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
  • Zip-lining
  • Trampolining
  • 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.

Reusable gift bags
My collection of gift bags that I save and reuse.

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

Don’t forget to shop for food, gifts and other necessities using your own containers and bags to minimise the amount of packaging that is discarded after the purchase.

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.

Potted Australian native Christmas trees which can be used year after year!

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.

DIY wooden Christmas tree from Pinterest

Do you have any other tips for reducing waste at Christmas?

18 thoughts

  1. Great list! This is the first year we are requesting experiences over stuff for ourselves and our family; and will be giving our kids an IOU of experiences. I’m more excited than usual!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you 😊. I followed the link – I like the edible decorations and candied peel. I’ll keep them up my serve for next year. I don’t think I’ll have time for anything extra this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My family wrapped our presents in pillowcases.
    I also like to reuse the paper.
    We don’t use Bon bons.
    We also used to have a living Christmas tree, usually a native, that we later planted.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we used pillowcases at some stage too. I’m glad you said you don’t use bon bons. I try to avoid them too. Some people show me reusable or homemade bon bons but to me they are one of those things that we can just go without. I guess kids find them fun and they are part of the tradition for a lot of people, so filling them with something like homemade treats would work well. Great option for a Christmas tree!!


  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to package/wrap homemade goodies to give as gifts? I habitually bake huge batches of biscotti/shortbread/etc, and would usually set out some of each on a disposable plate, make a teepee of cellophane and wrap with curling ribbon, but I’m after an alternative this year. I’m really at a loss. It’s got to be something I’m happy to never see again (ie, not my own dinner plates), and still be mildly attractive…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have you thought about cleaning up some glass jars and popping them in there? You can cover the lid with some nice fabric and tie on with biodegradable string. I did something similar in my crafty Christmas post. But if you wanted to do the same thing you could get a pretty plate from the op shop for a $1 and wrap it in true cellophane which is biodegradable.


    2. I have found the op shop to be invaluable as a source for packaging homemade edible items. Large Moccona jars seem to be prolific at our local and they fit a small batch of cooked cookies or a mason jar recipe of uncooked mix nicely.


  4. Has anyone tried hosting family at Christmas and making it a “waste free” or “low waste” gathering? I’m thinking we could try this, I have gotten our home Christmas on our own to be waste free and others are sort of catching on but I think this could be a great way to encourage family traditions of a new kind. Maybe we won’t tell others but instead we will gift people plants, home made goodies and for the kids some experiences or something similar. Nature collections being used for decorations and yes all food service washable.

    Liked by 1 person

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