubt that holidaying locally or at least in your home country, reducing distances travelled and minimising air travel cuts your carbon levels significantly. Visiting a small geographical area and exploring it thoroughly, by foot, bike or even on horseback is infinitely better for the environment and communities than hopping between major destinations hundreds of miles apart. Reinforcing this attitude is a great way for Green Tourism members to attract new and repeat business because more and more visitors are now actively looking at sustainability credentials when planning a trip.

Promote activities to your visitors that support local enterprises and do the least damage environmentally: suggest kayaking rather than going on a speedboat tour, for example, or incentivise guests to leave their cars once they’ve arrived by offering a discount on bike hire schemes – this kind of initiative is also a positive way to establish partnerships with like-minded tourism providers in your area.

Lastly, why not take advantage of a brilliant way to encourage electric car use: OLEV (the catchy acronym for the Office for Low Emission Vehicles) are offering up to £500 towards the cost of purchasing and installing a home charging point – it’s called the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme and is well worth considering if you run a B&B or guest house or want to go electric yourself. https://pod-point.com/guides/driver/olev-grant


Spring Forward

Eat/Stay/Explore Local - So that we can best support our members at this time, we want to keep local businesses, local attractions and UK breaks, top of mind to encourage people to support local and stay local over the weeks and months ahead. So why not get involved and be part of our Spring Forward Campaign.

Create Your Own Staycation

With Christmas and the New Year fast approaching and the everchanging situation, which may last well into 2021, we know that people will still want to take a break when and where they can.

Sustainability Post Lockdown

As we take our first tentative steps towards recovery, we know Green Tourism members will continue to make every effort to manage their environmental impacts. That’s why we’ve produced this quick guide to help you stay green as you plan to reopen.

Serve Local

Green Tourism HQ we are obsessing over local food and drink all through September, coinciding with Scotland’s Food and Drink Fortnight - a fantastic two week promotion of Scottish farms and small producers. 

Sustainable Travel

This month we want to talk about sustainable transport, to encourage everyone to reduce their carbon footprint and offer some simple ideas to promote greener ways for your guests and visitors to reach you.