10 eco-friendly Christmas tips

Round & About


“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means just a little bit more” – read the top tips from Plastic Free Home for a more sustainable festive season

It’s not often we quote the Grinch, but in this case, and perhaps now more than ever, Dr Seuss’ fictional character is spot on.

For most Christmas is a magical time of year but it is also one of significant and unnecessary waste and excess.

If we are to get serious about tackling the climate emergency, then even the festive season shouldn’t be off limits when it comes to making much needed changes.

Below are 10 top tips on how you can make a difference this Christmas and put ‘a more sustainable future’ at the top of your wish list…

Avoid the gimmicks

From pre-packed ‘reindeer food’ (what’s wrong with a good old-fashioned carrot?!) that can be harmful to wildlife, to Christmas Eve boxes full of matching pyjamas and quickly discarded novelties, try not to get sucked into the latest fads.


Think quality, not quantity. Maybe introduce shared gift lists or a secret Santa to encourage everyone to buy less and to help save on unwanted items. When shopping, consider what gifts are made of, who by and where and how they can be reused, recycled or disposed of when someone is finished with them. Aim to buy presents that are produced ethically, sustainably and here in the UK wherever possible, and shop independently if you can. Buy pre-loved, recycled or sustainably sourced clothing, opt for toys that are well made and will last for generations, ditch big brand toiletries in favour of more eco-friendly alternatives and give homemade gifts, experiences or your time in place of ‘things’.

Wrapping paper

It isn’t an exact science but if you scrunch wrapping paper into a ball and it stays that way, it’s more likely that it’s plastic free and can be recycled. Even better, use recycled kraft paper, which is both home compostable and recyclable, and more likely to be free of harmful inks. Avoid gift bags if you can as many aren’t 100% recyclable and a high proportion are never reused and, crucially, avoid plastic sticky tape! Paper tape is readily and cheaply available online, compostable and recyclable and skip the bows, gift tags and ribbon or find reusable and recyclable alternatives.


Of course, the obvious answer would be to avoid cards altogether. If that’s a step too far, aim to buy cards that are made from recycled, FSC (sustainable) or seed paper and free from non-biodegradable glitter, badges and plastic wrapping. Or get crafting and make your own!


Again, you could opt to avoid crackers completely or, again, why not make your own, reusable, ones? If you do decide to buy some, try to ensure they are both recycled and recyclable and free of plastic prizes.


If you already own an artificial tree, enjoy it year after year for as long as you can. As and when you are in need of a new one, consider instead a real tree that is FSC or Soil Association approved. Or, you can now even rent a real tree, with the tree replanted after Christmas and used again next year!

Advent calendars

Make or buy a reusable advent calendar and fill it with homemade goodies or plastic free and ideally Fairtrade treats. Anything wrapped in foil or delicious chocolates from the likes of Divine or Tony’s Chocolonely are among the better options. The growing trend of more expensive, toy-filled calendars just means more unnecessary waste.

Christmas lunch

Can you buy your meat unwrapped from a local butcher, and your vegetables loose from a local greengrocer, farm shop or certain supermarkets? Wherever possible, aim to avoid unnecessary packaging and only buy and prepare what you really need to avoid food waste. Or give a vegetarian or vegan Christmas a go!


Wine bottles with a (real) cork are a better option than a screw top because cork is home compostable and results in lower emissions. And take a look at some of the fantastic British wines available, from the likes of Stanlake Park, Windsor Great Park or Chapel Down, to cut down on imported goods and the miles associated with them. If you’re buying beer, avoid plastic packaging and of course opt for cans or glass instead. When it comes to other alcoholic or soft drinks, swap plastic bottles for glass or cans too.

At the end of it all

Importantly, ensure that you recycle and dispose of everything correctly when the fun is over. If in doubt, look online, contact your local council or drop Plastic Free Home a line! Prepare beforehand by getting bags or boxes ready for things like wrapping paper, cardboard and recyclable plastic and rescue and reuse anything you can next time. Remember to donate any unwanted leftovers to a charity shop or (if in date and unopened) food bank.

Not everyone can do everything but if we can each make changes, they really do add up.

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and happy Christmas when it comes and let’s all cross our fingers and toes that Santa brings us a more positive year in 2024…

Created in 2018 by blogger and voluntary hack Dave Lamont, Plastic Free Home is an online community with more than 45,000 followers, aiming to seek and share information on how we can all live more sustainably. Visit www.theplasticfreehome.com or find Plastic Free Home on Facebook.

