With Christmas just around the corner (erm... is it REALLY December already?) you've probably started thinking about gifts for your loved ones. Now, I don't mean to sound like The Grinch... but did you know that the silly season is actually the most wasteful time of the year?
Globally at Christmas our waste levels go up by almost 30%. All that wrapping paper, cards and unnecessary packaging lead to mountains of rubbish that often cannot be recycled (hello, landfill). And don't even get me started on the food waste!
So how do you celebrate Christmas in a sustainable way? Here are my top 10 Eco friendly ideas for this festive season.
1. Go paper-free
Instead of plastic coated, mass produced rolls of Santa wrapping paper try sustainable options such as tea towels, cloth napkins and old fabrics. Not only are they better for the environment but you can use them year after year - without wasting trees!
If you must use paper, please choose brands that are FSC certified (which means they come from sustainable, well managed forests) or buy cards which are made from recycled materials.
2. Choose experiences over things!
When buying gifts, think about an experience instead of a material one. Tickets to the theatre, sports match or concert are excellent options! What I love about experiences is that they can bring people together and create life-long memories.
Maybe opening a voucher card is NOT as exciting as ripping open a shiny present but if what's inside will make for better memories AND help to save the planet, surely that's a small sacrifice to make.
3. Give planet-friendly gifts
Now this may sound hard, but you can find sustainable gifts for all budgets. For example, if money is tight check out second hand shops or swap meets. Here you can find great quality items, sometimes even brand news ones that don't cost the Earth.
When buying new items, look for ones that can be used time and time again. An eco friendly coffee cup filled up with their favourite treats is way more thoughtful than a store bought box of chocolates.
And if you really love someone why not buy them a gift certificate so they can choose their own sustainable gift? Something they actually want is far less likely to end up in the bin on Boxing Day!
4. Less is more
It's hard to resist the temptation to splurge at this time of year. We're bombarded with advertising, enticed into town to see the Christmas displays and generally overwhelmed with endless things to spend our money on! But take a moment to think about how much you really need. Why not have just one or two presents for each person this year? That way there are less gifts to buy, wrap and store!
If you're having extended family over or a bigger group on the day, how about doing Secret Santa instead of getting gifts for everyone? That way there is no pressure for people to spend a lot and you afford a better, more thoughtful gift for just one person.
5. Reduce food waste
After Christmas lunch most of the leftovers tend to go into the bin. Given the amount of people who are literally starving, that's just criminal! Did you know that Australians throw out more than $8 billion worth of edible food each year? That's crazy!! Luckily there are all sorts of ways to reduce your food waste like using up leftovers, freezing meals before they go off and just buying less.
Instead of rolling out a massive meal with all the trimmings, consider asking people to bring a plate. That way you know they'll be able to eat what they want instead of chowing down on turkey and prawns for the sake of tradition.
6. Promote sustainable living
If you're buying gifts for family members, you could try choosing ones that bring awareness to sustainable living. At our house we' re always happy to receive books about gardening, cooking, DIY and sustainable projects. If your family members don't enjoy sustainable living yet, why not give them the gift of education this year?
With a whole internet of options available, you can find gifts for anyone - no matter what their interests are. All it takes is a little bit of planning and creative thinking to get something they will love and treasure for a long time to come.
7. Gifts for children
Kids are so excited by Christmas day that they don't care where their toys come from or what they're made of. But parents should! As adults we need to lead by example and teach our kids sustainable lifestyles!
Plastic toys and novelty gifts not only decay over time, but they also damage our environment for years to come. Our planet is our home, so why wouldn't you want to protect it for future generations?
If your children insist on having the latest trending toys this year, limit them to just one or two and try to offset that by making sure you educate them on eco living principles.
8. Make something special
Nothing says "I love you" more than a hand made gift. And these are often more affordable than store bought ones. If you're pressed for time (I KNOW the feeling!) how about asking your kids to get creative or bake some Christmas cookies together?
Old empty jars can be recycled to make personalised "recipe mixes" that anyone will enjoy. Or decorate a second hand photo frame and print a quote or image that will make them smile. Gifts don't have to be expensive to have a big impact!
9. Reuse & recycle
One of the best ways to reduce your Christmas footprint is to keep what you can and reuse it again. Remember to save all your nice paper bags and ribbons to re-use for birthday gifts or other events.
If you receive gifts that you don't want, consider donating them to your local op shop or shelter. Not only will this allow someone else to enjoy it instead of ending up in the landfill but it's a great way to teach sustainable living values to your children.
If you do find you have more waste than usual after the big day, how about taking it to a local recycling centre or facility? Helping out the environment is always appreciated by others, especially at Christmas.
If you're going to an outdoor event in a public place, such as the beach or a local park, don't leave rubbish bags next to full bins in the expectation that it will be collected. Chances are it won't and someone else will have to clear up after you. Take your waste home if required. That way it won't end up strewn everywhere or in our rivers and oceans after hungry animals try to scavenge food from inside!
10. Be sustainable yourself
Of course, the best way you can reduce your impact is by reducing your own consumption. Lead by example so you can influence a change in others.
If you do all these things this Christmas, congratulations. And thank you for helping our planet! If everyone in the world took on even just one one sustainable change, we'd be on our way to a happy tomorrow for all!
Christmas is a time for giving and celebrating with friends and family. By choosing sustainable gifts this year you're sending the world a message that sustainable living is important to you, and hopefully inspiring those around you to do the same!
I hope this post has given you some fresh ideas on sustainable Christmas gifts that will be meaningful both for your loved ones.
Wishing you a merry, messy Xmas!