The end of year festive season has arrived and we’re dreaming of a Green Christmas. The decorations are out, the lights are on and the hustle and bustle of the season is everywhere. As 2013, the ‘International Year of Water Cooperation’, draws to an end, it is a good time to reflect on our relationship with the environment.
Christmas is often a time of ‘more’ – we eat more, drink more, shop more and travel more—making a big impact on our budgets and the environment. However, with a little imagination, Christmas doesn’t have to be such a burden on the environment and we can reduce our impact of the holiday season. Here are some small tips to be mindful of as you help do your part:
Presents and Decorations
- Create decorations by reusing materials from previous years or get inspired with some ideas from Real Simple.
- Do Kris Kringle with your loved ones to minimise consumerism. And for those gifts you do buy, biome is a great eco-store worth checking out.
- Not everything has to be bought new. There are many great flea markets, estate sales and local craft fairs that are a great source for gifts like vintage jewellery and bicycles or early edition books. Choosing these options also supports local providers and sellers.
- Christmas time is a great time to teach children about giving to those who will be alone at Christmas or don’t have the means to buy presents for their own children. You can share the spirit by asking your children to pick toys that they don’t play with very much and donating them to a charity or putting them under a giving tree.
- Instead of buying a tangible present you could try giving an experience as a gift instead. Options like a subscription to your local theatre or sporting events, a cooking lesson or a massage are excellent alternatives to packaged gifts.
- Why not give someone a gift that lets them become greener? Possible ideas range from things for the kitchen or garden, a potted plant, compost bin or worm farm, through to gifts that are solar, wind or hand powered. These don’t need to be expensive. A refillable water bottle or travel mug makes an easy gift, and it has the potential to reduce plastic and cardboard waste and could save the recipient thousands of dollars.
- Christmas is about giving but it’s also about sharing. Many charities and environmental organisations offer gift options for the ‘person who has everything’ and also helps others or help the environment. You can support almost anything and most of these gifts are also tax deductible so you’ll get a gift in July. If you don’t have stores nearby a personal favourite of mine is Kiva and Oxfam Unwrapped.
- Recycle old electronics. New flat-screen computer monitors, laptops, cameras, cell phones and other electronics are common holiday gifts. Older models which are being replaced are usually still in working order, and should be reused or recycled, NOT discarded to a landfill.
Food and Waste
- Eat more vegetables and less meat. Did you know that it takes approximately 50,000 litres of water to provide you with one pound of beef?
- Avoid food waste. Food waste tends to increase in the holiday season. The problem is compounded due to the high amounts of meat being bought meaning all the water and resources put into growing, manufacturing, and selling our food goes to waste if the food ends up in the bin.
- Consider rinsing over a tub when washing vegetables and fruits for dinner; you can reuse the water for your holiday plants.
- Avoid plastic plates, if you don’t have enough – hire crockery or ask your guests to bring some along.
- Use LED lights for house and Christmas tree lighting. LED holiday lights use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional holiday bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors.
- Turn off tree lights and outdoor house decorative lighting at bedtime. It’s simply a waste of energy to leave the holiday lights on at night after everyone’s gone to sleep.
Decorations and Wrapping Paper
- Create decorations by reusing materials from previous years or get inspired with some decoration ideas from Real Simple.
- Avoid buying glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper. This kind of ‘paper’ is difficult to recycle and can’t be used as mulch since there are heavy metals used in foil paper. Choose wrapping paper made using fibers such as hemp or paper using recycled content.
- Choose alternatives to commercial gift wrap. Gift bags can be made using fabric scraps, or wrapping can be made using comic strips from the newspaper, old calendars, maps, posters and more. Wrap gifts in environmental gift packaging materials such as recycled cardboard gift boxes, natural raffia, brown paper and other natural fibres and materials.
- Reuse ribbons and gift wrap where possible. If you open large gift packages with care, the paper can be set aside for re-use for other gift-giving occasions.
- Make Christmas cards from recycled materials – paper, old calendars etc.
- Avoid plastic ribbons and bows by using string, dried flowers or paper to decorate presents.
- Although plastic Christmas trees are reusable from year to year, real trees are the more sustainable choice. Plastic trees are made of petroleum products (PVC), and use up resources in both the manufacture and shipping. Research shows that they are also typically discarded when repeated use makes them less attractive. They then end up inlandfills, where their plastic content makes them last forever.
- Live trees, on the other hand, are a renewable resource grown on tree farms, that are replanted regularly. They contribute to air quality while growing, and almost ninety percent are recycled into mulch. Live trees are usually locally grown saving both transportation costs and added air pollution. And lets not forget the smell of Christmas!
- For a particularly Australian approach you could choose a native shrub or plant and put this into your garden at the end of the festive season. A potted grevillea, banksia or bottlebrush will provide food for native birds if you later plant it in your garden.
- When buying a live tree, consider:
- Live potted trees can be used for years. If you buy a small tree in a large pot, you may be able to reuse the tree for 2- 3 years without having to plant or re-pot the tree. Re-pot or replant the tree for longer use. If your tree becomes root-bound, you can replant it in a larger pot for several years’ extended use or even outdoors.
- Chipping your tree provides excellent mulch for your shrub beds and garden pathways.
- Note: Never burn Christmas tree branches in a fireplace. It can cause the buildup of creosote, which is a highly flammable compound.
These are just a few ways of making your Christmas a little bit greener. What are some of the ways you and your friends give back to mother nature during Christmas time?