Want to have a zero waste Christmas? Here are some tips to help you rethink your celebrations in order to reduce waste without reducing joy.
1. Buy only what you need for a zero waste Christmas
Food purchases go up by approximately 80% over the Christmas period. The sad thing is that not all of this food is actually consumed and much of it ends up in landfill.
While everyone enjoys having delicious and ‘sometimes’ special food during celebrations, try to think about how much you actually need, and also where this food is coming from.
2. Eat local
Remember that the further your food travels, the more packaged it’s likely to be (not to mention transportation, associated pollution and waste of fuel).
Buy as much food as you can from local sources, in bulk if possible, so you can bring your own packaging. If you eat meat, buy directly from the farmer if possible. And best of all, plan ahead and grow your own.
3. Think seasonally
At Christmas time, many of us have associations which come from European traditions – roast dinners, fruit mince pies and pudding.
In an Australian context, these are often not actually the best options in terms of locality – also who wants to cook a roast in an Australian summer?
How about planning your zero waste Christmas lunch around the foods that are available at that time from your local farmers’ market? Think summer pudding made with local berries!
4. Compost your food scraps
If you do have food which goes uneaten, as always, avoid putting it into landfill. Apart from the complete waste of resources, food in landfill will often release toxic gases and leachate.
Make a ritual of a day-after leftover party. And as always, chooks and worms will be ever so grateful for your scraps.
5. Rethink your gifts
Think carefully about your gifts and make sure they’re ethical and eco-friendly. In many cases, a handmade or second-hand gift will be perfect.
If you’re not crafty and don’t want to make gifts, plants and trees make for beautiful presents. If they’re perennial and/or edible, they will provide many years of beauty and potential food to the recipient.
Sauces and jams also make beautiful, love-filled gifts and can be made throughout the year using seasonal produce and reused jars.
6. Forgo paper wrapping
Don’t use paper to wrap your gifts. Scarves from the op-shop or pieces of cloth or cloth bags made especially for gift-giving will live on and on, and potentially never end up in landfill.
7. Reusable decorations
It’s always fun to decorate for celebrations, but these needn’t be one-season or single-use affairs. When our kids turned one, I made special bunting with th eir names on, which we use year after year. It’s part of the celebration, stringing their bunting, and is something they look forward to every year.
Similarly, other celebrations which happen annually can have their own decorations which form part of the celebration itself, so year after year nothing needs to be bought, and nothing is thrown away.
8. Plant a Christmas tree
If you want to have a tree this Christmas, have a living tree, which can be planted in the garden once Christmas is done.
Each year we make a family decision about the kind of fruit tree we will have as a table decoration/Christmas tree, then we all go to the nursery to buy the tree, decorate it with hand- made felt decorations which are used each year, then after Christmas we all plant it together.
This is a nice ritual to cultivate, as it is waste-free and also relatively inexpensive. It will also be a gift for many years to come in the form of the fruits that come from the tree year after year, and will help you achieve a zero waste every year.