Australian councils report an increase in waste by 30% during the Christmas period and we use around 150,000kms of wrapping paper. Our food waste statistics are even more staggering with over 25% of our Christmas feasts finishing up in the bin.
But there is a better way to a less-wasteful holiday season. Nine better ways, in fact:
1. Brown Paper is the New Black
Are you sick of wrapping gifts in paper adorned with snowy fir trees, sparkly fireplaces and winking snowmen? We’re surrounded by images of white Christmases that don’t reflect the reality of sweating over a hot lunch in the middle of Summer and all that glitter means your standard wrapping paper can’t be recycled.
So, this Christmas why not go green? Or, should I say, brown. .
Throughout the year I’ve been saving my brown paper bags to cut up as wrapping paper for my Christmas gifts.
No scissors? No worries. Simply take a takeaway delivery bag, stuff in a little tissue paper, add some coloured string and a piece of rosemary from the backyard, and, voila, recyclable, inexpensive gift wrapping.
2. Recycle gift bags (but don’t forget to remove the tags)
I’m sure my sister and I swap the same paper gift bags each Christmas.
Every year, I drag out my stash of paper Christmas gift bags with handles from the wardrobe, dust them off, check for tears or rips, then stuff them with presents – a t-shirt for the brother-in-law, an animal print scarf for my sister, a box of choccies for the neighbour.
Then the doubt starts to creep in, and I wonder if I’m returning the same bag to my sister’s stash - only to receive it again next year.
Well, that’s okay. I gave her a pretty bag last year. I’ll be sure to make a fuss when I see it again on Christmas day.
3. Thrift-gift and Regift
Second hand doesn’t necessarily mean old and tired hand-me-downs. It means scouring your local op shops and garage sales for diamonds among the rough.
Join the #onesecond campaign and pledge to give at least one second hand gift this year.
My favourite charity store has a table near the checkout filled with pre-loved giftpacks – unused presents from Christmases past. My daughter sells clothes at a weekend market. Most are impulse-buys that have never been worn - some with tags attached. Take a trawl through Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree and you can uncover a rich treasure trove of prospective gifts.
While we are on the topic of recycling, I do love a regift. I receive at least one gift each year that won’t get used – and it’s usually an oversized pool toy. So, I’m on the lookout for a more apt recipient next year.
But a word of warning, take note when regifting. Don’t regift to the same person who gave you the present in the first place.
(Now I think of it, I may need to reconsider that animal print scarf for my sister.)
4. Give an experience
Australians spend about $11 billion on Christmas gifts each year. That’s billions, not millions. And guess what? According to Junkee.com, about 20 million of those gifts are unwanted.
We all know one person who is impossible to buy for, but this year don’t panic-buy a bocce set or another pair of novelty socks. Give an experience.
A movie ticket, gift card for a spa treatment or a restaurant is something they can use at their leisure. Sign them up for an art class, a cooking session or a composting workshop. Or even donate to their favourite charity.
And don’t underestimate the homemade gift. Hand crafted goodies always tug at the heartstrings. My neighbour drops in a plate of Croatian cookies on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure what’s in them - as she won’t divulge her secrets – but they are as wonderful as she is.
It’s a well-known fact that plastic is the enemy of the itty-bitty sea creatures. Too many of the World’s turtles and seabirds are choking on bits of plastic.
So, stop! Just stop. Stop buying cheap junk that will end up in our waterways.
Look for toys made from sustainable materials like paper, cardboard or wood.
Our oceans will thank you.
Stop buying plastic decorations (refer to Point #5). And glitter and tinsel. And sorry, balloons too. For all the same reasons as plastic. They are killing our sea life.
Why not make your own Christmas decorations?
Remember when the kids were little, and you’d string dried pasta or popcorn to the tree? And looping paper rings together like a daisy chain? Our tree still hosts a dozen dangly things created by our toddler (although she is now 19). She may not be thrilled they’re still hanging proudly from our tree, but they make me smile.
Making decorations is fun, for all ages. Dig out a couple of brown paper bags and get creative.
7. Shop Local
We understand it’s hard to get through the silly season without hitting the shops. So, if you must, at least support your local businesses.
We’re living through the strangest of times and small businesses and retailers, like most of Smartbag clients, have been doing it tough.
This year, shop local and support your local growers and suppliers.
8. Eat, Drink and be Merry – in Moderation
Only buy what you need.
No-one ever starves at Christmas. But you know what? They actually do.
Christmas hits the homeless and vulnerable the hardest. Not everyone gets to sit down with family and friends to share the Christmas turkey. Many people won’t even get a Christmas lunch.
So, save those dollars on the ‘just in case’ purchases and donate to charities who provide for those facing hardships.
9. Just buy less
If we can all reuse, recycle and reduce at this time of the year, we can make a difference.
Christmas is the season of giving, so how about this year, we give a gift to the planet.
Let’s buy less stuff.
I’ll be happy with a plate of Croatian cookies and a handmade card. How about you?