It’s less than five weeks until Christmas- eeeeek! And there is Christmas talk everywhere.
The festive season can produce a lot of waste. The overall motto I try and stick by is quality over quantity. I try and buy and consume less but what I do buy and consume is high quality, supporting local rather than large chains where I can and looking for things that are sustainably produced or sourced.
Here are a few ideas to consider when planning your festive season to reduce waste at Christmas.
1. Wrapping and cards
For starters before buying these from large chain stores, check out your local Op Shops. They have heaps of cards and wrapping that are still packaged that people haven’t used and have therefore donated.
However, did you know that you can’t throw traditional gift wrapping in the recycling bin, as it’s lined with plastic? And many cards can’t be recycled either as they have plastic lined decorations on them.
Look for recyclable wrapping or gift bags, such as some that come in brown paper, and reuse what you already have (we’ve all got that collection of gift bags in the cupboard that we’ve received gifts in).
You can even incorporate the wrapping as part of the gift, such as a tea towel or beach towels. Or invest in some reusable cloth gift bags, that you can use each year for members of your family. The beautiful local business, Cotton Daisies, creates unique, hand embroidered, reusable gift bags and Santa sacks, as well as other gorgeous Christmas and keepsake items.
Similarly with cards, opt for cards that can be recycled, and preferably made from recycled paper. An awesome local business, Turquoise Creative, makes beautiful cards from recycled paper, that can then be planted to grow flowers. They are a gift in themselves!
Forget the plastic ribbon and bows as well. It just gets torn off quickly anyway. Look for twine etc made from natural fibres if you’d like to decorate your gifts, or reusable ribbon you already have.
The best gift is something that the person will actually use, and not put in their ‘regifting cupboard’.
Look for items sustainably produced and support your local community if you can around this time. Local, small businesses are often doing what they do because they are passionate about it. They are often one or two person shows and are an important part of each community. And the carbon footprint of your purchase is much lower.
When spending money, like a lot gets spent at Christmas, why not buy from local small businesses instead of larger chains where you can. For example, I like buying my coffee loving mother in law coffee for gifts. I could buy this from anywhere, however, I’m buying her local brand, Brightside Coffee, this Christmas. Apart from being bloody delicious, it is ethically sourced and sustainably produced, which is important to me. So, I’m gifting something that I know will be used and am supporting a local business at the same time.
Eco swaps/reusables are fantastic gifts as well and can encourage others to think outside the box. Think about the everyday items we all use and consider gifts that are plastic and cruelty free alternatives to these. Local environmentalist, EnviroBren, sells products that align with her core principles of respecting the plant we live on and having compassion for the animals who share it with us. Her online store (and market stalls) offer a range of reusable eco ware and personal care products that are ideal for sustainable gift giving.
At The Inspired Eco Warrior we’ve created gift packs and kits, as well as sourcing a range of plastic free, low waste and low tox quality products that can be bundled as gifts this Christmas. Things that people will definitely use don’t need to be boring, they can still be luxury and quality items that people might not buy for themselves. We’ve aimed to source a collection of these to provide consciously thought out gifts this festive season.
Gifting experiences is another great way to reduce waste, as well as making donations on behalf of someone to charities.
There is so much food waste over the festive season. It’s so tempting to have all the delicious things on the menu. However, so much of this doesn’t get eaten.
Plan a realistic menu for the number of people coming. And have a leftovers plan. For example, ask everyone to bring their own takeaway containers (or take yours to wherever you’re going and recommend everyone does the same) letting everyone know you’re expecting them to take a selection of leftovers with them when they leave. And after Christmas is over if you’re sick of eating ham (for example) make and freeze a soup or another dish.
If you can, eat and drink from real plates and cups rather than opting for single use throwaways. It’s a bit more work but much nicer. If you’re having a large group, more people than the everyday crockery and cutlery you have for example, you could look into making up a ‘party box’ with items from Op Shops. These are great for kids parties too! This is a cost effective way to have enough reusables sitting in storage to bring out on these occasions, rather than buying plastic and paper plates etc.
If you like a Christmas cracker, opt for home made or sustainable cracker options. There are plenty of instructions online to create your own style of cracker. There are also Australian small businesses like The Conscious Cracker Co that create plastic free, crackers made from 100% post consumer paper. And a native tree is planted in Australia with every box of crackers purchased!
And if you’re feeling a lil fancy invest in some reusable washable Christmas napkins. I love my handmade linen napkins I bought from a local seller on Etsy. Our Christmas meal feels that extra bit special when we lay the table including these.
5. The tree and decorations
I’ve been tempted to get rid of all the plastic crap we have, and there’s a lot that has been collected over the years, including the bright gold tinsel tree! However, it’s better to keep using what you have until it can’t be used any longer. Then when replacing items, I look for things made of natural materials.
If you use an advent calendar in your home, consider a reusable one, that you can add items to each year. I fill ours with little wooden tree decorations I bought in a set years ago, for the kids to put on the tree each day, and on the last day they get a keepsake decoration that is part of their Christmas gifts. Other ideas are to add notes of acts of kindness to be acted on that day or IOUs or activities, none of which create any waste.
I’m not a huge fan of big, commercial occasions, and Christmas is right up there as one of the biggest. However, I do love the small, simple traditions you can create. By creating these and consciously planning out your festive season you can reduce so much waste and make the time special.