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Ten Ways to Enjoy a Waste-free Christmas

Carlie Kennedy

Christmas is a time of love, happiness and hope—but all too often, it’s also a time of blatant commercialism. Giving gifts is a lovely tradition, and also one that can easily end up with a lot of plastic and other junk crowding out the landfills in the new year.
It’s harsh, but it’s true, and the good news is that we believe Christmas doesn’t have to be bad for our planet. There are ways to enjoy family time, feasting and even present exchanges without creating excess waste. We have laid out a few here, beginning with great eco-friendly gift ideas and moving to other aspects of the celebrations, in the hope that we can encourage more people to make Christmas as waste-free as it is festive.
One: Make things yourself

Rather than buying a bunch of novelty plastic, fast fashion or cheap junk that ends up collecting dust, get creating. You could paint, sculpt, carve, write, make jewellery, or cook up a storm and make them jams, baked goods, freezer meals or whatever is likely to tickle their fancy. Your loved ones are likely to appreciate the thought and effort that has gone into a handmade gift.
Two: Buy second-hand gifts
If you are not up to the task of making, buy secondhand where possible. There’s a bit of a stigma attached to opshopping, but a new generation of broke and/or frugal young people are breaking it down. You’d be surprised at the treasures you’ll find in Hospice Shops and Family Stores around Aotearoa.
Three: Source eco-friendly presents

Not sold on the idea of making or shopping second-hand? The next best option is to buy something that won’t go to waste, and willin fact  contribute to saving the planet. Why not consider a practical gift like reusable straws, wooden picnic cutlery or organic mesh produce bags?

 

Four: Give experiences

An easy way to reduce Christmas present-related waste dramatically is to offer people treasured experiences rather than physical gifts. This might mean cooking them a nice dinner, taking them on a fun outing, or booking something exciting you’ve both always wanted to do. Bungy jumping, perhaps?

 

Five: Repurpose wrapping paper

Untold amounts of Christmas wrapping paper gets thrown on living room floors around the nation on December 25th. It’s all a bit wasteful, so this year try to use the materials available to you. Old magazines and newspapers are great wrapping paper, and can be made to look festive with some red or green ribbon - to be put away and used again next year, of course! Gift bags can be filled and refilled many times with different presents, so don’t chuck them after one use. Reuse!

 

Six: Make your Christmas treats

While store-bought treats and desserts are very convenient and we are all for saving time, they also come with a whole heap of packaging. Making your own Christmas biscuits, chocolates, slices and cakes reduces the amount of waste involved in sugary holiday indulgence, and is also guaranteed to impress your loved ones. Cranberries are a classic festive baking ingredient, and you can make sure your homemade desserts fit special diets, too—like this paleo Chocolate, Hazelnut and Raspberry tart.

 

Seven: Rein in the banquet

A huge spread of food is a sight to behold, but when you take Christmas cooking too far, waste is the result. Cook plenty, but not far more than what you need, and try to keep your menu limited only to the favourites. It’s summer here in New Zealand, so you may prefer to put on a delicious grilled seafood smorgasbord or sear some steaks on the BBQ than cook a huge ham that not many people really like, and which will go bad before it all gets eaten.

 

Eight: Don’t use disposable dishes/cutlery

Although it’s tempting to pick up packets of plastic plates, bowls and cutlery to cut down on cleaning up while feeding a crowd, it’s terrible for the environment. The small time sacrifice of washing dishes or loading them into the dishwasher is well worth the waste-free benefit, and it makes a good bonding activity, too. If you must use disposables, ensure they are biodegradable. Say no to plastic straws, like Starbucks recently did in the US: our gold cocktail straws will make your festive beverages beautiful as well as ethically sound.

 

Nine: Recycle

With so much happening at Christmas, it can be easiest to just chuck everything into the bin willy-nilly.  Sorting the recyclables from the landfill is just as important in December as it is any other time of the year, so take a few moments to be nice to the planet.

Ten: Preserve power

Christmas lights don’t produce much rubbish, but they can definitely waste a lot of power. Turn them off at night and when no-one’s home—particularly the ones on the Christmas tree, as they can pose a fire risk if left on. LED lights use far less power than traditional ones, which is good for the wallet as well as Mother Earth.



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