Sweet treats

More unwanted “stuff” at Christmas? No thanks – try giving something edible instead. Chocolate workshops at the National Trust’s medieval Powis Castle and Garden near Welshpool, include handmade chocolate robins and stars, and sparkly chocolate shards (19 December, £27.50). In York – original home of Rowntree’s and Terry’s factories – chocolate workshops at York Cocoa House range from drop-in lollipop-making (£3.75), to masterclasses on specialities, such as ganaches and caramels (various dates, £55 adult, £28 child).

In the Gloucestershire Hills, Harts Barn Cookery School in the Forest of Dean is running Christmas cookery classes throughout December, including children’s edible decorations and edible gifts classes (gingerbread men, marshmallow penguins, chocolate lollies and reindeer pretzels, 15 December, from £25), and Christmas chocolate-making for adults (1 December, £50), with truffles and more to take away.

Harts Barn Cookery School with showy field through window

Harts Barn Cookery School, for edible gifts and decorations

For something savoury, learn the secrets of creating quick pickles at the Salt Box sustainably minded cookery school’s Pickle like a Pro workshop (11 December, £45) near Redhill in Surrey, which also includes a festive drink and a two-course meal. Classes take place in a private woodland glen and cosy barn.

Unusual ornaments

Christmas at The Piece Hall, Halifax

Christmas at The Piece Hall, Halifax

Piece Hall in Halifax – a recently restored 18th-century cloth hall that now has independent shops and eateries around its vast courtyard – is running a series of Christmas events and workshops, including making felt decorations with heritage cloth (17 December, £5.50) and felted snowman sessions for children (ages 6 and over, 21 December, £7.50).

Kokedama – living baubles - at Wisley.

Kokedama – living baubles – at Wisley

In Surrey, the Royal Horticultural Society’s 97-hectare Wisley Garden – one of the UK’s most-visited gardens – has a workshop on “living baubles” – known in Japan as kokedama (£15, 4 December), alongside free children’s decoration-making sessions using woodland materials (14-15 December). Also for children, and inspired by a new exhibition, Flights of Fancy: the Wondrous World of Quentin Blake (running until April 2020), The National Trust’s Nymans house in West Sussex is running decoration workshops (various dates, £3).

In Glasgow, Locavore, an organic and sustainable food shop and cafe close to Queen’s Park, has a workshop (23 November, £10) on upcycling old books to become paper decorations, such as intricate snowflakes and folded trees.

Alternative wreaths

The Salt Gallery in Saltaire, West Yorkshire

The Salt Gallery, Saltaire, West Yorkshire. Photograph: John Davidson Photos/Alamy

Choose from an array of textures and colours to make fabric wreaths at Water Lane Boathouse in Leeds’s Granary Wharf. The former 19-century shipment warehouse is now a laid-back waterside pub run by the team behind the city’s multi-arts venue, Belgrave Music Hall.

A few miles to the west in Saltaire, the preserved Victorian industrial village in Shipley, the Craft House will be running origami textile wreath workshops (£55, 14 December) and papercut light-up wreaths (£30, 24 Nov). Round the corner, Salts Mill, a former textile mill turned art centre, has shops, restaurants and Christmas events.

paper flower wreath made from pages of a book

Make a paper flower wreath at Arlington Court, Devon

At the National Trust’s Gibside, an 18th-century estate in Tyne and Wear, there will be paper wreath-making sessions (£45, 7 December) in Garden Cottage in a restored walled garden. Also using paper, the NT’s Arlington Court near Barnstaple in Devon has festive paper flower wreaths sessions (£8, 23 December).

To go fully-zero waste, make decorations that can be eaten after use: on the edge of the Lake District, medieval Sizergh Castle and gardens near Kendal is running gingerbread decoration workshops (14-15 December, £3.50), for all ages.

Sustainable crackers

Reusable fabric crackers dramatically reduce Christmas waste

Reusable fabric crackers dramatically reduce Christmas waste

Brits pull an estimated 154m crackers every Christmas. Recent calls to ban them because of the amount of plastic waste they produce have seen a surge in eco-friendly alternatives. Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery, in the centre of the historic Shropshire town, has eco cracker-making session (£20, 24 December), using recycled materials and filler choices including fair trade chocolate, handmade bath bombs and bee-friendly seed bombs.

As part of the Zero Waste Goods Christmas Market at the Boiler House, on Brick Lane in east London, fabric, plus natural and upcycled materials will be used to create reusable crackers (£24, including entry to the market, 7 December).

In Hull, UK City of Culture 2017, eco-cracker and wrapping paper workshops (4 December, £19.99), are on offer at cocktail bar and creative space the Brain Jar in the Old Town – named one of Britain’s “hippest neighbourhoods” last year. Run in association with nearby zero-waste store the Eco Shed, sessions will also include vegan mince pies and fizz.

Bristol – the UK’s first European Green Capital – is not to be outdone, of course. Craft company Hunter Gatherings is running eco-friendly cracker- and stocking-making workshops (from £28, various dates) at Convoy Espresso – a cafe in two Airstream trailers at the Paintwork creative quarter, and at Brockley Stores farm shop, 10 miles south-west of the city.

Upcycled wrapping

Recycled gift wrap to make at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Recycled gift wrap to make at the National Botanic Garden of Wales

Shop-bought gift paper is often plastic-based and can’t be recycled. The National Botanic Gardens of Wales, in Llanarthney, is running a sustainable gift wrap and tag workshop (£11.50, 1 December, including entry into the gardens), using materials fully compostable or recyclable after use. In Dundee, zero-waste shop the Little Green Larder has an eco gift wrap workshop (30 November, £15), which includes paper, gift bags and cards, nibbles and a festive drink – all a 20-minute walk from the regenerated waterfront area and new V&A.

With the chance to create a linocut stamp to take away and use for printing your gift wrap every Christmas, Paper Moon Print Studio is running a workshop (11 December, £32) at Liverpool’s Static Gallery. This multi-arts venue is in a former warehouse close to the city’s creative Ropeworks district, which also made the “hippest neighbourhood” ranking last year. Also including a take-home stamp is a festive linocut workshop (27 November, £33), at Grade II-listed Didsbury Parsonage on the outskirts of Manchester.

Christmas decorations at Coal Drops Yard, King’sCross

Christmas decorations at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross. Photograph: John Sturrock

In Coal Drops Yard, in London’s King’s Cross, independent printer Hato Press has festive gift wrap printing (£10 donation, all proceeds donated to Shelter, 28 November and 5 December), using FSC-certified and recycled paper . The workshops will be held at new indie magazine and clothing shop Kiosk N1C, part of a programme of charitable festive events in the shops and restaurants of this recently regenerated city space.

Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to see a range of fantastic trips

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