Written by Megan Seis
December is upon us; the weather is warming up and Christmas is less than a month away. This is a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends, catch up and reflect on another year that’s gone by. It’s time to hit the shops and get shopping for Christmas presents, stock up on bon bons, as well as prepare the Christmas lunch feast; planning the turducken, making pavlova and trifles and cleaning the house ready for the relatives to come over.
This can be an exciting time filled with family, friends and fun, however, is often coupled with lavish meals and gifts with wasted food, unwanted presents and a lot of unnecessary packaging and wasted decorations. Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to minimise the impact this season can have on our environment so keep reading for 8 tips to be more sustainable this Christmas.
1. Reduce wrapping paper wastage
There are many ways to help reduce our wastage around presents and the way they are wrapped. Statistics have shown that Australians use more than 150,000km of wrapping paper during Christmas, which is enough to wrap around Earth’s equator nearly 4 times! To help this impact, try to reduce the wrapping paper used on gifts. You can even do this by saving boxes from online shopping and decorating these to give gifts in. Another idea is to wrap presents in cloth or tea towels to save paper or if you want to use wrapping paper, use recycled wrapping paper or newspaper.
2. Think carefully about gifts
Gifts can be difficult to buy and are often purchased just for the sake of giving. It can be tricky to find appropriate gifts for those “difficult to buy for” people and we easily fall into gifting presents they may not like and that may not be used. When thinking about gifts, Clean Up Australia recommends asking these questions; What’s it made of? And how long will it last? This helps purchase gifts that are useful and allows us to give gifts that will last. We can be more sustainable by minimising the purchase of single use gifts and by buying eco-friendly products or donating instead of buying. Another tip is to not put unwanted gifts in the bin – donate them or pass them on to another friend to prevent wastage.
3. Reduce your footprint with gift purchases
The purchasing of gifts themselves can have a significant environmental impact with production and transport costs. To help reduce this footprint, there are a few things we can do. Buy multiple items from the same place to reduce shipping costs and resources. Consider buying from suppliers who have a reduced carbon footprint and awareness themselves. Buy local and support local businesses. Supporting local initiatives like Buy from the Bush, can help keep Australian businesses running.
4. Be considerate with Christmas lunch
Christmas lunch can be another source of significant wastage. To help with this, choose to purchase local and organic foods which also happen to be fresh and healthy as well. Eat foods that are in season as these have travelled shorted distances to shops, are fresher and more nutritious. Don’t waste leftovers – keep them and eat them for the next few days or compost them. Avoid using plastic disposable cutlery, napkins and plates to prevent the additional rubbish and wastage this can contribute to.
5. Reduce energy usage with decorations
Reduce lights used for decorations or use LED lights to reduce your energy use this festive season. This will also save some money on electricity as well.
6. Gift an experience
Gifting an experience reduces the demand for physical resources and reduces the labour of producing a gift. This for example can include tickets for a show, concert or event, a restaurant card or coupon so the recipient can spend it as they please and gifts aren’t wasted.
7. Be considerate with your waste
Being considerate of the amount we are throwing out and where this rubbish is going can help us be more sustainable this summer. Put out a separate bin for recyclables while entertaining and use leftover wrapping paper and decorations for craft. Another tip is to consider sending out e-cards instead of traditional cards to save paper.
8. Be resourceful with your decorations
Being resourceful with decorations to reduce wastage and supplies can help us be more sustainable this Christmas. Reuse your Christmas tree from last year or invest in a live potted tree you can keep year round. Make your own eco-friendly decorations inspired by nature using branches, fallen leaves, burlap, etc. Consider whether you can up-cycle old decorations into new ones or reuse decorations from last year to reduce your environmental impact.
Christmas is one of the best times of the year and can be lots of fun. If you want more tips or tricks to be sustainable this Christmas, Clean Up Australia and the WWF both have good websites for tips and tricks to help you out.