Christmas and consumption go together like two peas in a pod, Princess Leia and Han Solo, Ross and Rachel, hokey pokey ice cream and a New Zealand summer, and a CaliWoods straw and berry smoothie. It’s the time of year we spend hundreds on decorations, buy gifts for family out of obligation rather than need, and end up with overflowing rubbish bins full of food waste and plastic wrappers.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
12 Steps to a Sustainable Christmas:
1. Gift Experiences, Time, and Donations
Approach the way you gift differently this year. Instead of placing value on physical things, what about experiences?
- Gift Experiences and Memories: massage vouchers, movie tickets, skydiving, sports events or concert tickets
- Dedicate a certain day to spending time with a friend or family member, doing an activity they love best
- Donations: Like Give A Goat. You may think we’ve gone bonkers, but Tearfund run a ‘Gift for Life’ scheme where you can donate a life-changing gift on someone else’s behalf, and receive a card to give them, letting them know the difference they’ve made in the world. You won’t be wrapping up a goat on Christmas Eve, but a village in a low-income country will welcome a new animal to their herd thanks to you.
- We also like Give Trees Not Stuff and a few trees for NZ's waterways is on the Christmas Gift List for this year for sure!
- Give Your Time: Babysitting hours? Yard work? Give a few hours of your time as a voucher to family members. Time is so precious so it is always a well-received gift !
- Consider gifting favourite foods that will be consumed, rather than knickknacks that may be forgotten in the cupboard by the time the new year comes around.
2. Wrap Sustainably
Ditch the expensive wrapping paper that ends up in the bin a few seconds later. Get creative!
- Keep the wrapping paper when you are given a gift, and reuse it
- Newspaper and brown string (super indie look)
- Second hand pieces of fabric you can find at your local op-shop
- Check out how to do amazing Furoshiki - Japanese fabric wrapping!
3. Change Up Your Christmas Tree
Rather than cutting down a tree every year, or buying a plastic tree (urgh), there are several alternative ways to make it feel like Christmas.
- Try making a drift wood tree
- Hang Christmas tree decorations on a large pot plant or plant in your garden
- Purchase a second-hand tree from an op-shop- save it from tree heaven
- If you simply must smell pine needles on Christmas day, purchase a real tree that comes from a sustainable and local source
- Have a Reusable Tree that lasts years ! Repotting your tree outside after every Christmas stops waste and kids love to watch it grow and change each year...we think this is an EPIC idea!
4. Cook Sustainably
Altering your food consumption on Christmas day can reduce your impact on the environment in a massive way.
- If the catering is in your control, create a plant based menu, use locally grown produce, and free range, organic meats
- Purchase your grains, nuts, and baking ingredients from a bulk bin store, with the help of our bulk food shopping guide
- To reduce your plastic waste and avoid the overflowing rubbish bin situation, check out our package free fridge tips which break things down, and helps you develop your shopping list productively
If the catering is not in your control… send a cheeky email to the person in charge, with our waste free tips and tricks.
5. Be Mindful
Between the hurricane of gifts, typhoon of family members chatting, and chaos of meals, it’s easy to let the day go by and forget what Christmas is all about. Take time to reflect on your year, sit and observe your surroundings, slow down, and be conscious of the present.
A few ways to practice mindfulness on Christmas day:
- Sing carols together
- Make it a screen free day
- As a group, say one thing you’re thankful for
- Take the family on a nature day - take in the smells, textures and natural beauty!
6. Deal With Your Waste
Waste comes in all types of forms during Christmas. Whether it be the food on your plate, or the gifts you won’t use, think carefully before it leaves your life.
- Eat ALL the food, or freeze it for the new year.
- Re-gift unwanted presents to someone you know will enjoy them, or give them to a charity or op-shop.
- Separate your compost, recycling, and rubbish, and make sure Aunt Marge knows that too!
7. Donate To Charities and Volunteer
Spread the Christmas joy! Christmas is a great excuse to get involved in your community and give back.
- Gift your time by volunteering at your local second-hand store (they need all the help they can get around this busy time!)
- Donate to a charity
- Ask your local community groups how you would be most helpful to them
8. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Chances are, you’ll be dashing around town like our reindeer pals, dancer and prancer, attending all sorts of end of year events and family gatherings.
- Try your best to carpool when possible
- Use public transport, or hop on your bike
- You can also offset your carbon emissions using companies such as Cool Effect, who do the calculations for you!
9. Lower Your Electricity Usage
Who wants a massive electricity bill during the holiday season? Not us!
- Pull out the solar powered Christmas lights, turn lights off when you leave the room, and remind your guests to do the same
- Daylight in NZ allows us to stay in natural light for longer making this even easier
10. Thoughtful Earth Friendly Cards
If you’re still on the Christmas card buzz, don’t waste time, money, and trees.
- Send an e-card! Find a website with designs that suit you, by simply searching online... Here’s an example.
- We love using items from nature to be a card replacement. Our favourites are finding a nice ink pen and writing on shells and driftwood!
- Find cards with real meaning behind them - the Foot and Mouth Painters Christmas Cards are a great example and are a gift within a gift.
11. Make Your Own Christmas Tree Decorations
Let’s face it.. homemade Christmas decorations always look better than the standard boring ones!
- Attempt to make your own decorations this year. Decorate natural resources (e.g. shells and driftwood), or find cute fabric from your op-shop and get the sewing machine out!
- Have a look at the plastic free options at Trade Aid - We LOVE them!
- Purchase them from a local maker
12. Spread the Sustainable Cheer
In all that you do this Christmas, don’t keep your eco-tips to yourself!
- Shout it from the roof tops!
- Suggest eco-friendly Secret Santa in your workplace!
- Get your family on board, and don’t be afraid to do things a little differently!
- Be an example for the rest of your friends and family to follow!