While the holiday period is our favourite time of the year, it’s likely the least preferred for nature. When it comes to environmental damage, the festive season is one of the worst, with a surge in mass-produced waste all around the world.
But there are some easy ways we can drastically decrease our environmental footprint this Christmas. And while every little bit helps, if everyone adopted these minor changes, we’d see a world of difference.
Ahead, the team at Clean + Conscious, Australia’s go-to destination to learn about sustainability and, generally, what’s good for you and the planet, have pulled together 12 of those ways. From how to choose gifts that are sustainable, to how to get the most environmentally-friendly Christmas tree, here’s how to be eco-conscious this festive season.
Use Sustainable Wrapping
Wrapping paper is one of the biggest sources of waste each Christmas and not all of it can be recycled. Metallic wrapping, glitter-encrusted paper and plastic cellophane go straight to landfill. Even the wrapping paper which does get recycled requires more chemicals to process due to the high ink to paper ratio.
Make the sustainable swap to recycled brown paper or even better, use old newspapers, magazines or last year’s wrapping paper to wrap gifts. Another idea is to use old linen or fabric to wrap presents or to even make the wrapping part of the present, like a tea towel or scarf. Also, look to use recyclable paper tape or twine to wrap the gift.
Choose Gifts That Last or Ones That Disappear Without a Trace
This Christmas, make it your purpose to only buy gifts that won’t add to landfill. Rather than going for gimmicky, make Christmas-giving about quality. Think about the lifetimes of the materials your gifts are made from and make sure every purchase is something with purpose or meaning.
Great zero-waste gift ideas include experiences, vouchers for cleaning, massages, gardening, cooking classes, music or art lessons or even food that’s consciously packaged.
You can even choose a theme of sustainability in your gift-giving and inspire loved ones to live more mindfully. Great physical gifts include reusable drink bottles and coffee cups, zero waste kitchen supplies such as organic cotton reusable un-paper towels, silicone food wraps or zero-waste beauty products.
Shop More Consciously
When you spend money, you are voting with your wallet for the kind of world you want to support, so make sure you do it consciously.
Look to support those businesses who are manufacturing ethically, packaging sustainably and giving back to their local and global communities.
Not only are these small businesses usually at the forefront of innovation and making wonderful products, which are healthier for your body, but your purchase will be kinder to our planet and you will be able to fund some amazing initiatives at the same time too.
When making purchases, keep in mind where a product is coming from and the impact that transportation across the world has on contributing to greenhouse emissions.
Choose to purchase products made locally if you can. You will not only be supporting small business owners, but also reducing your footprint on the environment as well.
Consider Regifting and Thrifting (and Don’t Be Ashamed of It)
Buying second-hand items or regifting an item you won’t use are great ways to gift more sustainably as it is saving on the resources needed to make new products.
There are so many designer products available second-hand now, there doesn’t need to be a compromise on quality and style.
Give to Charity
If you are stuck for a gift for someone who has everything or if you want to give something meaningful, why not gift a donation to a charity? Many charities provide gift cards or vouchers. What better gift than the promise of a better future?
Get a Real Christmas Tree
The most sustainable tree options are using a living tree in a pot which you can bring inside each year or a tree made from driftwood, decorated branches or sustainably sourced timber.
If you did want a real tree, that too is a sustainable option as long as you make sure it is from a sustainable farm and at the end of its life, it is recycled back into mulch and doesn’t go to landfill.
If you do already have an artificial tree, the most important factor in its sustainability is to use it for as many years as possible. What stops it from being truly sustainable, is that even after a long life, it will, unfortunately, continue to exist for hundreds of years.
If you’re feeling creative, we’ve also seen some incredible sustainable ‘trees’ made from a creatively stacked pile of books, a decorated ladder and even a pineapple.
Reuse Christmas Decorations
The best sustainable Christmas decorations are high-quality ones, which become family heirlooms and are used every year. Reuse the decorations you have already or try to thrift some vintage ones. Always look to avoid plastic and polystyrene and choose recyclable or natural materials such as glass, wood or fabric.
Other sustainable decorations include ones from nature — foraged holly, red berries, mistletoe or homemade dried orange garlands. Christmas decorations are also a great opportunity to have fun and DIY — just make sure to use biodegradable glitter.
Use LED Lighting
When it comes to Christmas lights, make sure yours are LEDs. These use up to 80% less energy than traditional incandescent lights. Make the effort to turn the lights off when you go to bed and choose lights that aren’t flashing as these use more electricity too.
Swap Meat for Plants
Consider minimising your meat consumption this Christmas. Why not try a plant-based main meal or if you do choose to eat meat, sourcing from a regenerative farm?
Regenerative agriculture aims to rebuild organic matter in the soil and restore soil biodiversity, working to reverse the effects of climate change. Use this as an opportunity to support a local regenerative farm.
It’s always good to aim to avoid over-catering, to prevent food waste. However, if you do miscalculate, embrace the leftovers and create new meals. Leftover cold meats and salads are wonderful sandwich fillers and you can always stock up your freezer too. There may also be the opportunity to donate to a local food bank or soup kitchen.
Give Back to Nature
Christmas is about spending time with family and giving back. Use it as a time to reconnect with nature as well as each other and take time to enjoy time outdoors. Focus on giving back to the earth — in your garden; plant a tree together or decorate one in your garden for the birds with seed balls.
You could also attach a nesting box to a tree for a local bird or animal to make a home in, or spend time cleaning up a local area. These are great activities to share the value of the importance of sustainable living with your children.