It is inevitable to think about Christmas in other terms than the times of opulence- we spend sometimes exorbitant sums of money on gifts, cook plenty of food, which often goes to waste, decorate our houses or flats with strings of fairy lights and kitschy decor. The world does not let us forget that to celebrate Christmas is to eat, drink and be merry (and don’t hide your wallet).

How about making that little effort to bring back the true spirit of Christmas through sustainability? We not only speak of sharing, reflecting and purely enjoying this magical time, but also about minimizing your waste, giving back to the society, and letting your credit card have a break. I searched wide and far to bring you the best and the easiest ideas for sustainable Christmas you can implement straight away!

Christmas cards

  • Go paperless! Send a free Christmas e-card from websites such as Some e-cards, Blue Mountain or Jib Jab or record a video of yourself wishing your family and friends merry times.
  • Alternatively, if you feel creative, design your own e-card in Canva.

Have a very sustainable Christmas

  • Still prefer to send? If you are not convinced by electronic Christmas cards (you have to admit that ‘elfing yourself‘ is pretty awesome) how about making your own Christmas cards from old magazines, wrapping paper, newspapers or…last year’s Christmas cards?
  • Okay, you are dead set on sending Christmas cards. Check out your local charities to see if they sell Christmas cards. By purchasing cards from them you support social causes and give back to the community. In Austria there is for example Unicef at, which offers a wide selection of Weihnachtskarten.

Gift giving

  • Instead of going loco and worrying about gifting each person you know, collect a group of friends and family and organize Secret Santa. This way each person will give and receive one gift, which means everybody will be happy and you won’t be paying off loans long after Christmas. You can use this website to organize the participants list, set the budget and assign names.
  • Think local! Buy gifts from local artisan companies, visit craft markets or support your creative friends’ businesses.Have a very sustainable Christmas!
  • Shop preloved goods. Use eBay, Willhaben or Shpock to buy second-hand gifts.
  • Ask for donations. If you have that family member, who will just not let go of the idea of giving you something (and the experience tells that you will not be happy about that something), ask them to donate to a charity of your choice.
  • Re-gifting is okay. No, really.
  • Organize a Christmas gift swap for those, who prefer to not spend money. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
  • Make the gifts yourself. Have you been to Pinterest recently? Search DIY gifts and be amazed.
  • Give time. Instead of buying presents, do something with people you care about.
  • Ditch buying new rolls of wrapping paper. Use your paper waste (calendars, posters, maps etc), pieces of fabric, scarves, or glass jars instead.
  • Save wrapping paper for the future! Not only the wrapping paper from your gifts – ask everybody in your family to make a pile of wrapping paper and stash it in a cupboard for other gift-wrapping opportunities. To make it easy to reuse wrapping paper, avoid sticky tape and replace it with strings of paper, thread or ribbons.
  • Opt for battery-free gifts if possible. In the US the sales of batteries go up 40% in the holiday season. Batteries, made of toxic and non-degradable chemicals, often end up in landfill and pollute soil and water, not to mention poisoning animals.
  • Give your time to the community this Christmas and volunteer at a local charity.


  • Buy organic meat, fruit and vegetable for your Christmas dinner. It’s a special day, why not treat yourself to somethingeven a bit more expensive but locally grown?
  • Plan your menu in advance. Search for versatile recipes for your main meal and leftovers.
  • Do not overbuy on products, which can go to waste quickly. Do you need that bag of apples if you have three days of fooding already planned out?
  • Cut down on packaged food. Here in Vienna we have many fresh markets, where you can get plastic-free meat, fruit and vegetables.
  • If you make too much food, freeze it, donate it to a local food bank, or organize a potluck dinner with your neighbors.
  • Prepare big portions of mulled wine, alkoholfree punsch, hot chocolate or eggnog instead of buying cans or bottles of soft drinks.
  • Be creative with your organic waste. Keep carrot and parsnip tops, broccoli stalks, potato peels, onion and garlic skins, bones, mix them in a bag, freeze and use as a basis for meat/vegetable stock. Add orange and lemon skins to white vinegar to create a naturally scented cleaning product. Compost the rest.

Christmas tree

Even though plastic trees can be reused each year, their production, storage and transport uses up non-renewable resources. It also isn’t rare for plastic Christmas trees to be discarded due to repeated dismantling making them look unattractive, which results in more plastic polluting landfill because, how do I put it, they never degrade.

  • If you can, buy a living tree. You can either get one small enough to be kept in a pot for a long time or get one you can replant in your garden. If you do not want to keep your tree after the Christmas season, drop it off at one of the recycling spots in Vienna.
  • Think of other alternatives. Does it have to be an actual tree? How about a tall pile of books wrapped in fairy lights or a wall decoration made with nails and a string?


  • Skip on the excessive outdoor light installations this year. You will pay less (whether in electricity bill or batteries Have a very sustainable Christmas!purchases) and use less of the non-renewable energy.
  • Buy LED fairy lights, which use 90% less energy than the traditional holiday bulbs.
  • Decorate your garden trees with bird feed decorations. How cute are these?!
  • Candles are much more sustainable sources of a warm glow indoors. Not to mention the atmosphere.
  • Turn off the Christmas lights at night. Honestly, if everybody is sleeping, who will be admiring this magical show?
  • Make your own Christmas tree and house decorations. Use dried plants, cinnamon sticks, pinecones, straw, branches of pine trees, paper and ribbons. How about dried orange slices with cloves hanging around the house? Beautiful aroma and pretty ornaments – checked!
  • Gingerbread makes for awesome Christmas tree oraments. Check out this recipe.


Aneta Pawlik