The festive season is an extravaganza of decorating, celebrating and giving. And because of that, it does translate to a lot of waste. Think discarded plastic Christmas trees, mountains of used wrapping paper and thousands of unwanted gifts stashed in cupboards for years and then eventually, thrown out. The holiday period really does put a significant strain on the environment.
That being said, however, there are some things you can do this December to personally reduce your carbon footprint. Ahead are five ways you can cut down on waste this holiday season, all, importantly, without compromising on fun.
Don’t Dispose of Your Christmas Tree
While plastic Christmas trees are relativity inexpensive, they are made from a combination of unrecyclable materials that can be potentially hazardous to the environment. If you do want an artificial tree, why not try looking for one on Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree before buying one brand new? And, after you’re done with it, instead of disposing of it, consider reselling it, donating it to a local charity or storing it to use for years to come.
Use Recyclable Wrapping Paper
It’s not just your gifts’ packaging that makes your holiday presents problematic for the environment, it’s also their wrapping paper. Because in case you didn’t know, not all wrapping paper can be recycled. Recent research found that over 8,000 tons of wrapping paper is used over the Christmas period in Australia, which equates to 83 square km of rubbish — that’s enough to cover Bondi Beach 68 times.
Do your bit to reduce this significant waste by using recycled wrapping paper or instead of actual wrapping paper, use old newspapers or magazines, or even your kids’ old artwork. And, wherever possible, be sure to recycle any wrapping paper you receive. Dyes, glitter and other decorative elements are usually indicators that they can’t be recycled.
Make Your Own Recyclable Card or Send an E-Card
While the number of Christmas cards delivered on average by Australia Post is on the decrease, replaced with holiday greetings in the form of texts, social media and e-cards, there’s still a long way to go in order to reduce the number of cards and gift tags used by Australians each year – most of which still ends up in landfill and can take up to 30 years to decompose.
Again, dyes, glitters and other decorative elements on cards are usually indicators they can’t be recycled, so, if you do want to buy cards, consider buying recyclable ones without. Or, spend a night with your kids, putting on holiday tunes and snacking on festive snacks, making your own cards and envelopes from recyclable materials.
Avoid Buying New Decorations
Instead of buying new decorations each year, look at revamping the knick-knacks you already have or head to your local Salvos and Vinnie’s to see what they have. If you’re spending that night making your own cards, why not add on making some new-looking decorations, too?
Adorn, paint or simply cover your old decorations or op-shop finds, and you’ll not only save money, but you’ll also create less waste from the new items and their packaging. For an even more organic approach, use nature to decorate your home instead. Holly branches and pinecones will help to give your home a rustic, Christmas aesthetic.
Donate Unwanted Gifts
Unfortunately, a considerable amount of gifts given this holiday season will end up either in the back of the wardrobe or worse, in landfill. This year, remember that any time you can reuse, recycle or upcycle an item instead of throwing it out, it’s a small win for the environment.
Donate unwanted gifts to charity shops or recycling organisations like SCRgroup, which has over 1,500 collection hubs around Australia (check out their hub finder here) where you can leave clothing, handbags, accessories, toys and shoes. Or, if you can’t make it to one of the hubs for whatever reason, organise for your gifts to be collected with their home service Thread Collect, offered in most Australian cities.