The Blog

Three ways to
Reduce Waste
at Christmas

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This weekend I visited a Christmas Tree Festival and noticed a bit of a theme going on. From trees decorated with fabulous recycled can angels, to one made entirely from plastic bottles, many were designed with a common goal; to raise awareness of the impact we are having on our planet.

Christmas has, in the past, been one of the most wasteful times of the year. 

In the UK alone, around 230 thousand tonnes of food is wasted at Christmas. And when it comes to unwanted presents, parents admit to spending £50 or more per child last Christmas on toys that their children lost interest in after just a few days. 

So let’s change that! 

By becoming an E.L.F. (Environmentally Loving Family) you can help to reduce your impact on the environment and save money too. Plus, you’ll be setting a good example for your child and helping them learn that less is more.

Here are a few tips to get you started – if you have any you think we should add to the list, let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Only buy what you need

We can have a tendency to overbuy in the festive season. This year you can avoid waste – and save money! – by taking the time to plan beforehand. 

For festive feasting, you can still treat yourselves, but consider making a shopping list and sticking to it. With your child’s presents, a little research can help you avoid those five-minute wonders. 

“If they disregard it after a couple of months, they don’t get the play value, so it’s important to buy toys that will stand the test of time.”

Dr Amanda Gummer on unwanted Christmas toys Tweet


Toys like the My First Scalextric are great fun for children as young as three and is sure to bring out the child in you too. Mixing and matching playmates – like siblings, parents, and grandparents – can add variety to playtime, so it becomes a toy children can go back to again and again. 



Looking out for gifts that can grow with your child will mean they aren’t thrown out quite so soon. For example, the Skip Hop Silver Lining Cloud 3 Stage Activity Centre has real longevity because it changes to suit your child’s needs as they develop. Beginning life as a bouncing seat for baby, it then converts into an activity centre for tots and, finally, a play table with chalkboard. It can also be used all over again with younger siblings!


Reuse toys, food, and wrapping paper

A few carefully chosen toys at Christmas can not only save waste, but will also be something that can be enjoyed in different ways or handed down between siblings for years to come.

Sylvanian Families, for instance, can be expanded with new buildings and characters. So you can treat your child to a new Red Roof Cosy Cottage this year, and add to it with their big brother or sister’s pre-loved furniture or even your own childhood Rabbit Family figures. It’s not hard to see why parents have voted Sylvanian Families as one of the top ten investment toys!



You could also think about how other toys can be reused in different ways. For example, the Pillowfight Warriors Weapons and Shields are ideal for soft play indoors or outdoors, and also double up as some awesome themed cushions for your child’s bedroom. 


What about the reams of wrapping paper littering the living room floor on Christmas morning? Turn collecting it all up into a game by sticking on some party music and seeing who can gather the most paper! And instead of chucking it all out, you can turn your unwanted wrapping paper and cards into all sorts of crafts including decorating furniture or notebooks, gift tags and decorations.   

If you can’t re-use something, recycle it if you can. Thanks to recycling schemes the amount of waste recycled has increased from 7.5% to 43% since the 90’s – which goes to show that a small effort can make a huge difference! Consider choosing materials that can be recycled, such as brown paper for wrapping presents, so that more of your waste can be recycled instead.

You can reuse your leftover food too – of course, there’s the classic cold turkey sandwich, but there are lots of delicious recipes out there to help use up your leftover Christmas dinner. How about bubble and squeak? Or fried Christmas pudding slices with cream?

If you have any untouched, non-perishable food (such as tins), you could donate these to your local food bank. A record 1.6 million food packages were handed out in the last year by the UK’s biggest food bank network, The Trussell Trust, with one in five users relying on this to feed their children. So if you’ve got a tin of fruit cocktail that will otherwise be sitting in the back of your cupboard for the next year, consider passing it on to a family in need. 

Make toys last as long as possible

Encouraging your child to respect their new toys and clothes will help these last as long as possible, while teaching your child the importance of valuing what they have.

Throughout the year, avoid missing pieces and broken toys by getting your child to tidy away their things when they’ve finished playing.

If toys end up broken because of negligence, rather than by accident, use this as an opportunity to teach your child that things aren’t easily replaced. If they want a new one, consider getting them to earn the money, save up their pocket money, or wait until their Birthday (or next Christmas) to do so.

This time of year is a great excuse for a good clear out of old toys and clothes. As well as making space for their incoming gifts, it’s a good opportunity to teach your child about giving to others, and appreciating what they have.

You could talk about “giving the toys back to Santa” so he can give them to younger children. Older children could also research which charity they would like to help, so they can enjoy supporting a cause that is important to them.

A good rule of thumb when donating to charity is to only donate toys and clothes that you yourself would be prepared to buy. Broken toys, games with missing pieces and clothes with holes in are better off being repaired or recycled where possible.


I think that worrying about waste can feel like a low priority, especially when you just want to sit back and enjoy Christmas day – not be carefully preserving every inch of wrapping paper, or boxing up the leftovers from dinner when you’ve got a tummy full of turkey. 

That being said, a little effort goes a long way, and the payout is huge – you’ll be helping to save the environment, teaching your child to value what they have, and saving yourself money too. To make it feel more manageable, I suggest using the tips in this article to write a list of jobs, then deciding in advance which family members can take responsibility for each task. 

Avoiding waste really begins with my first point on this list though – only buying what you need. It can be easy to panic-buy at Christmas, so it’s important to take a step back and think about what your family will really appreciate having. 

To help you do this when choosing gifts for your child, we’ve created a Christmas Good Toy Guide, which only includes toys that have been tested by children, reviewed by experts, and independently endorsed – so you can be confident you are getting great toys that will offer hours of play.

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