Christmas, Sustainability

Sustainable Christmas with Kids

What if Christmas were all about experiences? Time together? Any maybe a

What if Christmas were all about experiences? Time together? Any maybe a few, valued, long-lasting new items?

Sharon Keilthy, founder of Ireland’s eco toystore Jiminy.ie, shares her ideas for a green Christmas – share yours below in comments!


Child plays with PLAYin CHOC plastic-free advent calendar

Advent calendars don’t have to involve several layers of plastic! You can make or buy fill-it-yourself Advent calendars (think experiences, or puzzle pieces, family photos, in-jokes, instead of plastic toys or plastic-encased treats!), or an increasing number of plastic-free Advent calendars.

Gift an experience

  • Buy day pass, annual pass, or just a voucher for a day out;
  • Or don’t buy anything, just craft a memorable trip together;
  • Jiminy’s plantable experience gift cards make a nice “something to hand them on the day”.

Gift pre-loved

The higher quality the toy, the more likely it will be resold in condition good enough to gift! Browse:

Gift sustainable new

Look for toys made from recycled materials, or plants – wood, bioplastic, bamboo. 90% of a toy’s carbon footprint is what it’s made of; its packaging and how far it has travelled are the other 10%. As Ireland’s eco toystore, Jiminy.ie specialises in sustainably-made new toys, but you’ll also find some in most toystores – and it’s a nice micro-activism to ask for the ‘eco section’ even if the response is a blank look!


Recycled and recyclable wrapping paper Ireland

Plastic-coated (shiny / metallic / glittery) wrapping paper can’t be recycled, but matt “normal paper” wrapping paper can! If you can tear it, it’s recyclable.

Look for wrapping paper that’s been recycled and can be recycled again.

The most eco-friendly Christmas tree is one that already exists (or a locally-grown and recycled real tree)

What’s better, a real tree, a fake tree, or a cardboard tree?

  1. The reusable tree you already have, or can buy pre-loved, is the best;
  2. If you need to buy new, a real Christmas tree grown locally is best:
    1. Ideally a living tree you can use for several years. Check-out pot-grown trees (not grown in the earth and then potted – those die quickly) like these;
    2. Failing a reusable living tree, a single-use real tree from a tree farm that you recycle or compost afterwards;
  3. Or, plant your own Christmas tree!

…Please, please don’t buy a new artificial tree.

But…”a new plastic reusable tree is best if you use it for 5 years or more” – you’ve heard that before, right? I don’t believe it, and here’s why:

  1. That statement is based on 2 solitary studies paid for by the ACTA (American association for producers of plastic Christmas trees), both overseen by the same 2 people. Do you think they’re unbiased?
  2. Those studies:
  • Accept that making artificial trees from metal and plastic, and transporting from China, emits lots of CO2 (and we agree, that’s just science);
  • Say that composting trees emits lots of CO2 (but the EPA says composting is carbon-negative);
  • Forgets that the real tree is replaced on the tree farm by new-grown trees – which will absorb as much CO2 as the dead tree emits – that’s the natural carbon cycle.

The New York Times quotes Mr. O’Connor of the N.C.T.A (American association for sellers of real trees) as rejecting the study’s findings, saying it was “fall-off-your-horse simple that a tree made out of oil, turned into PVC plastic in China and shipped over on a boat, cannot be better than growing a real tree.”

Companies and associations have in the past spread misinformation to support their own agendas. E.g.: March 1988, Du Pont Chair Richard E. Heckert to the United States Senate, “…scientific evidence does not point to the need for dramatic CFC emission reductions. There is no available measure of the contribution of CFCs to any observed ozone change…” (source)

This video lacks data / legible sources but it’s accurate (to my knowledge), it makes the points well, and is nicely shareable! 

Crackers and games for Christmas Day

Traditional Christmas crackers have been the source of an hour’s fun and then gone to landfill. In Ireland we estimate that over 10 million are pulled every year! Laid end-to-end, they would stretch from here to the North Pole!

So reusable Christmas crackers are a refreshing change to this (like with the Advents, fill with family in-jokes, photos, “Who Am I” game cards, home-made treats), or more and more shops are stocking plastic-free crackers.

Reusable Christmas crackers

Occupy the kids over the holidays

  • Do you have a local toy libraryCheck Jiminy’s map here ;
  • Stock-up on books from your local library before it closes for the holidays.


More veggies, less meat. ‘Just enough food’ and freezing leftovers to minimise waste. We’re not experts in this area so just flagging it as one to think about!


The biggest thing we can all do for our planet this Christmas is to stay local or travel over land and sea. Every flight we skip is a huge Christmas gift to our planet, even if we off-set. Our planet needs us to plant the “off-set” trees and also skip the flight 🙂

Sharon Keilthy
Founder & CEO

Inspiring a playfully sustainable future!
www.jiminy.ie | @jiminy.ie | +353 1 851 2047

As seen on: RTE News (watch) | Late Late Toy Show | Irish Times 100 Retailers
Winner: Chambers Ireland Sustainable Business Impact Award 2022, Business Spirit Award 2020
1st runner-up: Small Business Website of the Year 2021 (Digital Business Ireland)
Awardee: Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Programme 2022, Let Toys Be Toys inclusive toystore Toymark

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