Making sustainable choices this silly season
The silly season is upon us and it is so hard to try and maintain a sustainable lifestyle without becoming a total Grinch. And if your family is anything like mine, the old “let’s not get each other anything this year, there’s nothing we really need” approach, just results in one person taking this as some sort of meaningless comment and the other (me) committing and looking like the worst human alive….. So, here’s a few tips to keep your consumption and wastage to a minimum this silly season without being a Grinch!
Wrap in recyclable paper
Not all people are aware of this, but standard wrapping paper is not actually recyclable. I wrap my presents in plain brown Kraft paper every year. Mostly because it is recyclable, but also because I just always happen to have a roll of it on hand for pattern making purposes.
If you don’t just happen to have brown paper on hand (like a normal person!) here are a few alternatives to standard wrapping paper.
Arts and Crafts it!
If you have little ones, this trick doubles as a fun crafts afternoon to keep the kiddies entertained these school holidays. Let your little ones decorate their own wrapping paper for your family on recyclable paper! The kids will love the arts and crafts session, and your family will the priceless artwork of your babes! And if they don’t, at least they can recycle it!
However; if the idea of a DIY craft session or brown kraft paper makes you cringe; firstly, ouch! Secondly, check out some of these amazing alternatives to standard wrapping paper
Lotka Paper by Of The Earth
Lotka paper is created in Nepal, through sustainable farming practices. Lokta paper is sourced from the Daphne bush, which is cut off at the base when harvested. This does not kill the bush, and it will regenerate from the root. The bark from the bush is used to make the Lotka paper which is 100% acid free and bio-degradable, and then the cane like stick that is left once the bark is removed, is burned to heat the homes of the Nepalese people. All the water used in the production of the paper is also reclaimed and reused.
Read more about Lotka paper, and purchase at the link below.
Whilst I really love the look of the handmade Lotka paper, it’s not for everyone. If the handmade look isn’t for you, there are also some wonderful options in a more standard style wrapping paper.
Seed paper by Botanical Paper Works
Seed Paper is created from post-consumer material that is infused with seeds. That’s right! It’s plantable! And although it’s only really practical for small gifts, the paper is basically a gift in itself! Seed Paper can literally be planted in your back yard (another fun activity for the kids this Christmas!) and will sprout within days.
When selecting your seed paper you also select which seeds you would like, with options such as wild flowers, herbs and even vegies, this paper really is the gift that keeps on giving. They also do plantable confetti, wedding invites, and so much more!
Find out more about seed paper at https://www.botanicalpaperworks.com/how_plantable_paper_works
Whilst non-recyclable wrapping paper is extremely wasteful, unnecessary and under acknowledged; it is not the main cause of wastage over the Christmas period. The gifts we give, and the packaging they come in, are by far the leading cause of increased wastage during the Christmas months.
According to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Australians spend over $11 billion at Christmas, with each person spending on average $593 on presents alone, and of this around $4 billion worth of these gifts will be returned, most of which never makes it back to store shelves and are eventually discarded. So how do you reduce the waste created by gift giving? Here’s a few tips
When you don’t know what they want, get them what they’ll use!
As mentioned above, $4 billion worth of unwanted gifts are returned every year, and that doesn’t include the majority people, too polite to tell you they hate your gift! If your overly polite posse won’t tell you what they want this year. Consider putting together a hamper of things they’ll use on a daily basis.
Hampers can be anything from food and alcohol to beauty supplies and healthcare products. If you’re a baker, or if you can follow a recipe, and if you’re not too shabby with a sewing machine, this can turn out to be a VERY cost effective and personalized gift that your friends and family will love.
By including items people use on a daily basis, you’re ensuring that your gift won’t go to waste. Things that won’t go bad quickly, require minimum packaging, are a reusable alternative to a disposable product, and are not terribly expensive are going to be your best friends. Here’s a few examples:
- Chocolate or other treats with a long shelf life
- Coffee or tea
- Home-made heat packs (here’s a quick video I found showing how easy this is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3jLtLXJPzg I like to put all my rice in a large container and drop in about 5 drops of lavender essential oil per kg of rice, and let it sit with a lid on for a few days to soak up all the lavender goodness)
- Home-made makeup removers.
Another handy video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7fEHTisv30
Hot tip: you can use microfibre clothes for this. They’re super affordable from places like supercheap auto or Bunnings (and I’m sure many other places). Obviously, I want to tell you to reuse an old shirt or something, but if you’re not willing to do that, the microfibre works SO WELL at removing makeup with nothing but water, and I’m all for reducing chemical waste!
- Body Scrubs. These are so easy! Package them in a cute glass jar that can be reused. For extra point, include the recipe so they can make more themselves when it runs out. Here’s a few easy body scrub recipes https://www.healthline.com/health/skin/diy-body-scrub#brown-sugar-scrub
- Kombucha (if you can make your own, even better!) Bottle in reusable glass bottles. For extra points also include a scoby and a kombucha recipe, who knows, maybe a knew hobby will be born!
- Alcohol (if you buy 1 six pack of a pretty universal beer, or even a mixed pack of craft beers, you can knock out 6 hampers with 1 six pack)
- Package them in something reusable. I’m not talking baskets people! Things people will actually use! Like a salad bowl, or a washing basket if you’re going big. I made these last year and I packaged mine in a small storage container which could be repurposed as a herb organizer or a bits and bobs container.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea! If you would like more hamper suggestions, please comment below. I’d love to help you out with this!
Experiences instead of material gifts
This is one of the easiest ways to cut back on packaging waste, and on unwanted gifts. Experiences can be anything from skydiving or rally car racing (if you’re prone to being a little over the top) to a restaurant voucher, or movie tickets or even a ‘IOU one home cooked meal’. Gifting experiences instead of material items brings people together, creates memories, and gives you the perfect excuse to spend more time with your friends and family. Isn’t that what Christmas is really about anyway?
Whilst thrifting gifts is always going to be more sustainable than buying gifts brand new, this could be a tricky one if your friends and family don’t share the same love of not being a mindless consumer as you do… If you’re going to thrift your gifts, choose wisely, you don’t want them to end up right back at the thrift store.
A good way to get around this is to look for items that may be hard to find brand new. Things like old records if your parents or grandparents still have their old record player laying around, look for one of their favourite artists on record. This one is always a hit!
Try to avoid things like clothes, or shoes for people who don’t typically thrift themselves, if they’re not going to wear it, it’s a waste. Aim for things like vintage tea pots or classic books, things that are supposed to be a little seasoned. Things that get their charm from the fact that they are old.
That’s it from me! If you have any other ideas on ways we can be more sustainable this silly season, let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear them!
Have a wonderful holiday season!