We all know that Christmas is a time for celebration and spending time with our friends and family, but it is also a time of the year that leads us to consume and waste a lot. Every year around Christmas Australian’s buy, eat, travel and waste more than any other time of the year.
Despite a recent trend of a slight reduction in consumption overall, we know that Australians will spend around $25 billion at Christmas on presents, food, alcohol and holidays – that almost $1000 for each adult! That might seem like a lot and it is even more when you consider that a lot of those presents are unwanted.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
So here a few tips to be a little more sustainable – both financially and environmentally this Christmas:
While it is nice to be able to give gifts, you don’t have to break the bank to do it. If you are having a big family gathering, rather than buying something for everyone, have a Kris Kringle or Secret Santa and allocate one gift per person with a fixed limit for spending.
Christmas trees – fake or real?
Plastic Christmas trees are reusable but real trees are more sustainable. Unfortunately plastic trees are often not designed to last a long time these days so they are often sent to landfill and not recycled. Real trees are a renewable resource and they are usually locally grown and boost the air quality in your home.
Are Christmas cards still relevant?
While it was once a very solid tradition to send Christmas cards, it seems to be happening less and less now. Aside from the expense, it is often just thrown out after Christmas anyway. A more personal approach is to make your own cards is a fun activity for the family and you can even use last year’s cards that you received. If you have children, you can turn it in to an activity and use your kid’s artwork as your cards.
Failing that e-cards are also another option.
A waste of wrapping paper
While it is very much part of the fun of Christmas, one of the biggest sources of waste each Christmas is wrapping paper. We use more than 10,000 tonnes each year – that is about 60,000 trees! Steer clear of metallic or glossy wrapping paper, as this kind of material is difficult to recycle and hard to reuse.
Alternatives to wrapping paper are reusable gift boxes, decorated newspaper for an artistic look, the Japanese method of Furoshiki or fabric wrapping or environmentally friendly wrapping paper.
We cook and eat too much food.
We waste more food at this time of year than any other! Why? We tend to stock up for the holidays, only to find that in the weeks after Christmas, our pantry’s and fridges are still full!
Think about and plan for what you really need for Christmas. How many people you will be feeding. Are you going away after Christmas? You can then create a menu and shopping list to buy exactly what you need for the day and avoid wasting food that ends up in landfill.
The Christmas pack up
You’ve successfully made it through Christmas and looking forward to New Year and 2020! If you have followed the previous tips, you won’t have too much to worry about. As you pack up though, make a conscious effort to store away what you can so that you can reuse it next year. Things like wrapping paper, decorations and Christmas lights can be stored away and used year after year. You may not have spent a lot of money on those things and while it is tempting to get new things each year, that is just the type of consumer behaviour that’s fuelling the environmental challenges we have today.
Wishing everyone a safe, happy and sustainable Christmas and New Year.