The Sustainable Christmas Guide: Gifts, Decorations, Food, and All!
Should I be purchasing a real tree or a plastic one that I reuse?
There are so many considerations in order to make it onto Santa's nice list for achieving a truly sustainable Christmas...
The tealights in the pumpkins have been dimmed, the children's sugar highs have crashed and the cascading spider webs have been stored away for next year's spooky season.
Wait a minute... if spooky season is over that means... Oh no! The shopping centres are hours away from putting up their Christmas decorations and playing Mariah Carey on repeat! Not that I am complaining, but I personally prefer to have a day or two off before getting into the Christmas mindset.
However, now that I have placed us in this mindset, let's go on a tinsel-tickled journey down sugarplum lane where all of the gift wrapping is biodegradable, the decorations are edible and the Christmas cards are plantable!
With Australians using enough wrapping paper at Christmas to wrap around the Earth's equator nearly 4 times, 150,000km to be exact, here are my top tips for celebrating a low waste, eco-friendly Christmas this year.
The Gift of Giving with Purposeful Gift Wrapping
There are two ways to go about gift wrapping in order to switch out the plastic bells and whistles for a more sustainable option. Firstly, you could opt for gift wrapping that is purposeful by being a gift within itself. For example, wrapping up a book in a beautiful scarf or nestling a picture frame with one of your most cherished photos into a colourful kitchen tea towel.
The alternative to this, as a more child-friendly option, is to wrap presents up in eco-friendly, biodegradable wrapping. Or you could use up some old newspapers for a simple, yet unique look. Here are some suggestions for making sustainable gift wrapping just as fun as its conventional plastic counterpart:
- Wrap the presents up using non-toxic, uncoloured paper
- Tape the seems down using paper kraft tape
- Tie a piece of string around the present into a bow
- Address the present to your special person with a hand-written compostable card that you can decorate with biodegradable gold glitter or stamps
- Decorate with foliage such as pine cones, leaves or flowers, with an edible option such as gingerbread or candy canes, or even with a special bauble that can be hung on their tree for years to come
The Christmas Tree Debate
The weighing of pros and cons when it comes to deciding whether to rip up a tree out of the ground or purchase a plastic tree seems to leave more questions than answers. That is because the positives and negatives are dependant on where you live and what options you have available to you.
For example, if you have access to a Forest Stewardship Council certified sustainably sourced Christmas tree, then this is a great option. FSC certified trees are sourced from well-managed forests that minimise the use of pesticides and protect the forest plants and animals.
If you are a tenant that lives in a home where real Christmas trees are prohibited, a plastic tree may be your only option. On the plus side, it is a plastic item that has much more than one life so at least it isn't a single-use plastic. If you do purchase an artificial tree, you will need to use it for approximately 10 years in order to compensate for its carbon footprint compared to purchasing a real tree.
But if you're keen to get creative, turn one of your pot plants into a Christmas tree! Let's face it, anything dripping with fairy lights and baubles looks impressively festive. This option will save you some cash as well as some space in your home. Winner, winner, Christmas roast chicken dinner.
The Three R's for a Sustainable Christmas
Reduce Food Waste. Professor David Pearson from Central Queensland University informed ABC News in 2019, "when food is put in the rubbish bin and it finishes up in landfill, it does make a regrettable and significant contribution to global warming by releasing methane gases."
Pearson says that it is vital people make an effort at Christmas time to separate their food and general waste. You can also find clever ways to use your delicious leftovers and trimmings in the days following Christmas. Jamie Oliver is a true master at this: check out his recipes here.
Reuse Decorations. Deck the halls with Christmas decorations that are made to last and can be stored away for years to come. Glass baubles can be carefully placed in sectioned baskets for storage and fairly lights can be repaired when a bulb becomes faulty. If you love finding unique, memorable decorations, why not head to your local second-hand shop to find some vintage treasures?
Recycle Your Tree. If you purchased a real Christmas tree, there are many ways you can recycle it for a second life. Check with your local Council for Christmas tree drop-off areas so that your tree can be turned into wood chips for parks. You could also use the needles as a nutritious mulch in your own backyard as they won't collect mould and decompose slowly.