Our environmental impact might not be at the forefront of our minds during the rush of the festive season and many of us are more concerned about just getting through it. However, the lead up to the end of the year is the perfect time for us to reflect on our habits and excesses.
Christmas is one of the most extravagant Western celebrations. According to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), in the four weeks leading up to Christmas, household waste increases by 25 per cent. That amounts to an extra 100 million tonnes of trash making its way to our landfills each week – affecting our environment, our health, and our planet’s future!
Together, we can make small sustainable decisions that will help lead to big change, such as:
Buying from local food suppliers, as we use less fossil fuel in transportation.
Increasing the proportion of plant-based foods and serving low-carbon, sustainably farmed meat.
Focusing on the following areas will have a real effect on reducing your environmental impact this festive season …
Make your own recycled gift wrap
Did you know that some Christmas gift wrapping isn’t even recyclable? Keep bags of trash out of the landfill by creating your own simple gift wrap from recycled shopping bags, old newspapers or craft paper.
For Australia, electricity is a major source of environmental impact, as approximately 86 per cent comes from fossil fuels. The biggest energy consumer in your household is space heating and cooling. About 40 per cent of residential electricity use, depending on your local climate, goes into indoor temperature control. Fans, on the other hand, typically use about 20 per cent (or less) of the energy consumed by air-conditioners. So, rather than running the air-con all day, why not sit on the balcony or use a fan, and make sure you’re stocked up on refreshing drinks!
Reduce your emissions and support a sustainable local economy at the same time. Support them by checking out local boutiques, farmers’ markets, family-owned businesses and craft fairs to find unique, handmade gifts.
Most people link greenhouse gas emissions to transport. However, the livestock industry and other meat production produce more than all forms of transport combined. On average, meat, poultry, and dairy products have far greater pressures on nature than other food. The carbon footprint of a heavy meat diet is considered to be double a vegetarian diet and even more than a vegan diet! Meat and dairy also tend to be worse for the use of water and energy and across many pollution and soil degradation issues. So, try minimising meat and dairy intake during the festive feast, and plan for how much food you need to minimise the risk of overconsumption and waste.
When choosing flowers for gifts or decoration, select in-season locally-grown varieties.
Serve up locally-produced food and drink and choose products with less packaging. Set up recycling bins before your party starts to make it easier for your guests and halve clean-up time. Deck out the tables with reusable plates and cutlery so they can be washed and used again.
Candles provide a warm light to dark winter days. Instead of choosing candles made from petroleum-derived paraffin, seek out candles made from beeswax, soy or vegetable wax. As a bonus, beeswax has a sweet all-natural aroma that will scent your home as you light the night.
Gift-giving is a central part of the festive season but they also often come with a large footprint. As a first step, consider buying fewer gifts and purchasing your loved ones gifts that will last a long time, are energy and water efficient, disposable and biodegradable. A great way to reduce your material footprint is to go for non-consumptive, non-material gifts in the form of services such as e-books, massage, yoga classes, cinema tickets, and gym memberships. As a bonus, many of these have additional health benefits.
Another crucial part of improving sustainability is buying ethical, fair trade gifts that don’t exploit workers of wagers and safe work conditions, and consider child labour and environmental harm issues.
One of the most important presents you can impart to your children is the gift of conversation and knowledge about climate action.
Such changes need support across the community. So, another lifestyle change could be committing political support for renewable energy, energy efficiency, better public transport and more compact cities, alternative long-distance travel modes, and more.
So, happy festive season! Let’s make it a festive season this year, next year and every year after that!