Dreaming of a green Christmas
Christmas is about getting together and celebrating with friends and family, but how do we do that without leaving an environmental footprint the size of the North Pole? Australians spend about $50 billion on presents and around $700 million of that will end up as landfill come February, so get green with our sustainable Christmas tips and do your bit for the planet this festive season.
Although many households go without a Christmas tree, for some people it wouldn’t be the silly season without one, so should you fake it or go fresh?
Fake plastic trees tend to be re-used for between six to 10 years, but they eventually get tossed and once in landfill, they never degrade. Plus they’re usually made overseas and it takes energy and resources to make and transport them to our lounge rooms.
Real trees have a footprint too, but that’s relatively offset by the carbon soaked up during their time in the ground. Probably the greenest option is a potted Australian native pine like a Wollemi or Cypress that can be used year after year – decorate with homemade trinkets and recycled goodies or if you want to buy some, make sure they’re manufactured to last.
Oh and If you do choose a fresh-cut pine this Christmas, recycling it will be simple! Find out about our tree recycling service here [link to tree recycling].
Many of us are guilty of over-buying in the lead up to Christmas. And while we all want to show our loved ones we care, there are better ways of doing it than buying a multitude of bright & shiny things they don’t need.
Instead of buying all your gifts new, choose vintage or pre-loved items from markets, op shops, garage sales or online sites like Gumtree or eBay or better still, get DIYing! Making your own lets you cherry-pick sustainable materials and there’s something about handmade that sings thoughtfulness. That’s why our Green Villages team have created a trio of DIY videos with step-by-step downloadable instructions with a little help from their friends at Etsy.com – the world’s most vibrant handmade marketplace.
Watch our videos to see how to whip up this season’s hottest retro returns; a macramé pot holder and a terrarium.
If getting crafty is not for you, then give some thought to what you buy, where it came from, who made it and how far it travelled. Consider setting a spending limit for each person. It will keep your present buying in check and ensure you stick to a budget. Instead of buying gifts for all and sundry, you could just buy for the kids or consider organising a Kris Kringle. Pull a name out of a hat, spend a set amount and have fun on Christmas Day guessing who gave what to whom.
You could also get your nearest and dearest to write a wish-list so that they get something they actually want or need and if they’re after something special, why not pool your money with others and buy one big present between you all? Just make sure it’s made to last beyond Boxing Day. Presents like a newspaper or magazine subscription or a gym membership are great, as are tickets for their favourite band or the theatre. They’ll have something to look forward to, with the added benefit of memories that will last forever.
You could also consider purchasing a gift from a charity like Unicef, World Vision or Oxfam, which will benefit a person or community in need. Whether you care about the environment, disadvantaged children or poor communities in India, you can show people you care and make a positive difference.
Cards & wrap
Beautifully wrapped presents under the tree look mighty fine on Christmas morning, but they quickly turn into a rather depressing mountain of ripped paper. Australians waste a whopping 4,000 tonnes of wrapping paper each year – the equivalent of 25,000 trees chopped for aesthetic pleasure. But you can still create beautiful-looking gifts without the waste (and the sticky tape!) by swapping paper for fabric. Get craftastic with material off-cuts, old scarves, vintage hankies, or snip up old shirts or tees you’ve outgrown.
Watch our video to see just how easy it is to wrap with cloth!
You can cut the waste further by chopping up last year’s cards and turn them into gift tags, or cut off the picture side and send them as Christmas postcards. E-cards are a great way of saving money and trees, but if you prefer sending them the traditional way then go for cards made from recycled paper or ones that support a charity, like Oxfam.
These days, the lure of the $2 shop makes it easy enough to change our Christmas decorations year on year. Seems pretty wasteful for a few weeks a year, right? So why not keep things simple. Choose durable baubles and trinkets that will last for years, or better yet, get the kids to make decorations out of recyclables.
With table decorations, instead of using paper napkins and tablecloths, which only get one use, go for fabric ones that can be washed or wiped down and used again and again, the same goes for re-useable plates and cutlery. Decorate the table with flowers or pine cones and get the kids to make name tags and place settings out of last year’s Christmas paper and cards. If you have old decorations that you won’t re-use, donate them to an op shop or online through sites like Gumtree or OzRecycle.
Finally, when it comes to lighting up your tree, make sure you choose LEDs.
Food & drink
We all end up over-eating at Christmas, but many of us also end up throwing away tonness of perfectly good food – and that’s really bad for the environment. When wasted food is thrown away and breaks down in landfill, together with other organic materials, it becomes the main contributor to the generation of methane – a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere – and is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide.
Instead of chucking your leftovers, freeze them for a rainy day or get creative and turn them into something else. If you do have food waste, compost your scraps or get a worm farm (now there’s a clever Christmas pressie)!
You can also make your festivities greener by buying local – food that has been produced close by, rather than shipped in from overseas or interstate – or better still, grow what you can of your own. For everything else consider buying organically grown or reared produce – and if you’re worried about price, think quality, not quantity.
It’s well known that one way of doing your bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to eat less meat. So if you really want to be green over the silly season, go vego. Or if that’s a step too far, then choose sustainable seafood instead. The Australian Marine Conservation Society produces an iPhone app to help make it easy to choose the right fish.
Be green all year round!
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Wishing you a safe and happy festive season.
Photo courtesy of Kayla Lee