It’s traditionally a time of year where we spend more, consume more and see more go to waste – but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to reclaim the holiday season for you, your family, and the planet.
The holidays might be here, but don’t deck the halls just yet. Because did you know that Australian household waste jumps up by a huge 30% over the holiday period? That’s not entirely cool.
We’re all aware of the dire environmental situation we find ourselves in. And while that doesn’t mean we should cease celebrating our existence on this earth outright, it’s certainly worth pausing, having a bit of a think, and perhaps changing some of our behaviour for the better.
If you heed only a couple of points on this list, the earth will thank you for it.
Deck the halls with bows of homemade things
The first thing a lot of us do in the lead up to the holidays is decorate. This is OK in theory, but also not really OK if you fill your house with a bunch of stuff, only to throw it all out on January 1st and repeat the cycle the following year.
Instead of buying decorations, make your own. Better yet, enlist your children/ nieces/ nephews/ brothers/ sisters to make them. Not only will it entertain them for hours, but you’ll get to enjoy a truly unique and personal collection of decorations that money can’t buy. Make sure you hold on to them for years to come too. No waste, remember?
Switch out your Christmas tree
Whatever way you cut it (usually horizontally, at the base of the trunk), the Christmas tree industry leaves an enormous carbon footprint. And while plastic trees can be used again and again, Australian Ethical says that an artificial tree would need to be used for 10 years before it offset the carbon of natural trees bought during the same period.
The solution? Order something like a Wollemi pine. They’re one of the oldest tree breeds on earth and, if treated well, will last for decades. You could also forego the tree altogether, and build one out of general household items. Like a ladder.
Whether you’re buying gifts, decorations, or food, locally-made and produced goods have a much smaller carbon footprint at point of purchase than goods that have been shipped or flown in from overseas. Local stuff will typically be much higher-quality too. Which is always nice.
Enough is a good as a feast
Our good friend and KeepCup founder, Abigail Forsyth, says that her nana used to tell her that “enough is as good as a feast.” The key message here being that we simply don’t need to completely and utterly gorge ourselves on this holiday season. Overeating during the holidays has become so normalised that it almost feels like an obligation – but it’s completely unnecessary. “Make it beautiful, make it delicious and make it thoughtful,” says Abigail. “But just enough and no more – that’s the key.”
Whether you’re close to becoming a vegetarian or million paddocks away, going all vegetarian on December 25 is an idea, and one that should be thoughtfully considered. We wager there is approximately zero chance that you will eat something like this mushroom, stilton and chestnut pie and feel in any way unfulfilled, hungry, or like you miss meat. Go vegan if you want. And vegan, vegetarian or otherwise, you can still go organic.
Be present (don’t just get them)
This one’s more about conserving and nurturing relationships than it is the planet: the holidays are usually about spending time with family – love ‘em or hate ‘em – and reflecting on another trip around the sun in one another’s company. For a lot of people, the holiday season might be the only time of year they actually get to see all of their family in the same place. So consider putting the phone away, unplugging the internet, and doing your best to just be consciously together – if only for 24 hours. In spite of everything else, it’s up to you to create the kind of holiday atmosphere you want for your family.
Get clothing or shoes that are eco-friendly. Buy candles made of beeswax or soy (not paraffin!). Buy books (or eBooks). Buy things you know your family and friends will actually use (a refillable water bottle? A KeepCup? Some Beeswax wraps?) Buy good quality – a $100 pair of boots that fall apart in three months’ time are not as good value, or as good for the environment, as a $400 pair that last a decade. Gift experiences – massage or restaurant vouchers, courses or workshops. Be a smart consumer, and don’t buy in to the latest trends and fads.
Give the gift of your old stuff
Taking time off work? It’s a pretty good time of year to rummage through all of your old stuff, fill a few bags full of stuff you don’t need, and pop them down to your nearest Op-Shop. You’ll feel better about it, other people will be able to snag some bargains, and all of the proceeds will be going to a good place. Win-win-win.
Offer your time
No matter how good you have it, there are plenty of Australians out here who don’t have it quite as good. So again, while you’re taking time off work, why not get out there and spend some time volunteering for some organisations who could use a helping hand. We’d put money on it being the most rewarding thing you do all year.