Christmas is a time for joy, family and…apparently bonding over plastic crap.
Jokes aside, we’re all guilty of falling into the trap of Christmas consumerism. Recently we got our “Christmas Box” out of the cupboard to put up the tree and I found two boxes of Christmas crackers which I had purchased last year after boxing day for the ripe sum of $1 each. I was amazed at how far we have come on this journey in one year, as this year’s me will not be purchasing these single use items with the unusable plastic prizes (I mean who really needs another pair of bad nail clippers?!!). In light of our journey, I thought I’d share a few tips for keeping Christmas waste to a minimum using conscious consuming.
Presents for Kids
Let’s face it, kids are advertised to constantly all year, but most of all at Christmas. Unfortunately, unless you’re prepared to throw the TV out the door, this is likely not going to go away. But children are capable of understanding why we make choices and when they are young is a great time to demonstrate how to make choices for a lower waste life. Here are a few ways to do that without letting the Grinch in!
Limit ‘new’ purchases to 4 for each child and purchase any other presents second hand.
Keeping a limit on new purchases still allows you to get those presents that your child has been asking for, but makes you think first about what could be purchased second hand. For instance, could you get the new scooter second hand? Or perhaps you could purchase a range of books second hand. It’s all about consciously purchasing rather than mindlessly subscribing to the need for everything to be shiny and new.
Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read
You may have heard this one before, but I think it’s a great way to limit purchasing if you subscribe to this little jingle.
For younger children, purchase wooden toys rather than plastic. There are a great range of wooden toys now available in major stores which are a better option than their plastic equivalents. They still come packaged in plastic in most cases, so limiting purchase is still the best course.
Presents for Adults
We’re so conditioned to purchase shiny presents as a way of showing how much we love our families, but is it worth the short life-span of the gift that ultimately ends up in landfill? Here’s a few tips for Adult presents this Christmas.
Consider a ‘Kris Kringle’ or ‘Secret Santa’
Put all your family members names in a hat and assign everyone another person to purchase for. Set a limit you’re all comfortable with and ask everyone for three things they want. This is not only helpful on the already stretched Christmas budget, it allows you to purchase a gift that someone actually wants and is more likely to use and also cuts down on the amount of purchases everyone is making. Less is more!
Home make or purchase local home made
Rather than purchasing, why not make something and gift it? It shows that you’ve put time and love into producing a gift in your own home and there is less waste at the end of the season. If you’re short on time, why not head to one of the many Christmas night markets and purchase a locally produced item?
Purchase Eco Friendly Gifts
Why not make up an eco-friendly kit for a family member? I find that everyone has moved to the reuseable bags, but have not yet embraced refusing the plastic vege bags at the supermarket. Why not make up a little gift basket of reuseable vegetable bags, reuseable coffee cup and a reuseable bread bag – if you’re handy with a sewing machine you can also whip up your own versions.
Purchase Family Gifts
Rather than single gifts, purchase ‘family’ gifts such as a couple of board games or puzzles which can be used by the whole family, or a pass to the movies or a local theme park. In the end, does anyone need more ‘stuff’ in their house?
Tips for On the Day
Parties come with their own set of problems. Think of the mounds of plastic wrap, throw away single use cutlery and plates and wasted food – and times that by the 4 million people in Australia and we have a massive wasteful day! Here’s some tips on keeping waste low this Christmas.
Reuseable – not disposable
What better way to bond with the family than over a sink full of dishes? But seriously, most of you have dishwashers, so why do we insist on purchasing horrible single use plates and cutlery? Use ceramic plates and proper cutlery this Christmas. If you don’t have enough, purchase from the Op Shop and re-donate back after Christmas – consider it an act of charity.
If you’re picnicking or having a BBQ and won’t cart the ceramics, consider purchasing bamboo plates and cutlery, still not ideal as a single use item, but will eventually break down unlike their plastic counterparts.
Ditch Cling Wrap
Use up the last of your cling wrap and don’t buy any more (save the $$). Cling wrap is not only questionable to human health, it continues to leach chemicals into the environment as it breaks down – and it’s so easy to give up! Instead of wrapping in cling wrap this Christmas, put food in reuseable containers (either plastic that you have, or glass), put salads in a bowl with a plate over it, invest in a reuseable bowl cover or some beeswax wraps. Giving up the cling has contributed to us cutting our waste down to less than 1 small bag a week – you can read more about our journey in this blog post
Consider using reusable napkins this year – or better yet, just allow everyone to wash their hands! If you can’t give them up completely, purchase recycled serviettes. If you can’t possibly give up paper towels, Who Gives a Crap supply recycled paper towels which contribute to hygiene projects in third world countries.
Cut Food Waste
This is the season of excess and it shows in the food that gets wasted – Australians throw away 3.1 Billion Tonnes of edible food each year! Make a list of what you really need and stick to it. Make sure you’ve got recipes and plans for how to use the additional leftover food in the coming days. Leftover chicken can become a lovely chicken carbonara or chicken caesar salad. Ham can be frozen in handy portions for using in salads and omelettes.
DIY Bon Bons
Like I confessed, we ended up with cheap bon bons I purchased on sale last year. But are these really necessary? Can we make our own using recycled materials with home made treats inside or treats from the bulk food store?
These are the things we will be attempting to implement this Christmas – What other tips do you have for reducing waste over Christmas? We’d love to hear them!