Christmas can be a time of overindulgence and over-consumption, but it doesn’t have to be that way. For the third 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.
We’re kicking off with “How to have a Zero Waste Christmas” with our dear friend and Green Warrior, Hannah Chung – The Zero Waste Challenger, on how we can go waste-free, lower our impact and have a green Christmas.
A pile of unwanted presents on Boxing Day, wrapping paper strewn on the floor, tinsel drooping off trees of plastic, hangovers, gout. 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 8 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 together 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 instill 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.
2. Gifts that last a lifetime
Reducing waste does not necessarily mean going cold turkey over the holidays. 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!
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, and straw sets that will simplify anyone’s lives. Here are a few options:
> Green Queen x Live Zero Christmas Hamper [in store in HK & online] – for a great set of thoughtful gifts bundled into one and presented in a beautiful dim sum basket. They can be picked up from Live Zero stores in Hong Kong or delivered, and 10% of proceeds will be donated to anti-plastic NGO Eco-Drive HK to help them promote the reduction of single-use plastics and raise awareness about plastic pollution.
> Unpackt [in store in SG] – Singapore’s first zero-waste and bulk food store. Head on in to check out their plastic-free options, as well as a sleuth of bulk items for the kitchen and build your own starter kit for a friend or yourself.
> NOW No Waste [Online] – has various zero waste kits that are easy and convenient to suit the modern-day lifestyles. They want to make it easier for the whole family to embark on the Zero Waste Challenge, so you will be able to find the perfect kit here.
And definitely 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 strongly recommend buying second hand, rather brand new, for growing little humans.
> Retykle – for pre-loved designer kid’s clothes online.
> Green Ladies – has four stores across HK for large selections of treasures – their Green Little section is particularly good.
> The Fashion Pulpit – a swapping store! You can drop off your items for points to swap and get new items. Or you can purchase the pre-loved items without signing up to swap.
> Style Tribute – for your luxury-loving friends, this is an excellent place to find pre-loved items in excellent condition for a great price and experience.
Stay tuned for our full guide on dressing sustainability this Christmas.
5. Give edible gifts
Food is a great 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 –
6. Gift wrap
If every American family wrapped just 3 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 NOW No Waste or from The Chief Project, a social enterprise that transforms textile waste into beautiful handkerchiefs.
7. Have an eco-tree
In 2016 in Singapore, 14,300 live pine trees were imported. 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.
8. 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. Let’s make them eco ones.
And that’s just a few of the easiest ways you can have a Zero Waste Christmas this year. Which of these new holiday traditions are you adopting?
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 this year! And stay tuned to the next 12 days for more Conscious Christmas tips, tricks and gifts.