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How To Handle Christmas In A More Sustainable Way


by: Rosie Dalton | 4 years ago | Features

Image: photograph by Tim Walker. Image source.

Christmas is a really exciting time of year, but it can also be a very wasteful time. According to research from the Commonwealth Bank, Australians spend more than $16.2 billion at Christmastime — which is $993 per adult. $475 of that is spent on gifts, but a lot is also spent on food and drink too. Having grown up in a time of excess consumption though, the norm is unfortunately to over cater food and drink and purchase more gifts than probably needed. To make matters worse, many of these unwanted gifts are most likely made by major corporations with inherently unsustainable business models.

So how can we buck that trend this Christmas, then, and approach the holiday season with a more sustainable approach overall? It’s quite straightforward really: with a few simple shifts in the way you give and receive gifts, how you present them and the way you manage waste, you can actually reduce your carbon footprint for the festive season. So we’ve rounded up five of those simple shifts below for you. Just consider it your Christmas gift to Mother Nature.

1) Why not try gift swapping this Christmas?
Starting a Secret Santa or gift swapping at Christmas can be a great way to organise the Christmas tree. Rather than buying one small gift for everyone, you can pick a name out of a hat instead and buy a more substantial gift for just one person in the family. This is a win-win for everyone, because it means that each person receives less cheap stuff that they really don’t need, in favour of a much more thoughtful gift overall. And it’s a more environmentally friendly option too — not just because you can avoid supporting the companies with unsustainable business models, but also because there are fewer unwanted gifts left to take out with the trash.

2) Or make your loved ones something
Of course, you could always try making your loved ones something for Christmas instead. Even if you’re not usually the crafty type, there are plenty of simple handmade gifts you can create that your friends and family would actually want to receive. Like a DIY terrarium for example, or personally-customised tea towel. I mean, even old t-shirts can be repurposed into useful plant hangers — so with a little creative imagination, it’s possible to create meaningful and environmentally conscious gifts at the same time. Even a handwritten poem can be a gesture far greater than a box of cheap chocolates. Just don’t forget the recycled paper.

3) When you shop, do so responsibly
You will probably still need to buy some gifts at Christmastime, but try challenging yourself to only buying things that were made responsibly this year. Whether that’s sustainable bath towels, or handcrafted candles made locally and with minimal waste in mind. For me, Christmas always seems to be a time for new underwear. So I know that I’ll be putting some sustainable underwear on my own list this year. Because even the smallest shifts can make a big difference in the long run — and the backstory will make your gifts all the more special for your loved ones too. If you’re still feeling a little stuck for gift ideas though, stay tuned for our 30 Days of Xmas gift guide, coming soon to the site.

4) Get creative with your packaging
Wrapping paper represents one of the biggest sources of waste at Christmas each year. In fact, Australian Ethical estimates that more than 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper is being used each year – which is the equivalent of about 50,000 trees. So why not ditch the usual wrapping paper this year and get creative instead? Of course, you could always buy recycled wrapping paper, but it might be even more fun to present your presents in recycled gift boxes instead. Or something I love to do is use beautiful pages out of old magazines to wrap my gifts with — it offers a personalised touch, but means you don’t have to kill more trees this festive season.

5) Be mindful about waste
Over the years we have all received gifts that just didn’t really feel like ‘us’ and that’s totally fine — it’s the thought that counts right? But instead of simply throwing those unwanted gifts in the bin, why not donate them to a charity, so that they can find a home with someone who does want them? Likewise, it’s important to think about other waste commonly created around Christmastime.

Recycling is crucial, for example, since the party season tends to bring with it a great deal more paper, plastic and glass bottles than usual. Make sure you recycle these carefully and be particularly mindful of electrical items like phones — which tend to be taken out with the trash once new gadgets arrive. If you’re unsure how to recycle your electricals properly, then PlanetArk offers some helpful advice.

Batteries are another one to be wary of, because Australians spend around $400 million each year on batteries — which equates to an annual waste of more than 8,000 tonnes of used batteries. These need to be recycled properly at a local facility. But better still, rechargeable batteries offer a much more eco-friendly option, having up to 32 times less impact on the environment than the disposable kind.

Finally, Christmas is often a time of abundant food. This Christmas though, try to remember all those who will be going without and plan your food consumption a little more mindfully. If you create a food plan based on how many people you’re actually feeding, then you’ll find yourself with less waste and more pennies leftover. Some of which can always be donated to charities like OzHarvest, which helps to feed those in need. After all, Christmas is about giving generously.

 

 

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