The Christmas season is upon us which means more time with friends and family, delicious food, fun gifts, and plenty of holiday treats. But for the carbon-conscious consumer, Christmas is also a time for concern.
With the festive season comes massive overconsumption – in 2016, estimates show that Australians spent a giant $48.1 billion across the Christmas period, with 20 million gifts left unwanted. Furthermore, studies have found that in Australia, alcohol consumption triples over the Christmas period. The high rates of consumerism – particularly around the festive season – tend to have a negative impact not only on our wallets and health, but also the environment.
Discover how to limit your waste and enjoy a carbon-friendly holiday for you and your family with these 11 helpful tips.
Christmas means feasts and festivities, but how do you ensure Christmas lunch is both tasty and good for the environment?
For starters, buying local produce not only reduces transportation overheads, it also ensures your ingredients are fresher and better tasting. Transporting food over large distances equates to more carbon emissions to reach your table, especially if the food is transported by air.
By purchasing locally grown and seasonal produce you automatically cut down on ‘food miles’, as this food doesn’t require importing and long-term refrigeration. So before heading to the supermarket this Christmas, check out your local grocer, deli and farmers’ market for locally sourced yummies.
Not only are ovens energy inefficient, they also heat up the whole house, which is not ideal in the middle of summer. Instead, opt for seafood, cold meats and fresh salads, which will go down much better in the sweltering December heat. If you do need to cook, try to use slow cookers, the microwave, or even a toaster. These appliances are more energy efficient and will keep things cool in the kitchen.
There are still plenty of diverse and satisfying meals that can be prepared without an oven; think prawn pasta, quinoa and bean salad, no-bake cheesecakes and panna cotta.
Pests are an ever present problem for Australian households, but over the holiday season, with temperatures soaring and food aplenty, unwelcome guests are more likely to find their way indoors.
If you’ve got pest issues in your home, you should consider using an environmentally friendly, non-toxic pest control solution like ultrasonic pest repellents. Not only do they work well to keep the critters way, they also don’t create noxious fumes and are safer for animals we want to take care of – like our pets!
Christmas is that special time of year when we can decorate the outside of our homes in preparation for the festive season. If you're a keen Christmas decorator, consider how you can reduce energy usage by turning off outside Christmas lights before you go to bed.
Only using outdoor LEDs will help reduce power consumption, as will solar powered fairy lights, which you can usually pick up at a reasonable price from your local hardware or department store.
Many of our Christmas traditions come from environments very different to Australia, and the Christmas tree is one of them. While it might not be easy to find a lovely fit for your home, you can still have your own tree. Many Aussies are making do with mature potted plants as Christmas trees instead of synthetic alternatives.
When it comes time to decorate your tree apply the same ethos as for the rest of the home:
Think natural or recycled wreaths, driftwood ornaments, decorated pine cones, and snowflakes made out of sticks.
Come Christmas the mailbox is stuffed with dozens of Christmas cards. While it’s nice to receive well wishes from friends and family, we all know the final destination of these cards – the recycling bin. If you think about how many cards are thrown out every year, it’s quite clear why sending an ecard will be appreciated by not only your mailing list but also the environment.
Even if you do store all of these cards and run the risk of becoming a hoarder, they still need to be manufactured and shipped out. The resources used could easily be put to more productive use elsewhere. So do mother nature a favour and move to an eco-friendly option.
Regardless of age and interest, there's something for everyone when it comes to environmentally friendly gifts:
Toys and books that promote eco-friendly mindsets and are made ethically are a great starting point for educating young ones about the importance of the environment right from the start.
Stroke the flames of imagination with pencils and crayons made from sustainable materials and further their education with books printed on recycled paper. If you are going to buy something new and exciting, ensure it’s made from high quality materials and is a gift that will last.
Sustainably produced cosmetics, moisturises, organic chocolate and solar powered lamp lights are just some of the great, eco friendly Christmas gifts for teens. Shop mindfully through brands like Lush and The Body Shop.
Gifts like a solar powered battery charger, organic soaps or fair trade coffee will be greatly appreciated by the recipient, and result in minimal carbon impact. Why stop there? Keep cups for saving on paper cup waste, sustainable makeup and sweets made from fairtrade and organic ingredients all make great gift ideas. Biome also have a great range of gifts that are zero-waste, toxin-free and ethically made.
Have an adrenaline junkie for a friend? Or perhaps you’ve got a passionate foodie on your hands? Either way, gifting an experience is the perfect way to not only give a gift that the receiver will love and use, but also help the environment by reducing wastage.
With no need for another common waste product in the holiday season, you can reduce damage to the environment by using eco-friendly wrapping materials. Consider:
There’s nothing worse than seeing a bunch of gifts all wrapped with the same seasonable wrapping paper. Give your gifts the personal touch this year and go sustainable.
Depending on your Christmas fervour, the festive season is just about over after one short month. That means a full 10-12 years before materials used in decorating and celebrating Christmas see a full year of use.
With that in mind, always look to reuse and recycle your decorations. After Christmas, store them carefully in a dry, cool area. When packing, be mindful of your future self and don't overstuff boxes. Place heavier items towards the bottom. Be conscious that many decorative items are fragile and could break easy.
Apply this same philosophy before buying new decorations. Is there something around the house you can use instead? What about the buy / swap / sell pages online?
Less can mean more. Instead of buying en masse, focus on quality gifts and meaningful connections with friends and loved ones. Not every gift has to come from the store, you can save yourself (and your friends and family) time, effort and stress by organising a ‘Secret Santa’ draw.
How does Secret Santa work?
In a given group, write down each persons name on an individual piece of paper and place the pieces in a hat. Ask everyone to pull out a piece of paper and keep the name they retrieved a secret. The name on the paper is the person in the group that they will be getting a gift for.
Alternatively, enter everyone’s emails into an online secret santa generator to have each person’s nominated recipient emailed to them. Tools like this even give the option to enter wishlists, which means the gifts may actually be used! Secret Santa is a great way to save on both money and material, as well as ensure everyone receives a gift on Christmas day.
Whether you’re trying to save the environment or simply just on a tight budget, making your own Christmas gifts is the answer. Now before you undermine your own ability, have a look at the plethora of DIY gifts possible. From edible arrangements to DIY sugar scrubs, there are carbon neutral gifts out there that anyone can make, and present in the most professional way. Some other ideas include:
Just because you care about the environment doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on fun this holiday season. Incorporate carbon-friendly options into your holiday planning and make it a Christmas to remember!