An illustration of common holly

An illustration of common holly (Ilex aquifolium). The berries are popular with birds, but mildly poisonous to humans - so it's best to keep any reserved for crafting out of reach of children.

Three ways to go eco-friendly at Christmas

It's easy to go overboard at Christmas, but there are plenty of options to cut back on plastic and other single-use materials.

Here are three crafts to help make the festive season a little more eco-friendly.

Read on for instructions on how to make a natural Christmas wreath, how to wrap presents in an eco-friendly way and how to make your own beeswax wraps.

1. How to make a natural Christmas wreath

Christmas wreaths are a great decoration to make at home, but a number of methods suggest using non-biodegradable and single-use materials such as floral foam.

It is possible to make a wreath that you can compost at the end of the festive season. Any materials that can't be composted can be reused next year.

You will need:

  • foliage
  • gloves
  • pruning shears
  • twine
  • ribbon

1. Find a spot where you have permission to collect foliage.

2. Put on your gloves and carefully pick some foliage that is varied in size, colour and texture.

3. To create the base of the wreath, select some of the larger, more flexible branches. Bend them into a circle and secure with twine. 

Twist the large branches into a circle to create a base for your wreath

4. Use your remaining foliage to build up the wreath. Working around the circle, tie on smaller branches and leaves. Make sure you've got plenty of overlapping foliage and check the wreath from all angles so there are no big gaps.

5. Weave in any loose ends around the edge and decorate your wreath by tying on pine cones, feathers or other items you've collected.

6. Tie on a ribbon and use it to hang your wreath for all to see.

7. When you take your Christmas decorations down in January, don't forget to compost your wreath. 

Use the ribbon to hang your wreath up somewhere for all to see

When collecting foliage for your wreath, remember that cuttings of evergreens, such as conifer and holly, will last longer.

If you collect ivy and berries, make sure they are kept away from children and pets as they can be poisonous.

Try to use twine and ribbon made of 100% natural fibre, such as cotton. If you use non-biodegradable materials such as nylon, carefully detach them from the wreath before composting and try to reuse them next year. 

2. How to do eco-friendly gift wrapping

Presents are a big part of Christmas, but tape, wrapping paper and gift cards are often made of or contain non-biodegradable plastics, such as glitter.

Here's a way to go more eco-friendly and make your gift stand out under the tree.

You will need:

  • brown paper
  • twine
  • foliage
  • metallic pen
  • eco-friendly paint
  • scissors
  • paintbrush

1. Head outside to collect leaves and pine cones that you'll use later to decorate your present.

2. Back inside, roll out your brown paper on a flat surface. Weigh down the corners to make sure it can't roll back up.

You could use an eco-friendly paint to make unique wrapping paper

3. Select a leaf with a clear shape. A fresh or very recently fallen leaf will work much better than one that is dry and crumbling. Cover the leaf with paint on one side.

4. Press the leaf onto your brown paper like a stamp. Carefully peel it off so you don't smudge the pattern. Repeat this process all over the paper until it's fully decorated, and leave it lying flat to dry.

Decorate your gift with plant cuttings and a leaf name tag

5. Once the paper is dry, you can begin wrapping your presents. Instead of using plastic, non-recyclable tape, you could try an origami method and secure the paper in place with twine or cotton ribbon.

6. Using the foliage you collected earlier, tie some decorations onto your present to make it stand out. 

7. For a gift tag, you could write a Christmas message on a large leaf or just write directly onto the wrapping paper. Then, pop the present under the tree. 

When printing on your brown paper, make sure you are working on a wipe-clean surface, just in case of any mess.

Instead of painted brown paper, a reusable alternative is natural fibre material secured with a knot or twine.

For decorations on your present, as with the Christmas wreath, cuttings of evergreens will last longer.

3. How to make beeswax wraps

Is your New Year's resolution to get rid of single-use plastic? Or do you need to find a present for an eco-conscious person in your life?

Beeswax wraps are a popular choice for replacing cling film. These homemade food wraps are reusable and very quick to make.

You will need:

  • 100% cotton material
  • sustainably sourced beeswax (pure or cosmetic grade)
  • grater
  • baking paper
  • iron
  • scissors

1. Cut the cotton to the desired shape and size and lie it flat on a sheet of baking paper on top of a heat-resistant surface.

2. Grate a thin, even layer of beeswax over the cotton. If you're using beeswax pellets, sprinkle on a thin layer.
Cover the beeswax with another piece of baking paper. 

Use an iron on a low heat setting to gently melt and spread the wax across your cotton material

3. Heat an empty iron on a wool setting, or to around 150°C.

4. Gently iron over the top sheet of baking paper to melt the beeswax into the cotton and use it to gently push the wax to the edges. If there are any gaps, sprinkle on a little more wax and melt with the iron.

5. Leave the beeswax wrap to cool then peel it off the paper. Remove any excess wax left on the paper or clinging to the edges of the wrap and use it to make another.

Once the wax has hardened, peel it off the baking paper and it's ready to use

6. Use your newly made beeswax wrap to cover food while it's stored in the fridge. Using the warmth of your hands, press the wrap around the food to mould it into shape. Make sure the food is cool before wrapping.

7. To reuse your wraps, wash them with a mild dish soap and cool water and leave flat or hang to dry. 

Beeswax has a low melting point, so make sure the item you're wrapping is cool before using the wraps

Make sure what you're wrapping is at room temperature, as beeswax has a low melting point and may get on your food or containers if they're too warm. This also means that beeswax wraps are not suitable for microwave use.

If your wraps start to lose their stickiness or noticeable folds appear, you can refresh them by ironing each wrap between two sheets of baking paper. Let them cool and harden before using again. 

Protecting our planet

We're working towards a future where both people and the planet thrive.

Hear from scientists studying human impact and change in the natural world.