Three black and brown wrapped christmas gifts tied with string and interspersed with small green pine branches
Eco-action Environmental Sustainability

‘Tis the season to be sustainable

The countdown is on. Stores are decked with Christmas decorations and have been spruiking their wares since October. But now, with less than a month to go, for those of us celebrating Christmas, things are getting serious. The question everyone is asking is have you started your Christmas shopping?

Last year, Australians spent over $62 billion in the lead up to Christmas. Perhaps a post-pandemic splurge? Perhaps not. Despite the current financial uncertainty and cost-of-living pressures, the news is looking good again for retailers this Christmas, with just under $64 billion predicted to be spent.

Admittedly, some of the consumption associated with Christmas is hard to avoid. But every year the festive season seems to be an excuse to go crazy at the shops—buying gifts that sit for years unused or simply discarded almost as soon as they’re opened to sit in landfill for years instead.

At the risk of appearing a grinch, have you ever thought about the energy and resources used to make each purchase we make, every gift we give?

Almost everything we buy causes environmental damage, usually in developing countries, far away from us. But it is the vast scale of our consumption along with the resulting waste that is the real problem.

Climate change is primarily caused by our emissions from energy—the energy required to supply our demand for goods, services and travel. It stands to reason therefore, that it is the high-consuming wealthy countries who are the major emitters.

So, what’s the alternative?

Baptist World Aid have a super helpful guide on how to buy ethically this Christmas.

Close up of a brown wooden christmas tree decoration hanging on a green christmas tree with fairy lights
Beautiful tree ornaments can be made from natural products. Canva.

And below, Glimmer has put together a whole bunch of ideas that can help us celebrate more sustainably:

🎁 Agree with friends and relatives to buy less or donate to charity instead. Some charities like World Vision lets you choose where your money goes, for example, a child’s education or even a cow!

🎁 Buy second-hand, refurbish or, if you’re clever, make your gifts. When it comes to buying clothes, second-hand is the new look. See Glimmer’s blog on why we should avoid fast fashion.

🎁 Quality over quantity—buy less but better-quality goods that will last (and perhaps with longer warranties).

🎁 Buy useful gifts—ask friends and family what they actually need. Be prepared to also tell others what you might like to receive. This means no more awkward moments of receiving yet another crocheted tea-cosy. Although they can be handy.

🎁 Try to buy ethical brands that are better for the environment and, if possible, are fairtrade. Beware though as some brands’ green credentials are as fake as a plastic Christmas tree.

🎁 Minimise wrapping and try to use biodegradable sticky tape or string. Or use reusable wrapping such as fabric.

🎁 Invest in a potted tree or use a nice arrangement of branches that can serve as your Christmas tree every year. If you have a “real” cut tree, it can be recycled as mulch. But no matter how good the quality of a fake tree, it will end up in landfill.

🎁 Enjoy Christmas lights (LEDs) but don’t try to light up the world. It’s really not a competition.

🎁 Make your own Christmas crackers, with a thoughtful gift inside (chocolate is easy).

🎁 Cook sensibly, avoid food waste, reuse leftover food where possible. Remember best before dates are not the same as use by dates.

🎁 You don’t need to go overboard with food. Eating and drinking less will help your health and reduce your emissions!

Hopefully these ideas will get us all thinking creatively about how to have a more sustainable Christmas. Perhaps this year will be a season to enjoy gathering rather than gathering stuff.

Sources:

Carbon Choices and Consumption. Neil Kitching. http://carbonchoices.uk/index.php/blog/blog-5

New Data has Revealed People Who Shop Second-Hand Are Likely To Be More Stylish, So Catchya At The Thrift Shop. https://www.elle.com.au/fashion/second-hand-shoppers-more-stylish-26903

Pre-Christmas sales forecast to reach $63.9 billion – up 3% on last year. https://www.roymorgan.com/findings/pre-christmas-sales-forecast-to-reach-63-9-billion-up-3-on-last-year

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