There are many easy ways to improve the sustainability of your Christmas celebrations and the best bit is, you probably already do a number of them. Here are ten tips to help you reduce your waste over the Christmas period.
1. Reduce your gift recipient list
Gifts should be for the people we care about most. Nobody really likes filling up their home with the clutter they’ve received from excessive gift giving, and this clutter, which used up many resources in it’s making, will soon end up in landfill (the Story of Stuff says that within 6 months, only 1 percent of everything the average person buys is still in use, the other 99 percent has been discarded). Nine years ago the adults in our families decided we did not want gifts but we continued giving to the children. This year we have organised a secret Santa for the children which means each child will recieve one gift from the secret Santa instead of all of their aunties and uncles. We also had a conversation with friends a few years ago and agreed we would stop buying Christmas gifts for each other. We discovered that it was just as much a relief for them as it was for us. Our aim is not to take the fun out of Christmas but to enrich our lives by shifting the focus from unsustainable consumerism to spending time with loved ones, making memories and experiencing life.
2. Make memories by giving experiences instead of things
Research has shown that beyond basic necessities experiences make us happier than stuff, and as mentioned above, accumulating excess stuff is unsustainable and wasteful – especially when many products and toys are not made to last. Some ideas for giving experiences include:
- Laser tag
- Rock climbing
- Go karting
- Cooking classes
- Dance classes
- Photography lessons
- Movie passes
- A museum or zoo membership, or
- A service like a massage or haircut
You could also make your own coupons and give your time, skills and knowledge to someone, for example:
- Sleep over at Nan and Pop’s
- Camp out in the backyard
- Enjoy a babyccino in a cafe
- One hour of cricket lessons
- Carpentry work
- Sewing tutorial
- Sourdough bread starter with the promise of a bread baking tutorial
- Kombucha SCOBY with the promise of a kombucha fermenting tutorial, or
- Bicycle service and repair
3. Make it or find it secondhand
Homemade and quality secondhand gifts are acceptable and sustainable ways to show someone you care and support a circular economy. You might be surprised by how much completely new stuff turns up in op shops. Every year a huge number of unwanted Christmas presents are given out, and a fair number of these get donated to op shops. A lot of unwanted brand new gifts also end up being sold in online selling forums too.
4. Give up Christmas cards
Don’t give out Christmas cards to everyone you know and let others know that you are happy not to receive any. If you do receive cards, find ways to reuse them, like for next year’s handmade Christmas cards for the people you really care about. As a last resort, recycle or compost them.
5. Refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle wrapping paper
Think about whether wrapping a present is really necessary. You could use gift bags that are easily reused over and over again. I have not bought wrapping paper for 11 years because I reuse what everyone else throws away. Children might also like to use their artwork to wrap gifts. You can avoid plastic sticky tape by using biodegradable string or reusing ribbons, or you could use cloth and learn the Japanese art of furoshiki. Investing in or making some beautiful reusable Santa sacks and stockings is a great way to avoid wrapping, and also build tradition and happy memories. I still have fond memories of my childhood Santa sack under the tree.
6. Use reusable decorations
Ensure you only use reusable decorations and if you are starting your collection, focus on obtaining beautiful items made sustainably from natural materials so they can be easily recycled or composted at the end of their life. You might even want to make some decorations from natural and salvaged materials.
7. Bring your own
8. Use reusable tableware
Use reusable plates, bowls, cups, cutlery and napkins. Washing up is easy in the dishwasher and washing machine. You could even put together a box of reusables for family celebrations and pass it round to relatives when they throw a party.
9. Prepare and store food properly
Make sure you cater accurately and store leftovers appropriately so food is not wasted before it can be eaten or made into some other meal. All food scraps and waste should be composted or given to animals instead of put into the landfill bin.
10. Rethink your Christmas tree
A great option for a Christmas tree is to get a potted native ‘Christmas’ tree and use the same tree year after year! You might even be able to find one to rent if you prefer not to keep it. Really, you can use any plant you like. If you don’t like this option, a cut real Christmas tree from a local supplier is better than a plastic reusable tree because they are a renewable resource and help remove carbon from the atmosphere. But, you must ensure the tree is properly disposed of so it can biodegrade. Finally, you could purchase or make a wooden Christmas tree like these trees on Pinterest.
Do you have any other tips for reducing waste at Christmas?