Enjoy a more sustainable festive season

Australians spend millions of dollars during the festive season. A little thought about the purchases we make, the gifts we give, the food we eat and the travel we take, can make a big difference to our environment.

Here are some tips and ideas on how to enjoy a more sustainable festive season.

Buy Less, Buy Green, Buy EthicallyGive a gift that helps the environment or the less fortunate – many non-profit organisations sell gift vouchers or accept donations that contribute to a worthy cause or community that is more needy than us. Try the Smith Family Christmas Appeal to help disadvantaged children, the Hollows Foundation or simply ‘Google’ donate christmas.

  • Give a Fairtrade gift and support a more equitable world – Fairtrade guarantees a better deal for third world producers. Check out the Fairtrade site to find out your where you can buy Fairtrade products locally.
  • Support your favourite non-profit organisation – Many non-profits sell calendars, products, and vouchers to support their activities. For example the the Oxfam Shop sells a range of good produced by artisans and businesses across the globe to support their vision of a just world without poverty.
  • Make the gift – spend some time and make your gift, grow a plant, paint a picture, write a poem. In an overly consumer world full of stuff to buy, a handmade gift is a precious commodity. Check out Etsy Australia for handmade products.
  • Look for locally made gifts – many gifts come from halfway around the world, and the impact of their transportation contributes to greenhouse emissions and global warming. Local markets and designers are a good place to start for local gifts that come without the added cost of transportation.
  • Choose gifts made from recycled sources – by purchasing great products made from recycled materials, we encourage the growth of designers and businesses seeking to reduce their impact on the environment. The creation of these closed-loop systems save nature from endlessly having to provide and absorb these materials.
  • Give ‘battery-free’ gifts – battery sales skyrocket over the festive season. Discarded batteries are an environmental hazard and even rechargeable batteries find their way into the waste stream eventually.
  • Avoid children’s toys that promote violence – the world is awash with violent and disturbing video games. Consider the many alternatives such as toys and games that are fun and educational that nurture children’s confidence, creativity and sense of play.
  • ‘Re-gifting’ is OK – there is much discussion about etiquette behind the trend to ‘re-gift’ that is, to pass on a gift you received or bought, but no longer need. Re-gifting makes perfect sense.
  • Give your loved ones a treat rather than a gift – gifts of experiences such as a massage or tickets to a show tend to have less environmental impact than buying goods.
  • Donate unwanted presents to local charity shops or to reuse centres.
  • Electronics & e-waste – Australians are among the highest consumers of electronics in the world, generating 140,000 tonnes of e-waste each year, with an estimated 234 million items of e-waste in or on their way to landfill. (Total Environment Centre 2009). If you are planning to buy the lastest iPhone, TV or computer, make sure it has a good energy star rating. If you find yourself with unwanted electronics you can:
    donate them to a community group, local charity, school or family member. If you can’t usefully pass them on, donate or on-sell them through online networks such as Freecycle or Ebay.
  • Seek out e-waste recycling programs.
  • Recycle mobile phones through MobileMuster.
  • Christmas cards, wrapping and decorating
    Make your own cards from recycled paper. If purchasing, consider cards from local designers or charity stores such as the Red Cross, Oxfam and Community Aid Abroad.
  • Don’t forget to recycle your Christmas cards.
  • Use recycled paper, newspaper or your children’s artwork to wrap your gifts.
  • If you’re hanging lights for the festive season, use energy-efficient LED lighting. Remember to turn out your lights when you go to bed or use a timer.
  • Opt for a living Christmas tree from a local grower and plant it in the garden or a pot after Christmas. It will be ready for you to use next year.
  • Festive food

    Slow and local travel

    For many the festive season is a break from the normal routine and a time to relax, unwind and refresh, yet rather than jumping on a plane, you can break your routine at home or in your local area. It just requires a new perspective. Why not go hiking, bird watch, swim in the sea or simply enjoy nature and your connection to it. It’s good for the body and great for the soul. Read more in our ‘Slow and local travel‘ action.

    Wishing you a wonderful (and green) festive season!

    Sustainable living guide