Step away from the wheelie bin! From your Christmas tree to the piles of cards and wrapping paper strewn about the house after the big day has been and gone, there’s plenty that can be recycled and re-used to reduce waste, save some pennies, and even create lovely new festive items. Think twice before you cart it all off to landfill.
Help in the garden
Turning your Christmas tree into woodchip mulch is a great way to dispose of it once the decorations come down, and also means you can create free mulch for use around the garden. Simply put the tree through a shredder, then leave the wood chips at the back of your borders to rot down before using it to mulch around trees, shrubs and flowering bulbs from March onwards. The needles can also be used separately as a mulch for acid-loving plants, such as blueberries, pelargoniums, short-leaved stonecrop, narcissus, and anemone.
Need some support for climbing plants but don’t want to splurge on costly obelisks or armfuls of bamboo canes? Just let the needles drop fully off your Christmas tree, strip the trunk of excess branches and twigs (these could be saved and used for pea supports or to stake small tomato plants later in the year), and plant it out in a bed to act as a sturdy frame for climbers, such as clematis, honeysuckle, and even heavenly-scented sweet peas.
Cutting your tree up after the needles have dropped and leaving to dry out for a few months will also provide you with some fantastic firewood for your wood burner or firepit come summer.
Free crafting materials
Crafting can be an expensive hobby but not if you’re using materials you already have lying around. Get creative with festive remnants to fill the post-Christmas lull with a spot of crafting or give yourself a project for the New Year. Create wooden coasters and placemats using the trunk of your tree. Simply chop, sand and stain to avoid sap leakage, et voilà; beautiful home accessories!
Turn Christmas cards into tags for next year’s wrapping, homemade bookmarks (add a ribbon or tassel at one end for a personal touch), or even use it for a festive collage. Old cards can also be transformed into new Christmas decorations for your own tree or to give as gifts. Cut out the designs you like, glue them onto cardboard or wooden circles (another way to re-use some of your Christmas tree trunk), add ribbon or a dash of biodegradable glitter, and be sure to punch a hole so you have a way to hang them.
If you’ve popped a lot of corks over the festive period, they can come in handy to make your own festive place names using your favorite Christmas card designs and paperclips. Meanwhile, gather up scraps of wrapping paper for use in papier mâché projects, to adorn homemade Christmas cards, to cover notebooks, make 3D snowflake ornaments, or shred to use as filling for giftboxes.
Put leftovers to work
The best way to avoid food waste over Christmas is always to plan ahead and not overbuy but, if you’ve found yourself with a fridge or cupboard full of surplus food, there are great ways to ensure it all gets put to good use. Cook up a storm and transform leftovers into sensational suppers. Be bold and move away from predictable meals like turkey sandwiches or stews, by whipping up irresistible new dishes, such as a brussels sprouts pizza, quick and easy turkey and parsnip soup, tasty cranberry sauce cookies; and not forgetting the classic catch-all bubble & squeak! A simple search online will reveal all sorts of culinary delights, including these fantastic ideas.
Alternatively, list any surplus you know you won’t use on a food sharing app like OLIO or donate it to a local soup kitchen, food bank or shelter.
Even the wildlife in your garden can enjoy a treat with leftover suet or lard from your Christmas meat (but never turkey, as this doesn’t solidify in the same way and sticks to bird’s feathers). Leave suet or lard out in chunks on bird tables or fence posts for birds to nibble at or smear over pine cones and stud with dried fruit and unsalted nuts. Suet or lard can also be mixed with bird seed, breadcrumbs or mealworms and molded into fat balls, providing a welcome meal for feathered friends. If any roast potatoes are still going begging, they make for a tasty snack for birds, as can a portion of most cooked vegetables, including carrots, parsnips, sprouts and peas. Simply cut them up when they have cooled and put out on a bird feeding station. It’s best to avoid leaving anything on the ground, as it will attract rodents.
Pass on unwanted gifts
Sometimes, we don’t love everything we unwrap at Christmas but you can rest assured that someone else will. So, rather than leaving unwanted gifts hidden away in a drawer or throwing them in the bin, be sure to sell, donate or re-gift them. Support your local church, hospital, nursing home, homeless shelter, school, charity shop, animal shelter or library by donating any gifted items you don’t want or, if you could really do with the extra pennies yourself, list them on pre-loved apps like Vinted or Ebay.