Ideas to be more sustainable this Christmas
As I get older I have become more and more aware of my consumption and impact on the world, and Christmas is one of those times what you really notice how much waste happens but at the same time you don't want to be a Grinch about Christmas!!!
Here are some ways to reduce your impact this Christmas while still being as festive as ever:
Plastic just never goes away - it sits in landfill for thousands of years, so you really want to consider the plastic items you are purchasing and what's the longevity of it. If it's a disposable item really try to avoid it completely, if its a present - is there a non-plastic alternative or consider how much this is wanted or will be used by the recipient. Ask yourself how long will they use it? Is it a quality item that will be long lasting and be able to be sold or donated in the future? In terms of food and entertaining, try not to buy plastic straws, individual plastic bottles of drink such as water - etc. The first step in sustainability is just being conscious of what plastic you buy, ask these questions to yourself before making your decision and you are going a long way in changing how we consume.
Plastic plates and cutlery - swap to - reusable dinnerware or recycled paper and wood alternatives
Plastic toys - swap to - wood toys
Wrapping paper containing plastics (if you scrunch it and it opens back up by its self it usually means it contains plastic) - swap to - 100% paper wrapping paper - recycled is even better!
Plastic Christmas tree - swap to - A living tree or a quality timeless plastic one that you know you will use for many, many years into the future
Plastic ornaments and Christmas decorations - swap to - glass, ceramic, wood and fabric decorations
Individual bottles of drink - swap to - make a large drink in a glass dispenser and provide glasses or paper cups
Plastic wrap and zip lock bags - swap to - bee wax wraps and reusable containers
Plastic ribbon - swap to - fabric ribbon and keep what you receive and re-use
Sustainable decorations and lighting
When it comes to decking out your house, besides avoiding plastic where you can your main aim here is to have intention with what you choose to buy. Don't get fad items and themes you will get sick of and want to change year on year, choose timeless quality decorations that will go into your Christmas box and pulled out and re-used year on year.
Consider using living foliage instead of buying plastic. Make your own wreath and table decorations from natives available to you, not only is it more sustainable but it will smell great!
When it comes to lights we are lucky in Australia to have Christmas during summer and have a hot sun to utilise solar. It's become inexpensive, widely available and reliable, so get solar powered lights for your outside. Inside for your tree go for LED which uses less energy and turn them off before going to bed or buy a timer to do it for you!
By shopping local you are reducing the amount of transport required to bring goods to you through ships, air freight and trucking, all of which put a big strain on the world's emissions. This goes for not just presents but also the food you purchase. Take note of where items were made and choose places that are closer to home.
Not only is it better for the environment but its also better for our communities, buying local keeps money in our country, state and local areas to create more jobs, businesses and opportunities to our fellow Australians.
Note where produce is made and choose the option that is closer to you
Check out your local farmers markets
Go to local markets and choose handmade local items
When purchasing online, note where an item is made and where it is shipping from
Conscious present giving
Always think about the amount of materials and production goes into a product, how low the labour conditions and pay might be, and if the environment and animals are directly impacted by it's production went into something. Besides reducing the amount of plastic orientated gifts you buy, there are many ways to improve your gift giving to be more sustainable:
Choose a consumable gift - For those token gifts, when you have to give a gift but don't know the person well, or the spend amount is low (ie. work secret santa). Don't choose something that is a waste to buy and give, even if it's from kmart and cheep - the cost on the environment is huge. Go for something they can consume to ensure it will not be wasted. Get a bottle of wine, box of chocolates, etc.
Choose an experience - Buying for someone who has everything? Don't know what to get and not sure you can choose something they will actually want and use? This is the gift you should make an experience. Such as doing a workshop/ making class with them, tickets to an event, a weekend away, a fancy dinner, a trip to the zoo. Whatever the person is into and whatever their age, there is something you can get them. It will be a win for them and a win for the environment!
Choose quality of quantity - Instead of getting a pile of cheep gifts for your kids/ family that won't last, opt for less presents and more quality items. Change your way of thinking from 'these clothes are so cheep doesn't matter if they only last a couple of wears, I will buy a bunch' to a more sustainable quality clothing that will last until it's no longer wanted then it can be sold or donated. Speak to your extended family about doing Kris Kringle - everyone buying for one person instead of everyone buying for everyone. It results in less purchased and a better well thought out gift that will be less wasteful.
Choose handmade - Handmade not only supports small business but is less likely to have a large carbon footprint attached to it through big manufacturing and machinery to make it and ship it around the world. It also usually has a better quality and will last longer.
Support brands that are ethical - Apps like Good On You make it super easy to search a brand and see it's ethical rating across environment, people and animals. Every dollar you spend is a yes vote to that item and how it was made, choose to spend your money wisely by supporting brands that are doing the right thing, match your morals and help change the future for the better. Don't turn a blind eye to whats behind every purchase you make.
Confirm before buying - Sometimes when you are buying for your close loved ones you are best off asking them what's on their wish list so you can really nail it and avoid waste. No point buying your mum a new frying pan when she likes the one she has. If you want to keep the element of surprise get your detective on and speak to others close to them and get the insider info of what they really want. Also always keep receipts and let people know they can swap it out if your gift isn't the right size or type.
Give a gift card - For your teenage niece that you really don't know what she is into, instead of buying something that she will throw away or shove in the cupboard to be wasted maybe a gift card is the best option - while boring to you, it might just be the thing they like most! It's a good gift for cash poor, picky people!!
Reducing Food waste
At all your Christmas gatherings there is an opportunity to have more awareness around food waste. Here's some ideas on how to reduce how much you waste:
Ensure you co-ordinate with others to not double up on what you bring and prepare. Know your numbers are make quantities accordingly.
Don't put everything of one thing out at once. For example, instead of putting whole wheels of cheese out for half of it to get hot, melty, crusty and eventually thrown out, cut segments of each to start with and keep the rest in the fridge - if you need more you can get more, but if you don't it wont go to waste as you can use it another day. Same goes with chips, fruit, crackers and all those things that by sitting out get spoiled easily.
Be committed to left overs! If its good for one meal it will be good for more! Send people home with left over items, and re-imagine your left overs into new meals so you don't get sick of them. Worse case give left overs to your dog and save their pet food for another day.
Become a recycling master
Lastly, when it comes to throwing things out, do your best job at recycling what you can. Don't do a clean sweep of the lounge room and throw all the used wrapping paper, plastic packaging of toys and gifts together. Ensure you are recycling all your paper and cardboard, glass and tin. Pull things apart and separate it all out. If you make the effort on your end you are saving so much that is wrongly going into landfill for years and years.
Look out for items that have the 'red cycle' logo on it, put them aside as this is soft plastics that can actually be recycled by taking it to red cycle bins that are located in places like Coles.
If you want to go the extra mile, make a compost bin and save food scraps for composting instead of adding it unnecessarily to landfill.
Your aim is to be aware of what goes in the bin and doing your best to minimise this as much as possible.
I hope you have the best festive season filled with all the cheer while also being a little more gentle on the planet.