Free magical entertainment in Fleet

Karen Neville


Santa’s Post Office and Snow Windows herald the start of the festive season

The Fleet Business Improvement District has launched their family activities this Christmas. They are completely free and offer an amazing experience and are a great reason to visit the town.

The Fleet BID has commissioned Snow Windows to decorate 24 windows in the town. Each window has been personally designed by artist Tom and features elements particular to that business. Each window is a unique piece of art and both children and adults will enjoy being able to visit the windows and spot the details that make each artwork so special.

Santa’s Post Office also makes a welcome return to Fleet launching in Hart Shopping Centre at the Fleet Christmas Festival on November 23rd. Families can visit the enchanting Post Office to meet the Christmas elves and write their letter to Santa. Children can post their letters in the special Post Box and watch its magical journey to Lapland. Even better this is completely free.

One delighted parent, who visited in previous years said: “We went in today with my two kids and they loved it! Both my husband and I were so impressed and felt incredibly lucky to have something so special in Fleet. A real testament to a wonderful community. A massive thank you to Fleet BID for putting something so special together that local families can enjoy!”

Volunteers from Fleet Guide are manning the Post Office, helping them to raise awareness of the great work they do in our local community.

Tracey Shrimpton, Fleet BID Manager said: “We are very excited to bring these free actives to Fleet this Christmas. Santa’s Post Office is a magical experience and Snow Windows have worked with companies such as Harvey Nichols and celebrities including Jamie Oliver, Kirstie Allsopp and Chris Moyles so we’re extremely lucky to have been able to bring them to Fleet.

“We recognise that families may find the pressure to spend money stressful this Christmas and we’re delighted that we can offer something very special for families to enjoy that they can do completely free of charge.

“We are lucky to have such a fabulous range of committed small business owners who open their doors every day to offer customers unique services and products, with local staff to provide help and advice. The High Street is facing many challenges right now and our mission is to support businesses in Fleet with a number of activities to improve the trading environment and this is a great opportunity for people to show their support for local businesses which are the lifeblood of our community.”

In addition to Fleet BID’s activities a committed team of volunteers are organising the annual Fleet Christmas Festival taking place on Wednesday 23rd November from 2pm to 9pm with over 130 market stalls, family entertainment, choirs and Christmas songs, Vegan Village, community stalls, Hart of Craft market in the Shopping centre, Santa’s Grotto in The Harlington, Autism Friendly Fleet Chill Zone in the shopping centre and the Christmas Lights switch on at 6.30pm. The Festival Committee have also organised a Christmas Trail which runs until December 9th with prizes to be won.

Devine Dash 

Round & About


It’s the time of year when you expect to see a man in a red suit with a white beard but get set to see hundreds of them.

Now in its seventh year, the Santa Dash in Windsor in aid of Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice is the annual festive fun run on Saturday, 24th November.

The dash will guide you through Windsor, along the Long Walk, the Castle, Queen Victoria’s statue and the town’s streets and it’s up to you how you decide to take on the 5km – dash, run, jog, skip or dance.

The entry fee includes a free Santa suit or reindeer antlers for children and a medal and every penny goes to the children’s hospice service in Maidenhead.

The hospice opened in 2018 after years of hard work and tireless campaigning to raise the funds by Fiona and John Devine. Their son Alexander was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of four and their lives became consumed by hospital appointments and treatments.

They sadly lost Alexander after four and a half years and through their experiences found there was a need for a children’s hospice in Berkshire.

Fiona and John wanted to provide a safe, loving environment for all that gives children and families a choice of care and support. The hospice complements the existing community service with state-of-the-art facilities. It has six children’s bedrooms, two-self-contained flats for families, a dining area, open plan sitting room and suite dedicated to end of life and bereavement care.

There is also a sensory room, creative learning zone, music room and hydrotherapy pool.

A woodland-themed sensory garden, mud kitchen, musical play pieces, scented plants and raised flower beds allow children to enjoy the outdoors.

There are LEGO models scattered around the garden and an adventure playground is currently being built designed with special equipment.

Nurses and nursery nurses, play and music specialists and counsellors and doctors use their knowledge, compassion and expertise to provide the support and care each family and child needs.

Santas are encouraged to raise at least £57 in sponsorship – this alone could pay for a specialist play session.

