Christmas is often viewed as a time of excess, with big meals, lots of gifts and endless parties almost unavoidable. I’m not here to tell you not to do these things, and not to enjoy yourself over the holiday season but instead I thought I would share some tips to help in planning a sustainable Christmas so we can enjoy ourselves in a more eco-friendly way.
I first shared this post a couple of years ago, but I’ve added some extra ideas so thought it was worth sharing again! I’d love to hear your tips too!
Alrighty, let’s go!
Planning Your Food:
Think About Quantities
Every family does Christmas differently with regards to the bringing of food, but if possible try to really think about the quantities of food everyone is preparing. This is particularly important for foods that only last a day or two as leftovers, you don’t want to end up throwing out half a trifle or salad! My family are big fans of leftovers and generally turn our Christmas food into fancy rolls for the next few days at the cricket (we go to the Boxing Day test every year!) but if you know your family are unlikely to do something like this then plan accordingly and cook less food.
Choose In Season Produce
Many of us here in Australia base our Christmas meal on the traditional English style Christmas, however this can involve using fruits and vegetables that aren’t actually in season here, and therefore have had to travel large distances and be stored for a long time before we eat them. This means you might not be able to use fresh figs for your figgy pudding, or kiwifruit on your pavlova, but there are plenty of other delicious fruits and veggies available to swap them for. If you’re not sure what is in season this website is super useful.
Opt for Ethical Meat & Seafood
Obviously I don’t eat meat but there is still generally both turkey and seafood on our table at Christmas time, and one of the best ways to ensure you’re having a sustainable Christmas is to choose where your meat comes from carefully. Make sure you’re buying free-range (not bred free-range as pork is often labelled) meats and choose sustainably sourced seafood. Sustainable Table has an amazing resource on seafood including what types to choose and even where you can buy it (for some parts of Australia) so I highly recommend you check it out before purchasing your Christmas seafood.
Planning Your Decorations & Tableware:
Choose Reusable Tableware
If you’re hosting a large number of people I know the temptation can be there to go the disposable route, particularly when it comes to napkins (and possibly plates for little kids!) but if we all did that on Christmas day the amount of waste we would be creating would be astronomical. Make Christmas the time you pull out the fancy linen napkins, and if you do need to use disposable plates for kids make sure to choose biodegradable options, or at the very least choose paper over plastic.
Get Your Tree Mulched
If you have a real Christmas tree then check with your Council as to whether they do a post-Christmas collection of trees. Nowadays lots of Councils run this kind of (generally free) service as they are then able to mulch all the trees to use throughout the parks and gardens which has ongoing benefits during the summer months. If your Council doesn’t have this service there might be a local garden supply store that could use the additional trees to mulch, so it’s worth ringing around (or pestering your Council until they start this service!).
Choose LED or Solar Powered Lights
If you like to decorate with lights then choosing options that use the least power in order to reduce both the impact on the environment and your electricity bills. LED lights are the least power hungry and are usually easy to find in both indoor and outdoor varieties, including in a range of colours and patterns at your local hardware store. If you’re planning on decorating outdoors then look for options that have inbuilt solar chargers rather than having to run them from your mains power, they’ll be just as pretty but far more eco-friendly!
Planning Your Gifts and Cards:
Buy Locally Made Gifts
Buying locally made gifts, such as those you can find at markets or in local stores have a multitude of benefits. They support local businesses and artisans, don’t have large inbuilt travel costs and are often items that you can’t find just anywhere. This is more of a bigger picture benefit than just an environmental benefit, but it’s still definitely important! Much more of the money you spend on that gift goes back into the local economy than when you purchase from large chain stores or overseas, so the flow on effects are positive for the whole community.
Choose Experiences or Useful Items
If you’re like me, the idea of giving people more stuff isn’t appealing, as I know I don’t want that for myself. So instead, I focus on giving people gifts I know they really need or want, and failing that I choose experiences. In the past that has included things like cooking classes, spa vouchers, concert tickets and the like. Delicious edible treats are an excellent idea for things like work kris-kringles as well.
DIY Some Gifts
If you can, DIYing some gifts is a fantastic way to make Christmas that little bit more sustainable, plus who doesn’t love receiving something handmade! It doesn’t need to be elaborate or time intensive, something as simple as homemade foods or bath products are great little gifts, such as presents for your kid’s teachers. Pinterest is your friend here, there are millions of pins for homemade sugar scrubs, food hamper ideas and the like so I’m sure you could find something to suit your needs!
Choose Recycled Cards
Whilst we might not all be sending cards in quite the same numbers as we used to (or is that just me?), choosing recycled cards for the ones we are sending is an easy way to make your Christmas that little bit more eco friendly. Luckily they are becoming more common these days so you should be able to pick some up at gift shops, otherwise Biome and the Oxfam Shop have some gorgeous ones you could order.