As per usual the end of the year is sneaking up on us while we live our lives, trying to manage all the things we seem to have on our plate in these busy times. It is so important to take time out over the holidays, to consider your life, the way you are living in the world, and what you can do to both make the most of your time here, and make sure you leave the place better off. Considering the way you consume things, the way you manage your waste, and the way you treat others in the world through your purchases, is part of conscious consumerism, and Christmas is the perfect time to put this practice into place.
Christmas and the holidays are times where we are very focused on food and consumption of things – there are masses of wrapping, plastic, cardboard, rubbish, unwanted gifts and leftover wasted food. The Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Repair, Rot, Recycle philosophy, can help you to reduce your waste and save some cash at this time of year, as well as reducing your Christmas footprint.
Giving gifts is one of the best parts of Christmas, but do it with thought. When buying something, consider where it has come from, who and how it has been made. When considering your gifts, don’t overbuy, and try to make some of your gifts yourself, such as handmade biscuits. Get some from the local op shop – I gather during the year from op shops when I see something that I know the kids will love, and generally give a combination or fair trade, eco friendly new items;handmade things; and op shop finds. I also do buy new, or secondhand via ebay etc, when looking for major purchases such as sporting equipment for the kids – this year a basketball ring and table tennis table is on the list! I have found so many of our Christmas gifts this year in op shops, often not even used or opened as people had clearly been given things they did not want or need.
The same goes with Christmas lunch! Buy what you need and make it scrumptious, but don’t go overboard. How many courses do you really need? It will be better for your health, your pocket and the planet. Eat well and with gusto, but be realistic about how much you and your loved ones need for Christmas lunch. It is always nice to have leftovers for a couple of days but after that, everyone is over the ham and Christmas pudding! Consider buying food as locally sourced as possible and even better, include some produce from your own garden, and the farmers markets. If you have the opportunity to make someone a home cooked gift, this is one of the most beautiful things to receive.
This is all about both reducing the amount of stuff you buy; and the amount of packaging things come in. Look at your wrapping paper – use newspaper, brown paper, recycled materials, baskets and paper. I found a few rolls of wrapping paper in the op shop and added in some newspaper for other gifts. Our kids are used to seeing their gifts wrapped in newspaper and it is a family tradition! You can also reduce the amount of transport items have taken to get to you. Use home grown or locally grown fruit and vegetables. Buy the rest in season and buy local – we have so many wonderful fruits at this time of year. Buy what you need and nothing more.
Take your own produce bags when you go shopping to reduce the plastic packaging. When it comes to decorations, some of my most treasured ones are those made by my boys over the years. The same ones come out year after year, and this is the joy of it all. In addition I have a lovely lot of fair trade Christmas decorations.
Reusing something means taking the item and using it again for the same or similar purpose. Repurposing is upcycling, or using it for something totally different. For example, you can reuse your shopping bags – take them to the supermarket every time you go and refuse to buy a plastic bag. You could reuse your hand soap containers and beauty product bottles to get them refilled, or make your own to put in them for gifts. Use old jars and make your own candles; take tins and paint them, and pot some succulents or herbs as a lovely gift.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your footprint this Christmas is to have a composting system at home. You can add even more value with a worm farm. Food scraps and other plant-based materials such as paper and cardboard can be used to feed the worms. They will break it down to organic material that can be used as natural fertiliser in the garden. You can get a wide variety of composting systems from large bins in the garden, to creating your own open heap composting, to bench top systems to have in the kitchen. You can even create a trench composting system right in the garden. Whatever scraps you do not use after your Christmas feast, add to the compost. Bear in mind meat is not recommended in a normal composting situation so make sure you do not over buy and have plenty of ways to reuse the leftover meat.
Ideas for preventing food waste include:
- Freezing the leftover vegetables, ends of vegetables and skins and using them later for a stock
- Planning your meals—buy only what you need, fresh and in season
- Grow your own—no need for packaging and less waste; no need for food miles and you know your food, where it came from, how it grew and what is in it
- Compost all of your food scraps that cannot be used, and put this back into your garden
- If you don’t have a space for a garden, try a community garden, or talk to your neighbours about sharing a space, or use a container—think outside the square!
Most people are now recycling to some degree, yet it is still one of the most confusing aspects of sustainable living! You can find out more about what can be recycled and how to dispose of stuff like plastics, cardboard and paper, via your local council. You can also find lots of great facts on the Clean Up Australia website and Planet Ark. Make sure you know which wrappings can be recycled.
Christmas is a time of giving and receiving, but most importantly of spending time with loved ones and reflecting on the year that has passed and what is to come. Giving your time to someone is the best gift of all