Christmas is a time for celebration in many countries and cultures. Here in Australia, for some of us, it means trees, decorations, special food, and gifts. But all the excess that goes with it can also put a strain on the environment: tonnes of extra rubbish, surplus packaging, and the environmental footprint of disposable gifts. It’s a busy time when Australians travel, eat and drink more than usual.
But don’t worry, we can all reduce the impact of the holiday season on the environment and have a happy, sustainable holiday!
15 Tips for a Sustainable Christmas
- Don’t Fake It: If a Christmas tree is a must for your family, is it more sustainable to get a real or fake tree? Although plastic trees can be reused many times, they still ultimately end up in landfill. Real trees are often not native species, but they do draw down carbon as they grow and are biodegradable through your green waste. Better still, help Australian species and look into investing in a native tree or shrub or getting an edible tree. It can then be planted in the garden or kept in a pot for next year. The team’s favourite species for forever trees are: Kumquat Trees (Fruit), Woolley Bush (WA Native Tree), Wollemi pine, and Callitris pine.
- Lighting: Less is best. LED lights use about 80-90% less energy than old light bulbs, and solar even less. But remember, everything we buy creates emissions when it is produced, transported, disposed and recycled. Don’t bin broken lights because the glass from Christmas lights can be recycled into insulation Wool. Find recycling points at IKEA, Office Works, and your local council’s E-waste.
- Plan Your Shopping: Last-minute panic shopping often ends up in unsuitable purchases. It’s best to be organised and plan what you need to buy for Christmas day – make a list and stick to it. Try and get it all done in one shop to avoid repeat journeys and the temptation of buying unnecessary extras.
- Give Useful Presents: Give original gifts that will be of real value to your friends and family. Steer away from material presents – gift them a service or experience. Maybe create vouchers for babysitting, cleaning, massage, or gardening. Give them a ticket to an event, concert, or a fun day out with you. Is there something your friends have always wanted to learn or try out but never got around to doing? Perhaps they’d like a guitar, cooking or painting lesson?
Help them to become more environmentally friendly and give a membership to a car-sharing club or help them save energy by gifting low-flow shower heads and energy-saving light bulbs.
Use your culinary skills to make homemade food or drink gifts. Your time spent in the kitchen could be less than the time gift-hunting. Homemade presents are often more personal, better for the environment, and not likely to go to waste.
For those who have everything gifting a charity donation that helps others or the environment is often the best way to go. Carbon Positive Australia provides eCards that allow you to gift native trees, or you could calculate your friends’ emissions and offset their vehicle or household emissions.
- It’s a Wrap: Confused about what wrapping paper can be recycled? If the paper has been laminated, dyed or contains glitter, metal, plastic or dye, it can not be recycled. Foils and plastic wrapping also need to be binned. Regular paper wrapping with prints can be recycled even with tape.Get creative with your wrapping – a newspaper with a bright ribbon looks great, or use scraps of material. Our favourite tip is using a scarf and making it part of the present. Check out Recycling Near You which will help you find out the best way to recycle in your area. Also check out our blog on Paper vs. Plastic Bags.
- Gadget Upgrades: If you receive a new mobile phone for Christmas, make sure you recycle the old one – visit Clean Up and click on ‘Clean Up Mobile Phones’. You can register to receive a free pre-paid postal satchel that you can use to send your phone to recyclers.
- Get Outdoors: Get some time out in nature while helping the planet! Check out Plant Trees Australia and register for tree planting projects near you.
- Cards: It is wonderful to receive and send seasonal greetings. Traditional cards take resources to make and distribute. Click here to check out Carbon Positive Australia’s Christmas eCards. Every eCard sent will help restore Australia through the planting of biodiverse native trees. You can choose from a range of beautiful designs, include a personalised message, and from just $4 end a gift that will make a difference for future generations.
- Batteries: Stock up on green rechargeable batteries for any gadgets you might need to use. If you do give a battery operated gift give a battery charger too. As batteries contain toxic heavy metals it is really important for our landcare to recycle rather than bin.
- Decorations: Invest in good quality decorations that can be used again and again and passed on to future generations or be inventive and make your own from recycled materials. Our favourites are oven or sun-dehydrated oranges, which make the room smell amazing.
- Food Waste: Food waste contributes to 3% of Australia’s GHG Emissions. Plan ahead to save money and avoid wastage. To find out more about ideal serving sizes, storing and using up leftovers, check out Love Food Hate Waste. Compost any unusable leftover food to reduce the harmful methane.
- Drink: If you celebrate with a glass of beer or wine, opt for local. Better still, look up brands that support environmental initiatives or regenerative farming and are working on their carbon footprint.
- Flowers: When choosing flowers for gifts or for decorating select ‘in season’ locally grown varieties.
- Party Time: Serve up locally produced food and drink and choose products with less packaging. Set up clearly marked recycling bins before your party starts to make it easier for your guests and to make the cleanup quicker. Deck out the tables with reusable plates and cutlery so they can be washed and used again.
- Enjoy: For those of us that are lucky enough to celebrate with loved ones, enjoy the time together and take the time to get out in nature and recharge. Often these moments bring everyone the greatest joy.