Christmas is arguably one of the most magical times of the year. It certainly is for me and my family. It’s a time for celebration, joy and spending time with friends and loved ones, but it can also be the most wasteful time of year for the average Australian household as well. In fact, every year during the Christmas season Australians buy, travel, eat and waste more than any other time of year.
Tips for an Eco Friendly Christmas (Part 1)
So what can we do to reduce the amount of waste we’re producing? Here are a few tips you can follow to enjoy a stress-free, eco friendly Christmas with your family.
1. Buy less, waste less
Yes, it may sound pretty obvious, but the key to wasting less is to consume less. Period.
We all love sharing gifts with our friends and family, but when you’re buying for everyone the amount of waste from wrapping and packaging begins to add up. Not to mention, so does the cost. As an eco friendly Christmas alternative, why not organise a Secret Santa? This way everyone in your family only has to purchase one gift, and everyone still gets to receive something. It’s a great way to reduce waste and save money too! We could all use a little more spending money around the holiday season, right?
2. Re-use previous year’s decorations instead of buying new ones
Though it may be tempting to create a different theme for Christmas every year, buying new decorations contributes to landfill and encourages mass manufacturing, which robs natural resources from the Earth. Large retail chains mass produce these plastic decorations and stock their shelves every year to keep up with consumer demand, but where do you think they all end up when the party is over? Landfill.
Alternatively, try sticking to what you already have stored away at home, or make your own decorations by hand. It can be a fun, eco friendly Christmas activity for the whole family!
3. Reconsider the way you wrap gifts
One of the most waste-contributing items during the festive season is wrapping paper. Almost 8,000 tonnes (that’s the equivalent of around 50,000 trees) is thrown away each year. Yes, you did read that right. 8,000 tonnes. That’s a staggering amount of waste.
The good news is that there are plenty of eco friendly alternatives. Why not try using a reusable gift box or bag? For a more ‘hipster’ aesthetic, try repurposing other household paper items, such as newspaper and string, or as my personal favourite, go for a less traditional style by using the beautiful Japanese art of Furoshiki (fabric wrapping), which is not only thoughtful, but stylish too. Have you got old drawings your kids have brought home from school? They would make perfect recycled wrapping with that extra personal touch!
For an eco friendly Christmas bonus, you should aim to avoid wrapping made from plastics such as cellophane and faux foil, as these materials are almost impossible to recycle. Additionally, because of how thin and weak the material is, it is often difficult to re-use as well.
Lastly, when you receive gifts from others, try to save the wrapping and re-use it next year, or repurpose it for something else like a craft or DIY project. Any wrapping paper unable to be re-used should be placed into the recycling bin (unless it’s plastic), but always remember to remove any plastic sticky tape beforehand.
4. DIY eco friendly Christmas cards
There’s something so much more special about a card that’s been hand-made by a friend or loved one, isn’t there? Not only do hand-made Christmas cards have higher sentimental value, making them less likely to be tossed away a few months later, but they also reduce the consumption of natural resources, which typically goes into creating general store-bought Christmas cards by large manufacturing companies.
Additionally, making your own Christmas cards is a great way to re-use old cards from previous years, and it can also be a great Christmas activity to participate in with your family, especially if you have kids.
Another eco friendly Christmas alternative is to send e-cards. This is a fantastic way to save some money, as there’s no need to pay for postage or the physical cards themselves either. And more importantly, there’s no waiting time for the receiver! If you’re not a designer or have little experience with creating digital files, there are some great e-card websites available which make it simple and easy for anyone.
5. Be an eco friendly Christmas warrior and buy a real tree
I mean… who doesn’t love plants? They bring a whole new element of style to any home, and they have a whole range of health benefits too, such as reducing the amount of harmful toxins in the air.
Artificial Christmas trees generally are reusable, however, they are still made from plastic materials and they break down over time, which ultimately means they get tossed into landfill eventually. They are also a highly mass-produced plastic item around this time of year, which robs the earth of its natural resources.
A real Christmas tree- or any plant, for that matter, is a far more sustainable option for an eco friendly Christmas. Real Christmas trees are 100% recyclable and naturally produced by growing. Once the festive season is over they can be returned to the seller or taken to any wood recycling plant and mulched for use in playgrounds and other public spaces. When purchasing your real Christmas tree, look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo so that you know you’re buying from sustainable sources.
Not only are you giving a leg-up to the environment, but if you buy a tree that still has its roots you can pot it and enjoy the benefits all year round! This will also save you money next year, as there will be no need to buy another one.
Enjoying the list so far? Well this is just the beginning. We had so much information on this topic that we had to separate it into two. Click here to read part 2!