So it’s that time of the year again!
Oooops… sorry! Did your jaw clench? Or your eye start twitching?
What’s meant to be a time to spend with our loved ones and enjoy some precious days off from work tends to become the most stressful time of the year for many. The holiday season is now driven by excess – mindless consumerism to buy things for people, things they neither need or want; and to eat ourselves silly only to feel unhealthy and riddled with guilt once this crazy month comes to a close.
And this excess is frankly a “screw you” to Mother Earth too.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Here are 10 ideas to make the silly season sustainable for yourself and the planet:
1. Tell your loved ones what you want… or that you don’t want anything at all!
While this one might be pushing the barriers of social convention, who cares?
As the gift-giver, I’d be much happier knowing that my gift will be used by the recipient and genuinely appreciated rather than receive the forced smile and obligatory “thanks” through clenched teeth that an unwanted gift will conjure up!
As the gift-receiver, I plan to tell my loved ones that it’s not necessary to get me anything at all. I’d much prefer to spend time with them than get a physical item from them, especially as, in the spirit of a wannabe minimalist, I’m trying to whittle down my belongings as much as possible. (Heads up to the loved ones reading this if I haven’t told you already 😜)
2. Gift experiences over stuff
If gifting nothing isn’t an option or is just too out there for your liking, I totally get. Instead experience gifts can be perfect.
The rampant consumerism that has taken over the holiday season is a little crazy don’t you think? Instead of just buying something for the sake of having a physical thing to hand to a loved one on Christmas Day, think of an experience you could share together. I’m sure quality time with you would mean a lot more than another scented candle or a pair of socks.
Want experience gift ideas? I wrote an article for Mother’s Day earlier this year that’s relevant not just for mum but for all our nearest and dearest.
Can’t bring yourself to not give something? Or you know the recipient isn’t ready to hop on the gift-less Christmas idea bandwagon? Fair enough. In that case I would recommend starting in the home to see if you have something that you don’t want but they may love… one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that.
Also, inevitably you will receive well-intentioned gifts that just don’t float your boat – this is a perfect opportunity to pass them on to someone who may appreciate it and declutter at the same time. 😂
4. Choose Digital Gifts
There aren’t many people these days that don’t have Spotify, Netflix, a Kindle or an Apple Music account. Digital vouchers for these services means that the gift itself isn’t consuming precious resources but will add to the joy of your loved one during their leisure time.
Alternatively, any other form of digital vouchers from the millions of online shops around the world, but themed to something that you know the recipient is interested in, will mean that they can choose a gift they love rather than us having to run the risk of guessing what they’d like.
Many of these online gifts offer the option for an email to be sent to the recipient on the date of your choosing too and Voila! Merry Christmas!
5. Choose eco-friendly gift wrapping
…Or don’t gift wrap at all? If you really think about it, how wasteful is conventional wrapping paper! And all that plastic sticky tape!! 😱
If you don’t dare hand a gift over unwrapped, there are several ways to wrap your gifts sustainably.
- Use fabric and ribbon you have around the house – that’s what I did recently for a good friend’s birthday. The fabric was actually a skirt of mine so it doesn’t just have to be discarded fabric – get creative! (And make sure to retrieve it for continued use for years to come.) The Japanese fabric gift wrapping method is called Furoshiki – 1 Million Women have created a great video to show how it’s done – check it out.
2. Use recycled paper and wrap with twine to avoid sticky tape. Here’s a great YouTube video that shows how it’s done. I did this last year and it worked a treat!
3. Gift bags – just ask for the bag back from the recipient so you can keep using it!
6. Plan the meals for the big day well ahead of time (and keep in mind last year’s leftovers)
Food waste is an even bigger deal during the holidays. At our family Christmas last year we actually didn’t have enough fridge space to fit it all in (and that was over 4 fridges!!). While it’s lovely to have the huge Christmas Day banquet, more often than not a huge chunk of that food ends up getting wasted – there’s only so many leftover meals a person can handle.
Take the time to sit down with your fellow cooks for the big day and really do the numbers for how many dishes are needed. Shopping at bulk stores and the local farmer’s markets are great places to source your ingredients as you can buy only the quantities required, with less packaging and your supporting local businesses!
7. Choose more plant-based dishes during the festivities
As most of us already know choosing a plant-based diet tends to be much friendly on the planet, and generally speaking it’s kinder on the waistline too. So in this season of food, food and more food; choose plant-based options and it’ll be a win win.
At a loss of what a plant-based Christmas dish could possibly be? Just google “vegan or vegetarian christmas recipes” and a plethora of mouth-watering options appear!
8. Think twice before buying season-themed decorations
Are they really necessary? Or is it just a headache to go out and buy them, put them up and then have to pack them away again after a few weeks to either take up precious space in your home or worse, go to landfill?
Make it easier on yourself – buy a couple of beautiful bouquets of native flowers or invest in plants for your home that will bring you joy all year around, not just in December.
9. Ditch disposables at festive events
While it might feel easier in the short-run, those plastic cups and cutlery that you’ll use for an evening will contaminate for the environment for hundreds of years either in landfill or our oceans. Still seem like the most appealing choice?
Instead opt for a system to mark glasses for each guest so that they can reuse the same one for the duration of the event (you could tie different coloured ribbons or use a marker to put their initials that can be washed off later on). That way you avoid disposables and excess washing up.
If you don’t have enough cutlery or crockery for the number of people, ask a few guests you are close to to bring along some of their own from home. I’m sure they’ll be happy to help when you explain your motivation – to be kinder on the planet. 🌏💙
10. Send e-cards instead of the traditional cards
Or send none at all. For many, I think this tradition has gone out the window. But if you are one of the dedicated few that persist, consider sending an e-card rather than the physical ones. You will still show others you are thinking of them during this special time of year but without the hand cramps, paper use and excessive amount of time the traditional method requires.
Apply these tips and you’ll find little need to set a foot in the manic shopping centres or conventional supermarkets this festive season, something that will be a gift to you and Mother Earth.
Do you have any other eco-friendly festive season ideas? I’d love you to share them with me in the comments below. – Georgia xxx