Christmas is a lovely time of year. We get holidays, get to spend time with friends and family and get to eat delicious food. But unfortunately, a bunch of us also get stressed. From buying presents to decorating the house, cooking food and then cleaning it all up after, there is a lot going on. All of this takes up precious time we should be spending with our loved ones and in the meantime, produces huge amounts of waste. Check out my complete guide to zero waste living for the ultimate introduction to waste and why it’s an issue.
Let’s look at the waste produced in the UK from Christmas alone in 2006:
- More than a billion Christmas cards (17 for every man, woman and child) delivered. That’s enough to stretch around the world five times.
- 52 square miles of wrapping paper (enough to gift-wrap Jersey) ripped off by Boxing Day.
- 125,000 tons of plastic packaging in the bin.
- Six million trees bought but only 1.2 million recycled. The rest were left to rot or be thrown away.
- Shops sold 16 million turkeys. Up to 40 per cent of festive food is wasted.
- Turkey foil wrap created 3,000 tons of waste.
- Within three months, 41 per cent of the toys children receive were broken. Most went to the tip.
- Many got the latest mobile phone but only 10 to 15 per cent were recycled.
- If every Christmas tree bought in the UK laid next to each other, the line would reach New York and back (The Guardian, 2013).
Source: The Independant UK
How can you reduce waste this Christmas?
Christmas lunch & dinner
The average Australian household around the country throws away $1,050 worth of food each year. (Huffington Post, 2017)
- Buy it in bulk if you can. If you can, get it in cans as opposed to glass as aluminium is 100% recyclable and recycled in most parts of Australia
- Plan exactly what you will make and for many people so you can minimise waste and don’t buy more than you need. Plan meals that have ingredients that can be easily found package free at bulk stores or farmers markets.
- Include more vegetarian options. Here are a bunch of ideas from Jamie Oliver and Minimalist baker!
- Buy dry goods in bulk stores
- Take your own bag to the bakery for bread
- Shop at farmers markets and take your own bags or basket
- Cook your own food and avoid packaged products e.g. minced pies.
- Add food scraps to your compost, worm farm or green bin!
- Only throw away food if it passes its use-by date. Sell-by and best-before dates are nothing to do with food safety. Almost anything can be frozen even if it is close to a use-by date, including smoked salmon, vegetables and dairy products like hard cheese and butter.
- Save leftover food for meals for the following week
- Buy food that is in season (see images below)
- Recycle what you can! Find out what your local council does and doesn’t recycle here.
- If you are given new electronic devices, dispose of your old ones correctly!
Make your own cards using things you already have around the house
- Give donations as a present.
- You can get gift cards at my favourite charity, Kiva.org
- Choose what charity you give to using the Give Well site. This will help you make an informed decision and make sure you get the most ‘value for money’.
- Here is a great list of Indigenous Australian charities that I love.
- e.g. a gift voucher to a spa
Give your time
- Take someone out for a lovely day or cook them a nice meal instead of giving them a gift
Give access to things, not the things themselves
- e.g. a subscription to an audio book site.
Make presents, for example:
- DIY essential oil spray
- Reusable makeup remover rounds
- Homemade body scrub
- Homemade lip balm
- Beeswax wraps
- Homemade produce bags
If you are given presents, keep the wrapping paper for next year
If you need to buy gifts:
- Buy from ethical brands
- Biome and Seed & Sprout have great sustainable items
- Buy second hand
- If you give a gift that needs batteries, give a reusable battery charger pack with it! IKEA has a great reusable battery set.
Find out what people really want so you are not giving them gifts they won’t use
- Newspaper with string
- Use a scarf instead!
- Make your own paper using half an onion with paint as a stamp!
- Buy wrapping paper with recycled content if you can
- Buy wrapping paper that is recyclable (avoid those with glitter – microplastic!)
Wrapping with photos and twigs by Fawn Deviney
Tree & decorations
- Make your own tree! Find some driftwood. Here are some more ideas.
- Make your own decorations.
- If you do buy decorations, make sure they are good quality
- Use solar-powered lights outside the house
- If you have a live Christmas tree, see if your council has a special mulching service or take it to the green waste area at your local waste facility
How do you reduce waste at Christmas time in your home? Comment below!
And if you feel ready to make a change…
- Read my complete guide to zero waste living!
- Follow @sustainable.simply on Instagram to find practical and simple tips on zero waste living
- Join the Low Impact Living Facebook group and share your journey towards a zero waste lifestyle with other like-minded individuals!
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