Christmas is here! It's that time of the year when along with the prawns, drinks and laughter comes gifts we don't want and a mountain of wasted plastic and paper.
We need a bit off cheer this year more than ever. But our planet still needs a few friends to help undo and reduce the mess we’re making.
So here's a short and easy list of things you can do and swaps you can make to help keep this Christmas fun and exciting but also a little kinder to the planet.
Real or fake?
If you're going to put a tree up this year, opting for a real tree is one of the best things you can do to reduce your impact.
A potted tree will always be the most environmental choice. Place it outside for 11 months and bring it indoors at Christmas to enjoy many years of real Christmas Tree goodness.
If you already have an artificial tree, use it for as long as you can. Using an artificial tree for at least 10 years will have less impact on the planet than using real cut trees of the same size every year. If you don't have a fake tree, try to avoid buying one. If you must, opt for second hand instead of buying a new one.
If you do choose a real cut tree, dispose of it sensibly come January. Most councils provide a free collection & mulching service.
Decorate without plastic
Ditch the plastic tinsel and baubles and opt for quality decorations that you can pass on to your kids.
Ornaments made from glass, fabric and wood are all excellent alternatives to plastic. Choose classic designs and colours that won't go out of style to help ensure you’ll use them year after year.
Gifts that don't cost the earth
Showering the people we love with gifts at Christmas feels great. But rethinking the kind of gifts we give can reduce our impact significantly.
Giving experiences instead of things is one of the easiest swaps you can make to lower your impact.
If you do want to give something, take a moment to think about what it's made from, packaged in, where it was made and by whom. Sustainability extends further than just the environment. Think fair labour and also how far an item has travelled to get to you.
Choosing artisanal pieces that are made locally from natural materials is a more conscious option. Or think food, spices or tea in reusable jars from bulk food stores like Gram.
Doing a Secret Santa will also help reduce the number of gifts being given this year. And reduce the number that end-up in landfill.
Wrap it up
Australians use over 150,000km of wrapping paper every Christmas – almost enough to wrap around Earth's equator 4 times. What's worse is 90% of this goes to landfill.
Wrapping your gifts in reusable fabric is a great alternative. Better still, a beautiful scarf is a gift in itself. So you’ll give two gifts at once!
Save wrapping paper, boxes and ribbon from this year to reuse next year. Wrap your gifts in brown paper or newspaper and tie them with raffia or some colourful, high quality fabric ribbon that you can save use again throughout the year.
If you do feel the need to buy paper, try to choose matt, non-gloss varieties, free of foil or plastic embellishments. If you do, you can throw it in the yellow-topped bin. Fancy paper can’t though.
No plastic at the party
If you’re hosting a casual meal or BBQ, get your old crockery and cutlery out of the cupboard before heading for the plastic, disposable options. Remember, convenience is killer to our planet.
An even better way to get people thinking about minimising waste is to ask everyone coming to your party to bring their own utensils. If you’re heading to someone else’s for a Christmas feed, you’re your own plate, cutlery and cup. That way, there’ll be far less plastic going in the bin and to landfill.
Plan your Food
We throw a frightening amount of food away at Christmas. Up to 25% is the latest government assessment.
Organic material in landfill causes methane - and we all know the facts of methane being worse for global warming than carbon.
Making a conscious decision to forgo the idea that too much food is OK at Christmas is a great start.
Write a list before you head to the supermarket and stick to it.
Make your own dips instead of reaching for the pre-made, plastic variety. Hummus is easily made with a can (which is easily recycled) of chickpeas, some olive oil and a pinch of salt, garlic and onion powder. Or make a fresh pesto by blending some pine nuts, spinach leaves, parmesan, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Plan your meals and any ‘Bring a Plate’ lists with friends and family to help make sure there won’t be too many leftovers.
But if you do find yourself with a bit extra, send everyone home with a plate and try to eat left overs on Boxing Day instead of going out or buying more fresh food.