GIY - How to have a more Sustainable Christmas

Founder of GIY Michael Kelly has some top tips for us all in order to enjoy a guilt-free and more ecological Christmas at home as well as tips to live more sustainably in 2022. Michael is sharing his own environmentally friendly Christmas tips that he has practised over the years; his passion for sustainable and seasonal living spans over 10 years now and he shares some of the things he has learned in order to have a more eco-friendly festive season. 

Top Tree Tips

Michael says, when it comes to the tree, choose a live one; live trees are a renewable resource and are replanted on tree farms contributing to our air quality and natural ecosystems. “You could also opt for a potted tree for indoors and then enjoy a ‘Nature Restoration’ activity with the family after Christmas as you plant it outside again or place it outside in a large pot and decorate it for the birds with seed balls, peanut butter and seed trays. It’s a fun activity for the kids and offers an important food source during the long cold winter days of winter for the birds. And finally, on the tree, for décor you could enjoy making some Dried Fruit Garlands and Trig tree stars and of course, use LED lights on the Christmas tree and at home.

Dinner Time Wins

On to the dinner, the first tip is to buy less. Every year Irish households dump tonnes of food waste - we never need as much as we think so don't fill that trolley.

A turkey and ham dinner with all of the traditional trimmings can see tens of thousands of food miles racked up. We all need to make a more conscious effort of buying as local as possible. Buy your food from a farmers' market or direct from producers themselves. Not only will it taste better but it is a more sustainable food shopping practice. Most people buy a bird that is actually too big – so perhaps re-consider how much you actually need. And if you do have leftovers – get creative with the leftovers; a turkey carcass makes great stock for soups and you can compost the vegetable peel. If you’re stuck for a trecipe check out GIY’s Grow Cook Eat book, featuring seasonal recipes from over 35 of the biggest names in food, including Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Dylan McGrath, Donal Skehan, Darina Allen & more.

Or you could ditch with tradition and go veggie for dinner. It’s possible to enjoy the most delicious veggie Christmas dinner with nut loaves, veggie cottage pies and delicious in-season tasty veg. Local and seasonal vegetables mean fewer food miles and artificial ripening methods; potatoes, parsnips, carrots and sprouts are all grown in Ireland and available in December. Supermarkets will often use veg as loss leaders to get us in to the store at Christmas. This is bad news for our Irish veg growers as the price tends to be permanently lowered and we end up putting them out of business. Remember, there’s always a cost to cheap food so be prepared to pay a fair price for your turkey, ham and Christmas veg. If you’re adding gravy and purchasing an instant one be sure to choose a recyclable glass jar – basically when shopping try to avoid plastic packaging.

Another tip is to go organic, for both meat and vegetables – it’s a great way to ensure there are no chemicals being used in the production of the food and it’s kinder to the planet.

Start To Upcycle – with visitors calling it’s natural to fill your recycling bin more often at Christmas time, but this can be a good thing for food growers! You will likely find very useful veggie-growing aids in the shape of pots and other containers. Keep an eye out for yoghurt cartons and toilet roll inserts for sowing seeds in. Clear punnets and milk bottles can act as cloches in spring when seedlings are first put out into the soil.

Go green with gifts

Homemade gifts are not only thoughtful but make for a more unusual and unique present. Homemade treats or sauces are completely unique. In the GIY Know-It-Allmanac, we have some delicious recipes for Rocket Pesto, homemade ketchup or Beetroot Chocolate Brownies all so simple that even kids can make them successfully. Ideally, reuse wrapping paper and if you do feel you have to buy some then avoid the shiny and buy some brown paper which is fully recyclable. GIY’s Know-it-Allmanac is published by GIY. It is a 104-page hardback and is available now from all good book shops and also online at and is priced at €25.00

Christmas is also a wonderful time to reconnect with nature. Consider starting a family tradition of a nature walk or plan a small patch of the garden for growing your family’s favourites during 2022. The GIY Know-it-Allmanac is a month-by-month guide to growing, cooking and eating food and it has all the tips and tricks that you could need. It focuses on seasonal foods and highlights each month’s significant dates, likely weather, along with ‘get crafty’ projects and garden to-do lists.

New Year’s Resolutions for the planet

• Make The GIY Switch – all of the food choices we make has an impact on the environment, some more harmful than others. With food production responsible for almost one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, a change in attitudes is radically needed if we are to avert climate change. So, what we eat matters and how it is grown and produced matters even more. People who grow their own food gain a deeper understanding of how the global food system works. This knowledge will not only help you to lead a healthier life but also a more sustainable one. The GIY Ultimate Starter GROWBox has everything you need to get going on your green journey. It is available from for €39.99 and if you need some handholding the Ultimate Starter course is available online for €30.00.

• Getting Started – after making the decision to start growing your own food you’ll probably have the urge to grow ALL of your food. But fight the temptation! Growing is a skill, and like any skill worth having it takes time. So, while you have downtime over Christmas, start off small and pick what you want to grow and where to grow it. Make sure to factor in how much space you have to work with. While growing can be done anywhere (on a windowsill/balcony/greenhouse/garden) not all plants require the same amount of space!

• Choose Organic Pesticides – Christmas brings a time of new beginnings, both in the garden and in life! Whether you grow your own food or not, avoiding artificial pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides go a long way to living a more sustainable lifestyle. Buying organic, in-season produce from local producers may raise your Christmas dinner bill slightly but the planet will thank you. For you GIYers, replace chemical pesticides with green manure and garden compost, or mulch poor soils with manure. Boost plant health with nutrient-rich tonics or liquid feeds such as comfrey tea, nettle tea or liquid seaweed!

• Foraging Seaweed – if you’re one of the brave who attempts a Christmas morning swim, grab some seaweed while you’re there as a Christmas pressie for your beds. Avoid pulling seaweed off rocks, collect it from the beach instead if it has washed up after a storm. Some say to rinse your seaweed before adding it to your soil, but we think the salt helps to keep slugs away from our precious crops!

For further green living and growing tips see

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