The dash starts at 9am, but dashers are encouraged to arrive at 8am for a briefing, to join the warm up and collect their Santa suit, these can also be collected in advance from this month with previous arrangement.

Registration is at Bachelors Acre at 8.40am before the run starts at the top of the Long Walk by the Castle.

Entry costs £20 adults, £7.50 children, under 5s free, family of four (2&2) £36.

Take part

For more details and to enter

Santa by train!

Round & About


Why not enjoy a magical journey on the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway through the south Oxfordshire countryside and visit Santa in his grotto?

A dedicated group of steam-powered volunteers are ready and waiting to take you on a heritage train ride on this rural branch line, first opened in 1866.

Known locally as “The Bunk”, its passenger services ceased in 1959. Having secured the line in 1981, the CWR Preservation Society now aims to enhance the facilities that the railway offers and to improve the Wallingford site.

Running through the beautiful countryside, the line links the historic riverside town of Wallingford with GWR trains at Cholsey. You can travel on the 1950s coaches, hauled by one of the diesel locomotives or by a visiting steam engine.

On your journey, look out for Cholsey Church, where Agatha Christie is buried, and perhaps spot the magnificent red kites soaring above. If you want to make a day of it as a family, a 10-minute walk away you will find castle ruins, the museum and shops, restaurants and pubs. Trains run on selected weekends and bank holidays throughout the year and, where available, are steam hauled.

Enjoy Santa specials on the train on 8th & 9th, 15th & 16th and 22nd & 23rd December.

Pre-booked tickets cost £10 for adults and £7 for children (aged between two and 15), under-twos £5. Every child gets a gift from Santa and there’s a mince pie and hot fruit drink for all adults.

Where’s Santa?

Round & About


Father Christmas is very busy this month finding out who’s been naughty or nice! Here’s where you can catch him (remember, he’s magic so can be in lots of places at once!)

Saint Nicholas, AKA Santa, will be in his own sitting room at Hatchlands Park near East Clandon on the first, second and fourth weekends of December, 11am-3.30pm. £5 per visit per child, including a present. On the third weekend, Mrs Christmas will fill his boots! For further information visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatchlands-park

At Denbies Wine Estate near Dorking, children can take a train ride to see Santa and his elves in his cellar and receive a present and sticker book. £8.25 per child, no lower age limit. For £3, adults can join them on the train to much mince pies and browse craft goodies. www.denbies.co.uk

He will visit Haslemere Museum on Sunday, 2nd December, between 11am and 3pm as part of Haslemere Christmas Market. Little ones can tell him their wishes and receive a present for £3. He will return from Thursday 20th to Christmas Eve morning to chill in his Victorian parlour. £4 per child; visit www.haslemeremuseum.co.uk.

Over at Birdworld you can meet Santa’s reindeer and some of their friendly farm animals before you enter a magical world full of animated characters in winter wonderland settings. As you walk through the different scenes, enjoy friendly banter with the impish elves and meet Santa to claim your present! For full information and prices please visit www.birdworld.co.uk/christmas

On certain days in December, Santa has instructed his elves to teach children some of their magic with fun craft workshops at Painshill Park near Cobham (with a present and a note from Santa at the end). £8.50 per child, suitable for children aged between two and eight and two adults can go with them for free. Visit www.painshill.co.uk

Over the first two weekends in December, you can go on a Santa hunt on the Swingbridge broadbeam boat for a gentle family cruise along the River Wey. The boat will depart from Millmead Island, looking for clues along the towpath while you enjoy mince pies and mulled wine before Santa hops on board with his sack of gifts for the return journey. It costs £10 for each under-16, £10 for an adult with a child and £35 for a family (two adults and two children). Search for Swingbridge Santa Cruises on Facebook or call 01483 444334.

Other family-friendly Christmas highlights include carols, songs & readings at Hatchlands Park on Sunday, 16th December, at 12pm & 2pm. There is also the Lost in a Book Georgian Christmas trail, daily between Saturday, 1st December and Sunday, 6th January, 10am-4pm when you can enjoy the trail through the parkland and follow the Boscawen family as they discover the story of Gulliver’s Travels. Call 01483 444334 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatchlands-park

Carols for Clandon will warm the family cockles at Holy Trinity Church in Guildford on Tuesday, 18th December, from 7.30pm. The Oxford Singers will deliver carols and readings to support Clandon Park. Adults £12, child £9; call 01483 444334 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clandon-park