Christmas can be a time of overindulgence and over-consumption, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For the fourth year in a row, we’re running our 12 Days of Conscious Christmas series – because we can definitely be more mindful during the festive season and still have a jolly old time. Ho ho ho to that!
To get this party started, we wanted to share some handy hints on how to have a zero-waste Christmas. So we’ve compiled some excellent ideas and great advice from the GITNB team and our pal Hannah Chung (a 2018 Green Warrior who is a zero waste queen) on how we can go waste-free, lower our impact, and have a green Christmas.
You know the scene: a pile of unwanted presents on Boxing Day, wrapping paper strewn across the floor, tinsel drooping off trees filled with plastic, hangovers, gout. Sound familiar? If this is reminiscent of your Christmases past, remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. Life can be so much simpler without all the stuff that we’ve been conditioned to believe is ‘festive tradition’. Make new traditions, set yourself free from the faff, and get creative this holiday with these eight waste-free alternatives.
1. The gift of experiences
It seems obvious, but taking the materialism out of gift-giving and instead investing your time into making memories with your loved ones, especially with young children, can easily be the best way to embrace the Christmas spirit. Gather groups of your loved ones to go ice skating, grab an ice cream, challenge yourself in an escape room or even bounce together at a trampoline park. The idea is to put your phones away, have fun and be present, as a present.
A treasure hunt using upcycled and inexpensive goodies hidden around the house can also be a great way to instil excitement and get both children and adults ‘treasuring’ all kinds of things. Use leftover coins and seashells from your travels or pass down old treasures from when you were a child yourself.
Alternatively, why not adopt a tree for your friends and family? Organisations like EcoMatcher allow you to purchase trees to help reforest locations around the world. Using its TreeTracker tool, they’ll be able to see exactly where the tree is and find out more about the farmer who planted it. Hassle-free gifting that saves the planet? Sounds good to us.
2. Gifts that last a lifetime
Reducing waste does not necessarily mean going cold turkey over the holidays. Instead, you can invest in quality items such as cast iron pans, kitchen knives, and travel backpacks.
Buy Me Once – has a long list of well-researched and tested products – some of them even have lifetime guarantees.
We’re also huge fans of Stasher. It creates endlessly reusable, radically functional silicone storage bags that are perfect for storing Christmas Day leftovers (but they’re so versatile we’ve even been known to use them as makeup bags!). And they make excellent stocking fillers for foodies, mums, and anyone interested in taking #LittleGreenSteps to #LiveMoreConsciously.
3. Zero waste activist gifts
One of the most effective ways to make a difference in terms of waste reduction is to spread the word on zero waste and provide easy solutions for any of your friends to adopt. There are plenty of starter gifts such as safety razors, collapsible water bottles, bamboo straws, and cutlery sets that will simplify anyone’s lives. Here are a few
Unpackt [in store in SG] is Singapore’s first zero-waste and bulk food store. Check out its plastic-free options, as well as a sleuth of bulk items for the kitchen and build your starter kit for a friend or yourself.
Bamboo Straw Girl [Online] stocks a tonne of small items that make brilliant stocking fillers, or you can create your own starter pack to encourage your friends and family to go green. From bamboo toothbrushes and cutlery sets, to handmade soap and fabric cup carriers, she’s got it all.
Pssst…stay tuned to see our Conscious Christmas Gift Guides that will be up over the next 12 days!
4. Buy pre-loved gifts
There are so many second-hand stores where you can get stylish clothes that don’t cost the earth. In particular, we’re all about buying second hand rather than brand new for growing little humans.
Retykle – for pre-loved designer kid’s clothes online.
Green Ladies – has four stores across HK featuring extensive collections of treasures. Its Green Little section is particularly brilliant.
The Fashion Pulpit – swap don’t shop! It’s simple; drop off your items for points to swap and in return, select new items. Or you can purchase the pre-loved items without signing up to trade. We’re obsessed.
Style Tribute – for your luxury-loving friends, this is an excellent place to find pre-loved items in excellent condition for bargainous prices.
Stay tuned for our full guide on dressing sustainability this Christmas.
5. Give edible gifts
Food is an excellent way to the heart of your friends and family. Fill up reusable glass jars and give the gift of homemade treats such as candied nuts, biscotti, chocolate truffles, granola, or dehydrated fruits. You can even decorate the jars to give them a little something extra special.
Bulk food stores in…
6. Gift wrap
If every American family wrapped just three presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. Whatever the gift, consider wrapping it in reusable cloth using traditional Japanese furoshiki methods instead of un-recyclable wrapping paper. You can upcycle old bandanas, scarves, handkerchiefs, or even cut up old sheets or shirts and transform them into beautiful gift wraps. Alternatively, invest in beautiful cloths from The Chief Project, a social enterprise that transforms textile waste into beautiful handkerchiefs.
7. Have an eco-tree
In 2016, Singapore imported 14,300 live pine trees. The mind boggles to think about the carbon footprint from the transport and air-con to keep these trees ‘fresh’. Fashion your own Christmas tree using upcycled materials such as old wooden pallets, fallen branches, driftwood, wine bottles, or existing potted plants – there’s little that a string of fairy lights can’t make pretty.
This year, the UK has seen a rise in renting real trees just for Christmas to prevent waste. Sadly it’s not yet available in Asia but spread the word to friends and family abroad. How does it work? Pick your tree from a local participating tree supplier who will deliver it to your door for Christmas. Once the festivities are over, they’ll return to pick it up and replant it at the farm. You can even continue to rent the same tree year after year. Genius!
8. Don’t forget to recycle!
If you’re still disappointed at the amount of waste your family produces this Christmas (despite your best efforts), why not encourage the fam to download the Gravo app? It’s super easy to use and gamifies and rewards your recycling efforts. Before you know it, recycling everything possible will become strangely addictive.
9. Christmas decorations
On the dinner table, put your bad jokes and inedible plastic Christmas crackers aside for homemade fortune cookies instead. Bake cookie decorations for your tree, and make beautifully delicious cranberry and popcorn garlands! Christmas may even turn out to be more special once you have taken a step back from what high street stores are selling (with their incessantly loud holiday tunes on repeat), and remember that traditions are for you to set. So why not make them eco ones?
For more ideas on how you can be a more conscious consumer this Christmas, check out everything we learned at the CONSUME: Going Zero talks from The Conscious Festival last year! And stay tuned to the next 12 days for more Conscious Christmas tips, tricks and gifts.