Give the planet a gift this Christmas with these eco-friendly ideas

Give the planet a gift this Christmas with these eco-friendly ideas

Experience gifts like a trip to an animal park or a family zoo membership are a great alternative to buying a plastic toy to give away this year. Photo / Unsplash

Christmas – it’s the season for gifts and parties, and the inevitable leftovers from the next day. Unfortunately, while edible scraps usually end up in sandwiches, inedible scraps – discarded wrappers, broken decorations and the like often end up in our landfill.

According to The Sustainability Trust, New Zealanders send an additional 50,000 tonnes of waste to landfill in the week after Christmas. That’s enough to fill 14,286 20-foot shipping containers. If we stacked these containers, they would be three times the height of Mount Everest. In other words, we produce a lot of waste during the holiday season.

The good news is that there are lots of things we can do to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill, without having to cancel Christmas. By making a few changes, we can all still enjoy all the pleasures of the season, with the added gift of being eco-friendly.

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Christmas decorations:

Swap garlands and sequins for more natural decorations this year.  Photo / Unsplash
Swap garlands and sequins for more natural decorations this year. Photo / Unsplash

When choosing your decorations, avoid tinsel and sequins, both of which release microplastics into our environment. Instead, use pine cones, flowers, and leaves to create natural decorations for your home, as well as reusable wood and glass decorations that will last for generations. Use scraps of fabric to make garlands and have the kids work with paper and their crayons to make paper chains, snowflakes and angels to decorate your tree.

Christmas trees:

A potted tree gives you the opportunity to keep your tree long after Christmas is over.  Photo / Unsplash
A potted tree gives you the opportunity to keep your tree long after Christmas is over. Photo / Unsplash

Consider making a reusable tree out of driftwood or old pallets, or if you’re really smart, how about making one out of neatly and creatively stacked books? If that’s not your thing, how about a felt one, with decorations you can attach with velcro? If you prefer a real tree, when buying, check with the seller if they take the trees back in January for mulching, or look for a potted tree that you can reuse or plant in your garden later. This means you don’t have to stick with a traditional type of tree either – why not change it to a fruit tree – it comes with its own decorations and also provides pudding!

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Christmas dinner :

Consider portion sizes and seasonal produce when planning the menu for your festive feast.  Photo / Unsplash
Consider portion sizes and seasonal produce when planning the menu for your festive feast. Photo / Unsplash

Keep leftovers out of your fridge by planning ahead. Don’t panic, buy on Christmas Eve, but instead have a menu and list planned out in advance, and think about portion sizes. Before going to the supermarket, check your pantry and refrigerator first, and note what you already have that you can use.

Wherever possible, local and seasonal purchases, through farmers markets, local produce suppliers and U-pick fruit farms help reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the distance food travels to reach your table has shrunk. Replace store-bought treats with homemade treats – they’re less packaged and can be fun to make with the kids at home in the days leading up to Christmas.

Check out the Love Food Hate Waste website for lots of tips on how to plan your Christmas menu while reducing food waste as well as great ideas for your leftovers. To set the table, avoid disposable plates and cutlery, and swap paper napkins for linen napkins.

Gift wrap:

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Forget aluminum foil and cellophane-type paper for gift wrapping this year, where you can.  Photo / Unsplash
Forget aluminum foil and cellophane-type paper for gift wrapping this year, where you can. Photo / Unsplash

When it comes to gift wrapping, consider changing it up a bit this year. If you have young children at home, arm them with paper and crayons or crayons and have them make their own wrapping paper to use this year. Repurpose old cards as wrapping paper to give your gifts a vintage look, or break out the sewing machine and make fabric gift bags to replace wrapping paper entirely.

Give as a gift:

Gifts don't have to be bought, homemade is great too, especially when it comes to Christmas cookies this festive season.  Photo / Unsplash
Gifts don’t have to be bought, homemade is great too, especially when it comes to Christmas cookies this festive season. Photo / Unsplash

Giving presents is great fun, but it can be hard on both the pocket and the environment. However, there are many simple things we can do to reduce costs for ourselves and for our planet.

Rather than giving individual gifts, consider giving board games or sets of outdoor sports like swingball or mini golf to families you know. Experiences rather than things also make great gifts, from spa days to family memberships to a local zoo, movie gift cards or a gift certificate to a local restaurant, brewery or even a gin tasting are all likely to be well received.

Homemade gifts are also great – spend a day in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies to wrap and hand out as seasonal gifts this year, or perhaps gift vouchers for services like babysitting, car wash and other things you can do for your friends and family. . When asked about gifts for you and your tamariki, encourage people to consider used and pre-loved items rather than new, and if Secret Santa is a thing in your whānau, consider put some fun rules in place – it has to be op-shopped, plastic free, or recycled in some way.

Plants and trees, all ready to repot and replant, also make great gifts for all ages – setting up little ones with their own vegetable patch or growing tomatoes is a gift that could get them into gardening for life. Youngsters will probably also enjoy watching a Venus flytrap factory at work!

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