It’s that time of year again! While we’re all looking forward to some down time with loved ones, unfortunately, the Christmas period is synonymous with overspending, overindulgence and overconsumption.
From excess packaging and Boxing Day sales to food waste and unwanted gifts, the few days of the holiday period can have disastrous long-term effects on the planet. But it’s not all doom and gloom! We’ve put together this simple guide to help ensure your Christmas planning and celebrations don’t cost the environment, plus you’ll save a bunch of money and have some fun along the way!
GIFT EXPERIENCES OVER STUFF
Australians have never been more deprived of experiences than they are right now (thank you coronavirus) so instead of hitting the shops, consider gifting a fun experience instead. Even better if it’s something you can share together. Think along the lines of a show or gig, a nice meal out, a workshop or class, a day trip out of Melbourne or even a couple of movie tickets, because how much do we all miss a good night out at the cinema? Not only will this quality time together brighten what’s been a dull year, it means no packaging, no dumping at the op shop and best of all, no shopping crowds!
GIFT CONSUMABLES OVER LONG-LASTING ITEMS
If you’re more inclined to give “stuff”, consider buying presents that can be consumed so they don’t end up as part of the 20 million unwanted gifts Australians receive at Christmas time. A bottle of local gin, some ethical coffee, a mushroom grow bag and some handmade soap are all things that can be used up and enjoyed, leaving little waste behind. Bonus points if you make them yourself! There are plenty of recipes for cookies, jams, cordial, and other goodies floating around on the internet, so get your hands dirty to make it extra meaningful.
WRAP REUSABLE OR RECYCLED
Each year, Australians use enough wrapping paper to wrap the equator almost 4 times. That’s an enormous amount of waste! Instead of buying new wrapping paper, consider using old newspapers, magazines or material as gift wraps. Another option is stockpiling wraps and ties throughout the year from gifts, flowers or packaging and reusing them at Christmas. For a double whammy you could even cover gifts in beeswax wraps, which the lucky recipient can enjoy in place of glad wrap for all eternity. Gift tags can be made out of last year’s cards, or really any piece of old card. Make do with what you have lying around and the planet (and your wallet!) will thank you.
THINK SUSTAINABLE OVER DISPOSABLE
There are so many eco friendly options you can embrace when setting your table. Bust out the good dinner set over throwaway plates and cutlery. Use washable material napkins over paper - even buying a reusable Christmas set is better than a yearly stack of paper wrapped in plastic destined for the bin. Avoid the plastic junk and rubbish jokes when you make your own crackers with a chocolate or eco-friendly gift inside (think bamboo toothbrush or metal straw). A box of Who Gives a Crap loo roll will not only provide cardboard tubes as a base, but the colourful wrappers can be reused for the outside layer. Lastly, decorate your table with some flowers, pine cones or sprigs of herbs, all of which can be found in the garden or at the park.
GET CLEVER WITH LEFTOVERS
Food waste is a huge problem at Christmas, which is particularly alarming given 4-13% of the general Australian population are food insecure. Even with the most careful planning, you can be stuck with leftovers after your Christmas feast but the good news is that it’s remarkably easy to stop this food going to waste. Start by sending all guests home with a container of leftovers, they’ll thank you on Boxing Day! Freeze what you can for future meals before getting creative with what’s left. You’d be amazed by how many soups, tarts, curries and sandwiches you can whip up from Christmas leftovers. Bon appetit!
LESS MEAT = LESS HEAT
Plant based foods are not only great for you (resulting in a much more manageable food hangover) but they have far less impact on the planet. This Christmas, up the health factor and incorporate more lentils, beans and veggies into your dishes. If you shop locally and seasonally, then you’re not only supporting local growers but are likely to get the best quality and least packaged produce. If you can’t imagine a festive meal without meat, think poultry and seafood over carbon-heavy red meats like beef and lamb. To ensure you’re eating sustainably sourced seafood use this guide.
Ultimately, treading lightly at Christmas involves buying less, consuming less and reusing what you can. Far more important than buying flashy gifts and sparkly decorations is spending quality time with your loved ones. So on that note, we hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year - here’s to a happy and healthy 2021, for both humanity and the planet.