5 Ways to Have a More Sustainable Christmas
Author: Kira Simpson Date Posted:10 November 2021
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. Time with family, good food, the joy that comes with the holiday season – but amongst all the joy the holidays do have a sizeable impact on the environment. The amount of waste we produce increases by 30% at Christmas. Fortunately, whether you're sustainably savvy or not, there are plenty of small, simple swaps you can make to reduce waste and have an eco-friendly Christmas that’s kinder to the planet. Here are some easy swaps so we can enjoy the holidays in a more sustainable way.
1. Start with the Christmas Tree and Decorations
Trees: Real tree vs fake tree or you could DIY
A 6.5ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions – which is more than twice that of a real tree BUT if the real tree ends its life in landfill, the real tree could result in a carbon footprint of 16kg of CO2.
- The real tree – If you do opt for a real tree, please dispose of it responsibly. Cut it up to be used as garden mulch or book a Christmas tree collection through your local council’s website. You could also go with a native in a pot you can use year after year and plant it in your garden when it grows too large for the house.
- The fake tree – If you are going to buy a fake tree invest in one that will last twenty years or more. There are also some great Christmas tree rental services that come complete with decorations around Australia.
- The DIY – now this is where you can get creative, the possibilities are endless! I made this fairy light tree last year and I’ve also made variations of a stick tree in previous years. Pinterest is bursting with DIY Christmas tree inspiration – I challenge you to give one a try this year!
Lighting: Look for LED bulbs as they use 75% less energy and bonus points if they have solar panels! Check out your local hardware store for Christmas and fairy lights.
Decorations: When it comes to decorations, just being mindful of the materials they’re made from and whether they might be able to be reused, can make a big difference.
Try to avoid tinsel, plastic decorations and anything shiny or covered in glitter. If you can, invest in baubles in more eco-friendly materials like glass, metal, felt, or these cute bamboo ones that will last and can be used for many years to come.
Second hand stores also have so many unwanted decorations this time of year. DIY queen Geneva Vanderzeil has an incredible upcycle hack for plastic Christmas baubles she found at Vinnies.
2. Go Sustainable With Wrapping Paper and Cards
In Australia alone we use more than 150,000km of wrapping paper over Christmas, that’s enough paper to wrap the planet nearly four times!
You might not know that most wrapping paper cannot be recycled, but fortunately, eco-friendly Christmas wrapping paper does exist!
Earth Greetings is one of the few places in Australia that you can buy sustainable wrapping paper printed with eco-friendly dyes that can be reused, recycled, or composted at end of life. Check out the range of uniquely Australian Christmas themed paper and gift cards here.
3. Give Gifts They Actually Need, Want, Will Love
Australians spend around 11 billion dollars on Christmas presents, and about 20 million of the gifts we give, people don’t even want. It’s more important than ever to gift with intention, ideally with sustainable, thoughtfully-made pieces your loved ones will cherish for years to come.
- Start with the simple question of asking what they would like- this eliminates the waste factor straight away. You could also use an anonymous wishlist app so you can see exactly what they’d like and still keep the surprise.
- Shop small and local – visit your local makers markets, support small businesses and creatives.
- Give an experience, something they’ve always wanted to try, a nice dinner or just your time, offer a day out together, create some memories together. Remember people not stuff are the happy makers.
- Gift a service - many of us are time poor and overworked, something that helps relieve the workload will be very appreciated. Think of things like meal delivery services, a houseclean or organisation service, or even babysitting.
4. Say No To Food Waste This Year
First of all, be realistic about how much food you’ll need for the number of people you’re feeding. There are no prizes for copious amounts of leftovers.
- Avoid single use packaging where you can. Buy loose produce, shop at your local markets and smaller grocers and buy organic if it’s available to you.
- Cooking scraps should be composted – if you don’t have a compost check out the Share Waste app to find someone in your local area who will collect your food waste.
- Use up leftovers – send people home with a meal and freeze what you can’t eat for lunch the next day (and the day after, and the day after that!)
- Store food correctly so it lasts longer – I love vegan wax wraps for food covers and for keeping the flies off food during Christmas lunch!
Another way to reduce your food impact is to reduce meat and dairy. Have one less meat dish this year and introduce a few plant-based dishes into the menu, or switch out one desert with a dairy free option.
5. Reduce Waste in General
Look for ways you can ditch the disposables.
- Plates, cutlery, napkins – opt for reusables if you can, I know it can be challenging when you’re entertaining a large group of people.
- Invest in a ‘party kit’ of second-hand plates, bowls, and cutlery from op-shops – keep in a box to be used at your next big event. If you do need to use disposables, look for bamboo plates and napkins that can be composted. The main goal here is to try and avoid as much single use plastic as we can.
- Finally recycle what can in your kerbside recycling and check out Terracyle for all those bits you’re not sure what to do with.
Making even a few small changes to your usual holiday routine can make a big difference in the long run for the future of our planet.
Contributed by Kira Simpson
Kira believes that many small actions can collectively make a big difference. We all have the power to vote, invest, make lifestyle choices, become activists and demand change to create the future we want. We’re not perfect, nobody is. But, we are trying to do a little something to leave the world a better place, and you can too. Kira xx