According to Clive Van Horen, Executive General Manager, Retail Products and Strategy, Commonwealth Bank: “The total budget blowout by Australians in the pre-Christmas period is expected to reach $616 million, with the majority (60 per cent) of shoppers splashing the cash without bothering to set a budget or track their spending as they go.”
What used to be a holiday that centered around spending time with family has now become consumerism crazed, with days like Black Friday encouraging excessive gift giving of toys which will be played with once and then not touched again. In the first few weeks after Christmas, thousands of presents appear on eBay with the description ‘unwanted Christmas gift’ and the etiquette of giving gifts to children seems to have become focused on quantity over quality.
The consequence of this is that hundreds of thousands of Christmas gifts each year become landfill.
But what is the answer?
Our Elves put their heads together to provide you with some quick and easy ideas & tips to reduce your carbon footprint over what has become an incredibly wasteful time of year.
1. Make your gift giving practical, fairtrade & local
Stick to gifts you know will be appreciated, like something edible or wearable.
For parents with young children, fair trade organic cotton children's clothes and eco-friendly toys make great gifts.
Organic kids clothes tend to come in a variety of colours, fabrics & patterns so there’s is something for every tastebud — and growing children always need more high-quality clothing.
If you’re really struggling to pick out a specific present, a gift voucher for something ethical, be it ethical baby clothes or a weekly vegetable box from a local farm, is both a safe and environmentally conscious gift.
But this doesn’t just apply to gifts and includes pretty much everything from your tree to your food & Christmas treats.
By buying locally you are reducing emissions as a result of increased road and air freight and also supporting local businesses.
2. Un wrap
When you’re wrapping your fair trade cotton children's clothes, as pretty as it may look, try to resist wrapping it in three layers of special paper with ribbons on top that just get thrown away.
One of the biggest sources of waste each Christmas is wrapping paper, with more than 8,000 tonnes being used each year – the equivalent of approximately 50,000 trees.
Add to that over a billion Christmas cards, which would circle the earth five times, the 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging and all the Christmas trees which have been chopped down, and you have yourself a very wasteful Christmas.
To avoid this, send eCards instead of Christmas cards and use eco-friendly packaging.
Try to avoid buying gifts that are packaged in enough plastic to fill a small room.
Instead, opt for simpler gifts.
If you really want to go green, you can either make your own Christmas tree or get one in a pot to sit in your back garden for the other eleven months.
3. Don’t Waste Food and choose a Meat Free Christmas Spread
Australian households and businesses are throwing away an estimated 4 million tonnes of food every year. That’s enough to fill 450,000 garbage trucks with wasted food.
Christmas is one of the worst times for this as we stock up for the holidays and then open the fridge on Boxing Day to find it still full, which not only impacts on your pocket but also on the environment.
Don’t go crazy! Think about what you’ll actually need and how many people you’ll be feeding. Create a food plan and consider how you can use left overs for meals the next day.
But it doesn’t stop there.
The effect of the meat industry on the environment has been a much talked about issue this year; it’s more damaging than the entire transport industry combined. A traditional Christmas dinner can often be a very meat-heavy meal, but it doesn’t have to be. In the UK alone, around 10 million turkeys are killed for Christmas every year. Try replacing your turkey with a nut roast, or if you feel like really turning up the heat on your environmentally friendly credentials, you could even consider a vegan lifestyle.
It’s an obvious one but definitely one of the most important, especially when you consider all the extra paper, plastic and glass bottles you’ll be acquiring over the holidays.
This is especially critical when thinking about electrical items such as phones and computers, which have a tendency to get shafted once the shiny new toys arrive and are hard to recycle properly.
Batteries are another toxic nightmare that come part and parcel with Christmas. Australians spend around $400 million each year on batteries – that’s about $50 per household! This also equates to an annual waste of over 8,000 tonnes of used batteries, which are the most common form of hazardous waste disposed of by Australian households. Rechargeable batteries have up to 32 times less impact on the environment than disposable batteries and after using them a few times you are actually saving money as well as energy. To recycle household quantities of batteries, take them to your nearest Battery World store or search for local recycling options on RecyclingNearYou.com.au/batteries.
PlanetArk have put together a great guide to recycling electricals.
5. Donate unwanted gifts – don’t throw them
Unfortunately, a huge proportion of the gifts given this Christmas will end up in the back of the wardrobe never to see the light of day again. This year make a special effort to see that any unwanted presents go to good use.
Unwanted toys can be donated through organisations such as http://www.secondchancetoys.com.au/ who redistribute them to children in need.
Donate your old or unwanted clothes to your local charity shop – the majority of their revenue comes from goods donated so donations are vital.
Check out GiveNow to find social enterprises and organisations looking for pretty much everything from books to bikes to electricals . This way you can make sure your unwanted items go to good use and don’t end up in landfill.
6. Be Bright With Your Christmas Lights
Lighting your house up until it’s a beacon which can be seen from outer space is an obvious no-no, however much you want to compete with your neighbours. Unnecessary and extravagant Christmas lighting doesn’t just cause a lot of carbon emissions (around 400kg), but it can also add an extra hundred pounds or so to your electricity bill for the season.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up the twinkling lights which chase out the dark and gloom of winter, though. LEDs have been shown to be much less harmful to the environment, so where possible, choose lights with LED bulbs. If you’re using lights on the outside of your house, buy a timer so that they come on for just a few hours in the evening, when people are around outside to see them.
7. Travel Responsibly
If you travel over Christmas, as many will do, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the impact of your trip.
-Consider offsetting your emissions when flying.
-If you are driving, don’t go it alone and consider using a lift sharing site such as http://www.liftshare.com or http://www.coseats.com/. These are a great way to split the cost, meet new people and reduce the number of cars on the road.
-When you leave the house make sure you turn off all electricals at the source to reduce usage. Gadgets left on standby can use up to 10% more than when completely switched off which adds up if you are away for a few weeks.
Wishing you all a wonderful Eco-conscious Christmas.
Your Elves in the Wardrobe