All I want for Christmas is … a plastic free ocean!

Martin Dorey, surfer, writer and anti-plastic campaigner is full of ideas for reducing your plastic footprint and helping to heal our oceans. In his book, No. More. Plastic., he explains why it’s vital to live without single use plastic. Here he gives us his tips on how to enjoy a less wasteful, more principled and soulful Yuletide – without the plastic!

So, you saw Blue Planet 2. You – and the rest of us – were deeply shocked at the state of the oceans. Enough to make changes. You stopped buying bottled water. You gave up the straws. You are starting to save the world, one piece of plastic at a time. Good on you!

But now it’s time to take on the big one – the carnival of consumption and convenience that is Christmas. You can do it, of course, because you believe in a better way. You can tame this beast, because you know that the result will be a future with a healthier ocean. Your gift to the planet and to your children, if you like.

Goodness knows our seas, waterways and oceans need something special this year. They are choking because of our wasteful excesses and because of the plastics we allow to pollute them. Plastic is toxic, has recently been proven to release greenhouse gasses, and becomes more toxic in seawater. It doesn’t biodegrade and simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Fish and seabirds mistake it for food. Whales and dolphins eat it and get entangled in plastic rope and nets. Mussels ingest tiny fragments of plastic from our washing machines. And, whether we like it or not, it’s coming back at us.

We might do our beach cleans – well done all! – but the only way we’re really going to make a difference is by stopping the plastic at source. And that means making some important – and easy – Christmas choices.

Christmas is NOT cancelled

The great news is that you CAN enjoy a plastic-free Christmas without having to do without. It just needs a little thinking around the subject, some creativity, and perhaps even a nod to what our parents and grandparents did. How did they do Christmas without plastic?

ANSWER: They did it very well, actually.

Plastic-free giving

The giving of gifts is a symbolic gesture, an act of love. It isn’t about how much you can spend, how generous you are or what a show you want to put on, no matter what our culture tells us we need to do. So how about spending a little more time thinking and a little less time shopping. Make some fudge, sew some bags of lavender, bake biscuits or look for days out and experiences that your loved ones can enjoy and will remember long after the plastic presents have gone to landfill. A surf lesson? A day out to the London Aquarium? Give a gift with love and the ocean will thank you.

Wrap it up, sweetie

The next bit is easy too! Forget the foil and plastic paper and go for something simpler and more natural – like real paper – that can easily be recycled!!! How about buying plain newsprint and drawing on it, wrapping gifts for your friends in scarves (from your local charity shop, maybe) or just using old newspapers and jollying them up with coloured string or cotton ribbon. And ditch the sticky tape and bubble wrap. It’s plastic too.

The tree without the trash

You might need to forgo your plastic tree this year. Fake is so… fake news. Get a real tree with real roots that you can pot up and use again next year and the year after. It’ll smell better and will make Christmas more real than ever. Dump the tinsel too, and the baubles and the fake decorations and try some new (old) and better ways to decorate your house. Paper chains are fun to make. Dried slices of oranges, lemons and grapefruits smell amazing and can be hung from the branches (and composted afterwards). Spice them up with cloves or wrap up cinnamon sticks and hang them in coloured cotton ribbon. Make gingerbread men and women and hide them in the branches! If you can afford it, start a tradition by buying your kids a glass bauble each year.

Christmas dinner and none of the trimmings

Plastic free shopping is easily done, really, with a little shift in your mindset. Think about where it will go once you’ve done with it – do you know exactly what will happen to it? Be patient with those who don’t know better. They are going to try and force a bag, a straw, a plastic tub on you. But you can resist! You don’t need all the plastic trimmings.

Take your time to stay away from the supermarkets and seek out plastic free shops, farmers’ markets, bakeries, butchers and greengrocers. Sometimes it’s going to seem like a chore, but it is worth it. Every piece of plastic you DON’T use is one less piece going to landfill or the ocean. Take old takeaway cartons with you to the deli to refill, remember your reusable bags and try to avoid buying products wrapped in plastic. If they are, make sure they can be recycled. If it says ‘cannot currently be recycled’ avoid it like the Christmas plague.

When it comes to Christmas boozing, consider getting a Soda Stream for your mixer bubbles and kids’ refreshments, and avoid plastic bottles or single serve cans of tonic for your G and T. Got it? Great.

Happy Christmas!!!


Christmas is glitzy, but most of the gloss comes from fakery, plastic and cheap tat. You don’t need it. And neither does Christmas! Ditch it!

  • Balloons
  • Tinsel
  • Plastic baubles
  • Plastic and foil wrapping paper
  • Plastic packaging
  • Sticky tape
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic straws
  • Throwaway glasses, cups, plates, cutlery
  • Shop bought crackers and decorative tat


Having a plastic free Christmas is all about reusing, making and thinking. It’s about traditional values and making do with what we’ve got. Greed goes out the window – as it did for our grandparents.

  • Real trees with roots
  • Paper chains
  • Home-made decorations
  • Bad Dad jokes in home-made crackers
  • Gummed tape and string
  • Crayons and newsprint wrapping
  • Bags for life
  • Paper straws
  • Real glasses, cups and plates
  • Reused takeaway tubs at the deli
  • Home baked goods for pressies
  • Gifts of experiences and memories

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