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Bourke Street Mall during Christmas

Yule love these tips for a super sustainable holiday season

February 23, 2024
December 20, 2023

Keen to reduce your environmental impact this festive season? The good news is there are plenty of ways to spread joy without wrecking the planet in the process, so says Jo Stewart, author of How to Unf*ck the Planet a Little Bit Each Day

‘Tis the season to…create waste? Eat more meat than our bellies and the planet might be able to handle? Fill our homes with plastic and junk and mess and stuff? Ugh, no thanks. 

But with a little creative thinking and forward-planning, you can pull off a somewhat climate-friendly celebration without missing out on any of the stuff that really matters. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Sunbutter sunscreen wrapped in a golden bow, with sliver Christmas baubles surrounding it

Give green(er) gifts 

Good news! Sourcing gifts produced by makers focused on reducing waste and lowering emissions is getting easier every year. Bank Australia’s business customers are a talented pool to dip into for gift ideas.

 From compostable, biodegradable coffee pods made by the clever folk from Pod & Parcel, to reef-safe, palm oil-free sunscreen from Sunbutter and plastic-free underwear made by Australian B-Corp The Very Good Bra, there are plenty of awesome, environmentally-friendly gift options out there. 

Two people admire an old painting at a museum

…or give the gift of connection instead 

With research conducted by The Australia Institute indicating that almost half of Australians would prefer people not to buy them Christmas gifts, it’s worthwhile asking your loved ones if they’d prefer to dip out of gift-giving altogether. 

If your love language involves giving gifts, try exploring alternative ways to show you care that don’t involve items that may end up in landfill. Vouchers for experiences that people can enjoy together (dinner, movies, theatre etc.) are a solid low-waste option, as are annual memberships to cultural institutions like art galleries and museums. 

A Kris Kringle where everyone buys a book which is then swapped with everyone in the months ahead is a great way to promote circularity and foster increased connection throughout the year.   

Two people craft together a Christmas wreath

Craft your own Christmas tree, wreath and gifts

Tossing up between buying a plastic or ‘real’ tree? There’s a third (much more sustainable) option to consider: not buying a tree at all. Hang ornaments on an indoor potted plant, use scissors to fashion a tree out of a big cardboard box, or draw a Christmas tree onto that old chalkboard in your study – get creative with what you’ve got.

If you (or a friendly neighbour) have a rosemary bush in the backyard, then you can easily craft your own wreath to hang on your door instead of buying a plastic one. All you need are pliers, wire (or a coat hanger) and rosemary branches to wrap around the wire. Don’t forget to compost the rosemary when you’re done. 

From freshly baked sourdough bread to a pair of knitted comfy winter socks, gifts that you’ve made yourself hit differently. Unleash your talent for baking, knitting or propagating plants by gifting something straight from your heart (and hands).     

Queen Victoria Market with skyscrapers in the background

Buy local (and support social enterprises, B corps and not-for-profits)

Contribute to your local economy, reduce food miles, support food sovereignty and fight back against supermarket monopolies by making food co-ops, farmers markets, farm gates and roadside produce stalls your go-to for festive feast ingredient shopping. 

Bank Australia customers like CERES Fair Food and Corner Store Network are two social enterprises offering a more ethical, sustainable way to shop for groceries and gourmet treats.

A kid sits at her desk and writes in a book

Cut the crap 

Instead of being on autopilot, think of ways you can use what you have instead of buying wrapping paper and ribbons. Old maps, sheet music and pages of dated street directories can all be repurposed into eco-friendly gift wrap. If you have kids, a hand-drawn Christmas card is guaranteed to put a smile on someone’s face. 

While you might be tempted to buy brand-new tinsel, ornaments and bunting, op-shops are packed with preloved festive decorations waiting to find a new home. Not only will you give an existing object a new life, you’ll save cash too.

A woman chops vegetables in the kitchen

Fight food waste 

It’s tempting to over cater if you’re having people over to celebrate. Before loading up your trolley with perishables that might end up in the bin, write a meal plan to calculate the exact amounts you’ll need (hint: avoiding meat and dairy will drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions generated by your festive feast).

Get creative with using leftovers in new recipes. Whip up a frittata using leftover roast veg, turn surplus bread into breadcrumbs and make smoothies with what remains of the fruit platter.  

Keep leftovers fresh with 100% compostable Great Wrap and compost food scraps to ensure they don’t end up in landfill where they’ll release methane into the atmosphere. Don’t have your own compost bin? Tap into community-based compost collectives provided by your local council and organisations like Bank Australia customer, Cirque Du Soil.


An elderly woman sits on a red armchair, reading a book. Behind her is a bookcase filled with books which is surrounded by indoor plants

Slow down, savour simplicity 

Feeling the pressure to be everything, everywhere, all at once? They don’t call it ‘silly season’ for nothing. Resist the pressure to make the three-hour round-trip to that barbecue you don’t feel like going to, decline the invite to that New Year’s Eve party you’re half-hearted about, and forget flying interstate to put in an appearance at an industry function you don’t have the headspace for. Give yourself permission to pare back your commitments and enjoy simple pleasures close to home – you (and the planet) will feel better for it.  

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