How to reduce your waste on Christmas Day

Many of us count down to the fun, family, food and festivities of Christmas Day. Amongst planning for the big day and getting gifts, decorations and menus organised it’s easy to feel like there’s no time or energy left to think of creative ways to help the planet too.

Sadly when we all think this way, the waste can really pile up on Christmas Day. In Australia alone, we use around 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper every Christmas that goes virtually from the roll to the bin.

We can start to reverse this trend though by making a few small substitutions this Christmas. Here are three low-hassle ways to reduce your waste, without reducing your festive cheer this Christmas Day:

Swap the store-bought gift wrap

There are lots of good alternatives to using store-bought wrapping paper:

  • Repurpose existing paper products you have at home like old street maps, sheet music, newspaper, books or catalogues. Get the kids to add some paint or handprints if you need some extra flair. Try to opt for recyclable paper wrap and avoid foil or embossed paper that can’t be recycled.
  • Use fabric ribbons you can collect and reuse each year or a natural fibre like raffia that can be composted rather than curling ribbon and other non-recyclable extras.
  • Buy some festive fabric you can tie with string and reuse each year, or wrap gifts in cute tea towels or scarves that form part of the gift.
  • Avoid wrapping altogether by giving a gift like an experience, voucher, donation to a charity or aid organisation, or microfinancing organisation like Kiva.
  • Don’t forget about cards! Many can’t be recycled due to their foil or glitter embellishments. You could write directly on the present or make cute alternative gift cards using leaves from the garden, paper scraps cut into star shapes or even Christmas cookies.

Embrace ‘naked’ food

A walk through the supermarket during December can be overwhelming. Virtually all packaged snack foods are on special and every brand is pushing for you to have a few of their product in your pantry ‘just in case’. Many of these pre-packaged foods not only create huge amounts of packaging waste, overindulging in them is also the reason we all detox on 1 January!

Why not embrace ‘naked’ food this Christmas? Spoil your guests with beautiful fresh seasonal fruits, vege crudités, simple homemade dips or a batch of gingerbread. You might not be able to completely reduce your food packaging and waste, but maybe one or two items on your Christmas meal plan could be intentionally packaging-free?

Decorations: less is more

There is no shortage of gimmicky Christmas decorations this time of year – from trees to table settings to tinsel it can seem like every square centimetre of your home has to be covered in red, green and gold. But – we know Christmas is about more than the decorations, and a few thoughtful and carefully placed pieces can do more to bring on the Christmas spirit than a whole room of cheap plastic and glitter:

  • ·Invest in a few high-quality Christmas decorations, LED lights, table cloths, ornaments and crockery you can use year after year.
  • Light scented soy or beeswax candles to bring a festive glow and fill the air with the smell of Christmas.
  • Buy native christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) or a poinsettia from your local florist or nursery to use as a vibrant table centrepiece.
  • Set the kids to work making decorations like recycled paper chains, salt dough ornaments and paper wreaths to keep them busy AND give a personalised touch to your living room adornments.

Remember to also dispose of any packaging and waste you do end up with responsibly– collect up soft plastics for recycling through your nearest REDcycle collection point, place paper, cardboard, plastics and glass in your council kerb-side bin as appropriate and store your leftovers correctly so they are good to go on Boxing Day and don’t end up in the bin.

By making just a few small swaps this year you can enjoy all the festivities, without the eco-hangover. Now that’s a Merry Christmas!

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Melissa Sellen

Mel holds a Master of Environmental Education and has worked as an educator for Planet Ark and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, as well as State and Local Government. She has sat on the Executive of the Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) NSW Chapter for the past 7 years and helped write the latest NSW Framework for Environmental Education. Mel is a mum to two lovely world-changers under 5 who help her put all her ideas into practice!

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