5 ways to have a sustainable Christmas

From the tree to the dining table, it’s easy to reduce your festive footprint.

If you celebrate Christmas, you’re probably familiar with scenes of lounge room floors carpeted in discarded wrapping paper, fridges full of leftovers and the slow passing of your pine tree.

In the City of Sydney's area, we fill about 70 extra garbage trucks with waste over the holiday season. To help reduce this, we’ve put together a sustainable guide to all your Christmas consumables.

The most sustainable Christmas tree is the one you already have

1. Keep using your existing tree and decorations

If you already have a plastic Christmas tree and decorations, the best thing you can do for the environment is to continue to use them for as long as you can.

Real, fresh-cut trees are a better option than plastic ones, particularly from a sustainable farm if you’re in the market for a new tree. They’ll live for a few weeks and you can recycle them in your green waste bin.

A sustainable alternative is a potted native tree, like the woolly bush or Wollemi pine. They have a similar look to the traditional pine tree and can last a lifetime if you take good care of them.

If you’re feeling crafty, why not DIY a Christmas tree from a fallen branch. You’re more likely to find one if you take a walk after a storm. If space is limited, make a hanging branch tree for your wall.

2. Give experiences not things

It may seem obvious, but an often-forgotten step is just to ask your loved ones what they want for Christmas.

Experiences make memorable, sustainable gifts. Whether it’s tickets to a show, a massage voucher or salsa dancing lessons, you can make it a no or low-waste gift by sending it electronically or printing it out and popping it in a card. Avoid buying gift vouchers that come on a plastic card as they can’t be recycled.

For big family gatherings or the workplace, gift giving games like Secret Santa or White Elephant are fun and mean you only buy 1 gift instead of many.

Wrapping gifts in newspaper looks great and is easy to recycle

3. Wrap gifts in newspaper or paper bags

The rule of thumb is to use what you already have. Use up any wrapping paper or gift bags you have lying around. Repurpose brown paper food delivery bags, newspapers, old tea towels or a pretty scarf.

Or try your hand at furoshiki, the Japanese tradition of fabric wrapping. Make gift tags by cutting off the front of last year’s Christmas cards.

4. Crack out your best crockery

When setting the table, it can be tempting to use disposable plates, cups and cutlery to save you washing up. Instead, put out your best crockery and utensils. It’s a special occasion after all.

Christmas crackers are fun for about 1 minute – the dad jokes, torn paper crowns and plastic gifts are left behind and swept into the bin. If you can’t bear to forgo the tradition, make your own crackers or search online for where to buy reusable, recyclable or plastic-free options.

5. Feast on leftovers

After the festivities are over, make sure your friends and family take a plate of leftovers to help reduce your food waste.

If you find yourself with a fridge full of leftovers on Boxing Day, you can preserve them for longer using these simple tips. You may be surprised how many foods you can freeze. And if you’re fed up with ham and turkey sandwiches, try these recipes to give your leftovers a new flavour.

A guide to Christmas recycling

Nobody's perfect. If you have unwanted wrapping, trees or gifts, find out how to dispose of them responsibly in our Christmas recycling guide.

Posted . Last updated .

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