Consider a more conscious Christmas

Jacqui van Heerden

Before you say “Bah Humbug” – this article is about some tips and suggestions for lessening the negative impact on our planet rather than cancelling Christmas.

For those who celebrate Christmas, it is generally a time of festivities and joyful gatherings. It doesn’t have to be a time of extravagance and increased consumption.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

At this time, it’s traditional to decorate the Christmas Tree with all sorts of shiny baubles and handcrafted decorations possibly from the children’s many years at school. If you have a plastic tree, try keep reusing it for as long as you can and repair it rather than throw it away.

Every year people buy real Christmas trees, which end up in landfill a few weeks later. Not only is this a tremendous waste of resources, but it also has a substantial impact on the environment. When the trees are cut we reduce their ability to take up carbon and then by cutting them down and transporting them we increase carbon emissions.

In the UK you can now rent a living fir tree for the festive season but, alas, this is not available in Australia yet. So, consider growing your own (in a pot) if you have the space or creating a makeshift one.

What is a Christmas Tree without lights? Consider LEDS, they use 80 per cent less electricity and solar fairy lights.

Christmas wrapping

Buying new is best avoided. Use up what you have, buy recycled wrapping paper or at least go for non-laminated free from plastic, glitter or foil as these cannot be recycled. Brown paper packages with a sprig of fragrant foliage (from your garden) always looks and smells good and can be composted.

Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese cloth for wrapping Christmas gifts. It is a simple single piece of cloth tied in a knot and there is zero waste. Avoid sticky tape by using cloth ties made from old clothing or recycle ribbons/ties.

Decorations

Reuse Christmas decorations each year. If you need a bit of a spruce up in this area, forage and make your own from materials around your home and garden. Buy second-hand. There is an abundance of ideas online on how to DIY eco-friendly decorations. If you need to buy – look for ethical and environmentally-friendly products.

The big lunch and/or dinner

Buy local seasonal food and don’t waste it.   

Food wastage and packaging going to landfill, increases significantly around Christmas time. In the UK at Christmas time (I could not find figures for Australia) five million Christmas puddings (many with plastic packaging) and two million turkeys get thrown away.

Maybe go a bit more vegetarian – do you really need three types of meat on the Christmas table? By reducing your meat intake it’s good for the planet, good for animals and good for your health.

Gifts

Many unwanted Christmas gifts are thrown away each year. Think about buying something the person really wants and something of quality that’s useful. Consider the end of the gift’s lifecycle – can it be repaired, reused, repurposed, and finally, is it organic? It should be able to naturally degrade and compost back into the earth.

Consider making your own presents and remember there are many sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly gift ideas online. Buy second-hand gifts from eBay, Facebook Marketplace or a special piece of antique glass or ceramic item – (keep in mind carbon footprint) local is always best.

Experience gifts such as tickets to a nature reserve, Australian walking tours

or an online weaving class with a First Nation’s woman. Visit facebook.com/wayapawarr

Give something back

Christmas time is an opportunity for us to consider our blessings and those who do not have as much as us. Consider gifting money to maybe a single parent or woman trying to create her own economic independence by starting a small business in a third world country who is negatively impacted by Australia’s high carbon footprint.  Check out KIVA.org and Oxfam unwrapped.

You might want to consider gifting closer to home, gifts for the homeless for those women and children seeking shelter from abusive relationships, a local refugee family. Do research to ensure your money or gift goes directly to those in need rather than supporting a hierarchy.

Possibly gift to those organisations helping to bring down carbon by directly planting more trees (Plant It 2020) and protecting old growth forests.

Take a moment in the busyness of the season to stop and remember the many gifts of our home, Earth – the forests, beaches, seas, parks and rivers we will enjoy over this summer period.

Have a conscious, wonderful and safe joyous festive season •

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