Dreaming of a Green Christmas?

Nobody wants to be the Grinch, especially after the tough year we’ve just come through. But we can have an eco-friendly and sustainable holiday season without sacrificing fun and friendship – or our planet.

So here’s our guide to stepping up to a lower-waste festive season while you have just as much fun. (Actually, make that more fun!) 

2020 has redefined priorities for many of us, and our promises to ourselves to take action to care for our environment seem more urgent. We want to to share time with family and friends and celebrate a green Christmas with delicious meals, meaningful gifts and fun times, without it costing the Earth.

Before you rush of on a big shopping spree (as attractive as hitting the shops again seems), stop and think: do you really need fresh decorations and a new plastic tree? Are you actually going to eat all those prawns, as well as a turkey and a leg of ham? Wouldn’t a jug of icy water taste just as good as some from a plastic bottle? And did you know that most shiny wrapping paper is coated with plastic and is non-recyclable? And that tinsel and glitter are both made from plastic and will end up in landfill- or worse, in our oceans?

Plan for a green Christmas

With just a little bit of planning and effort, you can have the holiday fun you deserve at the end of 2020 without adding to the junk – we use more than 150,000 km of wrapping paper each Christmas, to name just one problem, and throw out 25% more food than usual.

The holiday season is tough on our finances too. In 2018, Australians spent $400 million on unwanted gifts, an ING survey revealed. The gifts that people were least enthralled by were novelty items, candles, pamper products, pyjamas and slippers, and underwear and socks. So if those are on your gifting list, rethink them!

Avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle, dispose

Use the Avoid – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle – Dispose hierarchy when you make your buying decisions. Don’t buy products with excessive packaging or single-use plastics. Buy only as much food as you’ll realistically consume. Keep your decorations and wrapping paper for next year. Dispose of your rubbish in the correct bin or in the compost pile.

So here’s our guide to stepping up to a lower-waste festive season while you have just as much fun. (Actually, make that more fun!)

Instead of… Decorating with a plastic tree or one that has been chopped down.

Why not try… A tree in a pot that will last year after year, or make one from wood offcuts or branches.

Instead of… Choosing novelty gifts and heavily packaged products, such as pamper packs and food hampers. 

Why not try… Giving vouchers for experiences, like a movie pass or a trip to a family attraction. A subscription to The Big Issue, a great read that supports the Women’s Subscription Enterprise, helps vulnerable women to earn an income.

Instead of… Buying socks and undies for Granddad and Uncle Alan, pyjamas for Grandma and slippers for Aunt Shirley.

Why not try… Donations to charitiesOxfam Unwrapped and The Smith Family are good places to start. They even send a greeting card to let your person know you’ve donated on their behalf. And they’d appreciate it even more this year with many fundraising events having been cancelled.   

Instead of… Wrapping piles of gifts in metallic gift wrap.

Why not try… Buying a roll of butcher’s paper or recycled Kraft paper and decorating it with paint or crayons (get the kids involved), or leave as is and finish it off with a jolly fabric, raffia or jute bow.

Instead of… Hanging traditional Christmas lights.

Why not try… Good quality LED lights that will last year after year, and use at least 80% less energy!

Instead of… Buying separate gifts for everybody.

Why not try… Having a Kris Kringle gift exchange instead, where everybody gives and receives one thoughtful gift. You can set a spending limit, and there’s even an app for that.

Instead of… Chucking all your post-Christmas waste in the bin without sorting it.

Why not try… Setting up a three-bin recycling system in your home and asking your guests to sort their waste following the new Australasian Recycling Label to get it right.

Instead of… Putting your food leftovers in the bin.

Why not try… Calculating quantities carefully to avoid waste in the first place, storing leftovers for the next day in the fridge, and composting the rest. If you don’t have a composting facility, check out ShareWaste to see if there’s a neighbour who’d like it.

Instead of… Buying the kids cheap plastic toys that won’t last.

Why not try… Buying Recycled – browse here or choose environmentally conscious books, wooden toys, and check out these cute toys made from recycled plastic milk bottles.

Instead of… Decorating the tree with plastic or polystyrene decorations.

Why not try… Using natural materials that can be recycled or composted. Scour your local markets and shops, or better still, have a crafty afternoon and make your own – there are plenty of ideas online. Then keep them for next year, and the year after so that you can recycle your happy memories.

Instead of… Using disposable plates and cutlery.

Why not try… Choosing washable crockery and cutlery and cloth napkins. If you don’t have enough, pop into your local op shop (you can re-donate them afterwards). Quirky plates alternating with neutral classics can make for a fun table setting.

Instead of… Shopping at the last minute and stuffing your trolley with more than you need, spending more than you have.

Why not try… Planning your festive meals. Make a list, and check your pantry for what you already have. Who needs duplicates of marzipan and mixed peel? Love food, hate waste.

Instead of… Cracking open mass-produced Christmas crackers/bonbons filled with useless plastic toys and lame jokes

Why not try… Buying eco-friendly bonbons (search online) or make your own. Use toilet or paper towel inners or rolled-up card, wrap them in fabric offcuts or recyclable paper and tie the ends with coloured string or fabric. Fill them with your own lame jokes, paper hats and treats like stainless steel straws, packets of seeds or bamboo pens or pencils.

If 2020 has taught us just one thing, it’s that we can live with less stuff and more kindness – to each other and to the planet. The decisions we make can change the world. Let’s make our small changes the biggest gift this Christmas.

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