For those of us who celebrate the season to be jolly, Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year thanks to good food, gifts, and festive decorating. Although, the environmental story is quite different. According to The Clean Collective, Australians generate around 30% more household waste at Christmas, and some experts refer to the jolly season as “the world’s greatest annual environmental disaster”. So on that note, here are six ways you can have a very merry, sustainable Christmas, without breaking the bank or compromising on holiday joy.
‘Traditional’ wrapping paper is perhaps the epitome of ‘single-use’ wastage and we use around 8,000 tonnes of it for Christmas alone, almost all of it ends up in landfill. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for eco-friendly gift wrapping from recycling old book pages (for the bibliophile in your family) to the Japanese art of Furoshiki – wrapping gifts with intricate and beautiful fabric.
Grow your Christmas tree
To many of us it seems like there are only two options for the yearly Christmas tree – a freshly-cut pine or a $20 plastic one. The jury is still out on which one is most environmentally harmful, but you can skip the issue altogether by growing your own. A bunch of Xmas-appropriate trees – from traditional pines (like the Wollemi pine) to the Aussie Christmas bush – can be kept in pots and containers year round and brought inside just in time for Christmas.
Plantable Christmas cards
Another mainstay of many Christmas traditions is the Christmas card, and like wrapping paper they often end up straight in the bin. But what if they went into the ground instead? Companies like Seed Paper Australia have created a range of paper products (including Christmas cards) that can be planted just like a seed and will soon bloom into a variety of plants like oregano and thyme and the native Australian Swan River Daisy.
Old school Christmas tree decorations
Forget cheap plastic baubles in garish colours that (like many things on this list) end up in landfill. Invest in timeless decorations made out of more eco-friendly materials such as wood, glass and metal. Not only are these kinds of decorations beautiful and long-lasting, but they can also become meaningful family heirlooms. This is also a great opportunity to support local artisans or small business owners who are crafting stunning decorations from eco-friendly materials.
Quality, not quantity
As a kid waking up on Christmas morning and finding a stack of presents under the tree, it most definitely was a pretty awesome feeling. But according to the Sydney Morning Herald, around $400m worth of unwanted gifts are being thrown into the garbage post-Christmas Day. Focus your gift-giving efforts on buying gifts that are important and special for the people you care about. Instead of buying a bunch of junk that’ll end up in landfill or the back of a cupboard for years, take a moment to think about what will really make your friends and family happy and get them something they’ll actually love and use.
Reuse, recycle and regift
Yes, we know that regifting is a social faux pas and a big no-no. But why? If you have a drawer or a box full of gifts that you’ve never used and never will, pass them on to people who will adore them! That ugly jumper your Nanna gave you three Christmases ago? Give it to your friend who looks so good in mustard yellow. Just be careful not to give a gift to the person who originally gave it to you!
Christmas can be an important time for many people; a time for friends and family with good food and gifts. But it can also be a time of ridiculous wastage that will last in our garbage dumps a lot longer than the excitement of Christmas Day. Whether you use any of these tips, or come up with your own ways to be more sustainable this Christmas, we hope you have a very merry Christmas.