Christmas is a time for celebration. It’s a time for getting together with your family and your loved ones, enjoying the summer sunshine and having a well-deserved break after a long year.
But unfortunately, Christmas is also a time of excessive wastage. This wastage can come in many forms – food that has been left uneaten, wrapping paper and bits of cardboard left over from presents and Christmas bonbons, unwanted presents themselves (and I won’t even talk about the horrible trend of buying people puppies and kittens only for them to be given to the pound shortly after Christmas!).
Even environmentally unfriendly products you wouldn’t necessarily think of, such as harmful plastic Christmas trees and decorations can have a huge impact. Luckily there are some things you can do to cut down on the environmental impact of Christmas.
It’s estimated that Australians spend $7.2 billion on food during the month of December and that almost 20% of food purchased is wasted and spoilt. Here’s how you can cut down on food wastage:
- Embrace your leftovers and get creative. Find some ideas here, here and here.
- Donate any ingredients or meals that are leftover to services around Canberra that help to feed the homeless, such as the St Vincent de Paul Society.
- Make sure you dispose of food and packaging thoughtfully. Compost any leftover food scraps, make sure bottles and plastics are recycled.
Based on a research report commissioned by Gumtree, it was found that 71% of Australians receive unwanted Christmas presents, equating to about 20.6 million gifts.
Luckily there are a few things you can do for Christmas presents without wasting your money and your gifts.
- Give them what they want or what they need. Everyone has something that they want and failing that there is always something that they need (even if it’s as small as batteries). The best way to give someone a gift that won’t be unwanted is to simply ask them. If they’re one of those hard-to-buy-for people that always answer with “I don’t care” or “I don’t want anything” then give them a gift that isn’t for them. I’m a big fan of Oxfam’s Christmas cards that gift chickens, cows, goats, and water items to smaller villages in developing countries. If the person you are giving a gift for doesn’t need anything, there are others that do.
- In the event that you receive an unwanted Christmas present, there are many ways that you can rehome your gift. Many people sell or re-gift the unwanted Christmas gifts, but many places would also love a donation. Pounds and animal shelters always accept donations of blankets and towels, while books can be gifted to a children’s ward at the hospital, to schools, or the library. Local charities GIVIT and Roundabout also accept select donations. Do a bit of research on the unwanted gift as to who you can give it to and keep the Christmas giving spirit going.
There are many issues when it comes to Christmas decorations. Many can continually be reused year after year and are simply stored away until December, but the environmental impact can still be damaging. Most plastic trees are made from oil turned into plastic and transported from Chinese factories and if you simply throw them away after Christmas it can end up rotting away in landfill like other terrible plastics. There are a few alternatives though:
- If you are really keen for a plastic tree, make sure you look after it and keep it for as long as possible. Reuse it year after year and make sure that you don’t deviate from the decorations simply because it’s another year gone by.
- The best option for Christmas trees is to score yourself a real one from Australian nurseries, which are grown as part of a plantation and are replaced as soon as they are cut down. Cutting down trees can seem harmful for the environment but pine trees are usually grown in areas that are otherwise unsuitable for other crops and can be collected for free after Christmas Day! If you’re like me though and the idea of a single-use tree seems too unsustainable, you can also buy a smaller potted pine plantation and grow it in a pot all year round instead.
- Christmas bonbons are a huge waste to the environment as they usually contain unnecessary cardboard, paper, plastic toys that are never used again, and a terrible joke that gets chucked in the bin instantly. Save money and make your own Christmas bonbons out of recycled materials in your home that you would usually throw away, such as toilet roll holders. It also means you can put in non-plastic gifts inside as well to reduce the effect of the environment!
There are many ways you can make your Christmas as environmentally friendly as possible – all it takes is a bit of recycling, creative energy, and maybe a couple of hours on Pinterest!
So do something good for the world, your loved ones, and your wallet this Christmas!