The festive season can generate spectacular amounts of waste, more so than any other time of year, with plastic packaging, boxes, wrapping, sticky tape, bottles and food waste piling up throughout the entire period. Being a busy time of year, we can find ourselves rushing around to meet multiple deadlines, attend events, shop for gifts and also catch a moment to enjoy ourselves. It is no wonder that we feel like we have to go bananas in shopping malls and overstock on absolutely every item possibly required before stores briefly close.
We hold out hope that the festive season doesn’t have to follow this seemingly inevitable tradition of stress and wastefulness, and so have put together a few tips on how to reduce waste to zero while keeping your cool these holidays.
Preparing For Christmas
Much waste during the festive season can be avoided with some preparation and communication. Coordinating with friends and family can mean you work out exactly how you want your holiday events to be planned, whether or not you’d like to exchange standard gifts, what kind of food everyone can eat and who can bring what. It also means the load can be shared so the pressure of forgetting something can be mitigated and you’ll be less likely to overstock yourself.
There are many ways to avoid getting people presents they won't enjoy or use. Maybe some family members mean it when they say they really don’t want anything this year? Discussing whether you’ll exchange gifts and what kind of gifts you’d like to give is a fantastic way to eliminate unnecessary spending, stress, wrapping paper, sticky tape and ribbon.
On top of making a pact with your loved ones surrounding gift buying, you could consider waste-reducing alternatives including:
- Homemade gifts - cooked treats including slices, cookies and jams are always well received. You could even prepare some thoughtful, personally-blended essential oil sets, potted plants from cuttings or seeds, or if you’re extra crafty, knit, sew or build something special for your loved ones.
- Buy pre-loved - pre-loved clothes and homewares can make fantastic gifts and the thrift store shopping experience is far less anxiety inducing than navigating packed out malls.
- Gift experiences - buying a gift experience provides intangible and memorable moments for friends and family. Passes to museums, galleries or the theater encourage people to get out and absorb the culture in their community. Yoga, dance, cooking or music classes can also be wonderful for the body and mind. There are endless options when it comes to gifting experiences, and they can be the most meaningful of gifts.
Creatively avoiding wastefulness with gift wrapping can be fun! Use the old wrapping paper you’ve bundled up in a cupboard somewhere with string to negate the need for sticky tape, repurpose newspaper or beautiful magazines, use vintage scarves, fabric off-cuts with ribbon, or try jars and bottles. We usually have so many materials lying around the house, ready to be reincarnated, that can add a touch of personality and charm to any gift - it would be a shame not to use them.
Making your home feel festive with decorations is one way we get into the feel and excitement of the season. Luckily, decorating and creating a holiday atmosphere doesn’t have to be wasteful.
Some great alternative decorating tips include:
- Use homemade baubles - less likely to break down like plastic baubles, home-made decorations created from wood, pinecones or fabric are charming and long lasting.
- Burn long lasting toxin-free candles - cinnamon and ginger scented candles not only emit a festive aroma but provide warm twinkly atmosphere that could even replace Christmas lights.
- Orange with cloves – insert whole cloves into the skin of a whole orange to cover, with 1 cm gaps, for a fantastic smelling, bright decoration.
- Create fabric bunting of silk and miscellaneous fabrics to replace tinsel and hang around the home.
- Use solar Christmas lights - if you love the Christmas-light-adorned home during the festive season, opt for lights that can be charged with solar panels which are both environmentally conscious and cost effective.
- Rent or grow a potted Christmas tree - rather than using a plastic tree or cutting down a real tree just for the holiday season, you can keep your own real tree in a pot in the home and replant in your yard after Christmas. Alternatively, there are also some fantastic companies like Living Christmas Tree who will rent out potted trees in various sizes and replant or return them to a nursery after Christmas to save real trees being thrown out with the trash.
Catering and Cooking
The festive season is all about home cooked spreads of delicious dishes but haven’t we all experienced the weeks of leftovers, some of which must sadly be thrown out?
To reduce waste and get the most out of the festive meals:
- Coordinate with family and friends to bring a plate and balance the spread with the right amount of sweet, savoury, salads, breads and proteins to avoid too much or too little of anything.
- Encourage your friends and family to bring reusable containers for leftovers to avoid using plastic wrap and to make sure you aren’t left with more than you can eat.
- Try to get a good idea of exactly who will be attending your festive functions to cater enough for different dietary requirements.
The best thing about a waste-free holiday and festive season is the creativity and thoughtfulness that goes into it, making for an enjoyable, calming and memorable time with the people you love the most.