We’re dreaming of a green Christmas.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also a time of excess, overspending and piles upon piles of plastic and wrapping paper.
If you want to be a little more mindful this festive season, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to throwing a green Christmas that is still filled with joy, whimsy and wonder. Just because you’re being sustainable, doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on fun and frivolity. These small changes can make your Christmas all the more special and memorable and guarantee you won’t be left with a guilt hangover.
Every year, Aussies spend around $400 million on unwanted gifts. Come Boxing Day, all those novelty stocking fillers and cheap body lotions will end up in a sad pile of rejects and wrapping paper, bound for landfill.
The best gifts you can give this Christmas are socially-conscious, eco-friendly and enrich the lives of your loved ones. This could be the book that changed your life, the gift of travel with a luxe staycation or regenerative farm stay, a batch of your famous homemade dukkah or some funky leggings to fuel their new love of yoga (from one of Movemetica’s ethical brands, of course!)
Try to shop local and support small businesses as much as possible. We’ve all gotten very good at online shopping this year but buying Australian made means cutting down on all those emissions that come with posting packages from the other side of the world (we’re looking at you, Amazon.) Do your research on ethical companies and browse sites like Buy From the Bush to spend with some Aussies who’ve done it tough in 2020.
As tempting as it may be to leave all your Christmas shopping until late December, start planning now. If you’re a last minute shopper, you’ll know the anguish of the panic buying frenzy which inevitably ends with you buying a discount bin candle for your mum because it’s the only thing left on the barren Christmas Eve shelves. You have plenty of time now to dream up some thoughtful gifts that you know the recipient will adore.
THE GREAT TREE DEBATE
Are you a real tree devotee or a fake tree fan? More importantly, which one is better for the environment, chopping down a big pine tree or importing plastic from China?
If you already have a plastic tree, it’s a no brainer. Nothing is more sustainable than reusing what you already have at home. But experts estimate that you need to deck out the artificial tree every Christmas for around 10 years before it breaks even with the real tree, so take good care of it.
For many families, lugging home that lush tree to decorate is a big part of getting into the Christmas spirit. The intoxicating scent of the pine needles, the magical lights twinkling between branches, the ritual of placing the star on top of the tree. If you opt for a real tree, never burn the branches and make sure you dispose of it properly (we’ve all been guilty of having a crisp, brown tree still sitting in our lounge room come Easter.) Most councils arrange collections so trees can be composted.
You could also consider investing in a potted Christmas tree that will grow and live in your home for many years to come. Don’t want a Christmas tree at all? Try stringing up some lights in a tree growing outside for a display the whole neighbourhood can enjoy.
GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR WRAPPING AND DECORATIONS
After you’ve spent so long picking out the perfect earth-loving gift for your bestie, you’d be a fool to wrap it up in plastic. Did you know that most of those shiny rolls of Christmas wrapping paper are actually covered in plastic and can’t be recycled? Worse still, Aussies use more than 150,000km of wrapping paper every Christmas. That’s enough to wrap around the Earth nearly four times.
Instead of creating more waste, try your hand at the Japanese art of Furoshiki, wrapping your gifts with just one piece of fabric. Or use some recycled paper adorned with a sprig of eucalyptus from your garden, it will smell as good as it looks. You’ll discover that ribbons do the same job as sticky tape and old Christmas baubles make the cutest present toppers. If you’re looking to revive the tradition of posting Christmas cards, get crafty and DIY some out of handmade plantable seed paper.
You know what we’re going to say next - cut the crackers. They’re entirely unnecessary plastic and we guarantee you will never again look at that novelty moustache keyring. You can buy all the supplies to make your own and fill them with actually funny jokes, little recipes, choccies, and, of course, paper crowns.
When decorating, shop your own stash first. If you do want to add some new touches to your tree, make your own salt dough ornaments or look in second hand stores for one-of-a-kind decorations. The vintage baubles and wooden figurines you’ll find will have so much more character than those perfectly colour-coordinated trees you see all over Instagram.
If you’re putting up a flashy light display out front, consider swapping out your lights for LED or solar lights to reduce your energy consumption (you’ll save on your power bill too!)
Say it with me now, you don’t need ten different kinds of cheese this Chrissy. Or maybe you do, just don’t go wild buying enough food to feed the entire Matildas soccer team if it’s just you and your partner. Most people end up with a fridge full of leftovers that end up getting thrown out, so get creative with last night’s dinner. Christmas sandwiches are a classic but a roast meat and veggie pie goes down a treat too. If you’ve got leftover canned food, sauces or anything with a long shelf life, consider donating it to your local food bank.
We won’t tell you to swap your roast ham and prawns for a vegan fare (a thousand gold stars if you do!) but you should consider where your food has come from. Buy organic and locally sourced produce wherever possible. If you’re having seafood, check out The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s GoodFish guide to help you choose the most sustainable fish for your spread.
How will you be reducing your carbon footprint this Christmas?
- About the author -
"Rachel Wagner is a freelance writer and podcast producer currently riding out the storm on the Bellarine Peninsula. She writes about the good things in life - travel, culture, creativity and how to tread lightly on our Earth along the way. Follow her on Instagram @rachelshae or say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org"