Did you know that one-third of Australians think the festive season is the most wasteful time of year? According to recent YouGov research, 41% of us also think there’s a general lack of environmental consideration around the holiday period, and we reckon the biggest waste-makers are unwanted presents, wrapping paper, excessive packaging, single-use decorations, and food, food and more food.
This got us thinking about how we can make our festivities more sustainable yet still feel good about all the treats and fun stuff. So we talked to ING Dreamstarter alum Kayla Mossuto, co-founder and managing director of Crema Joe, makers of reusable and sustainable coffee pods. Kayla gave us tips for six of the most common sources of festive waste and how we can approach them differently this year.
1. Wrapping paper
My first tip is for you to reuse packaging materials when you’re wrapping up your presents, like we do here at Crema Joe. A lot of regular wrapping paper can’t be recycled because of foil prints or plastic lining, so switch to a recyclable paper, such as a simple brown kraft paper. If you want to jazz it up, add string and a sprig of rosemary for decoration. Gum or eucalyptus leaves lend a really nice Australiana touch.
You could also try furoshiki, a traditional Japanese fabric wrapping method that lets the gift receiver hold onto the material and reuse it when they need to wrap a gift for someone else. When I’m out shopping, I look out for nice pieces of material to use. Furoshiki looks really nice under the tree.
2. Food prep
Meal planning is really important to help you avoid over-catering. Be realistic about how much people are going to eat and look into dishes that will keep well as leftovers. A leafy salad won’t last more than a day in the fridge, but roast veggies or grain-based salads will. And when you’re shopping, try to buy package- or plastic-free groceries whenever you can.
When it’s time to set the table, you might be tempted to use disposable, single-use items to avoid a tonne of dishes. If you really need to go disposable, make the easy switch from plastic to paper or plastic-free alternatives, like wood pulp cutlery. An even better option is a crockery set or partyware kit that you can reuse each festive season and for other special occasions.
Use solar-powered LED lights to decorate your tree and outside, and look into using timers. This is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and your energy costs at the same time.
A good option for the tree itself is a fruit tree that you can plant in the backyard later on. It’s a responsible way to do a traditional tree, and you also get fruit out of it! Steer away from buying plastic ornaments – my local ceramicists are making beautiful ceramic decorations. And if you’ve got kids, try crafting with them. Last year, my family and I collected pine cones from a local reserve and added glitter paint and a couple of pom-poms.
Paper towels are only compostable if you compost at home or have access to council compost – and that’s only if you’re using them without chemicals. Otherwise, they can’t be recycled. So switch to using washable, reusable rags or kitchen towels when you’re cleaning up.
Avoid posh plastic-packaged chemical cleaning products and go with a low-waste option like a diluted homemade vinegar made with citrus peel. It takes a little preparation but it’s cost-effective and a great multipurpose cleaner. You could even try the classic baking soda or one-part vodka to one-part water for kitchen counters, tables and appliances.
Have a plan for leftovers. There’s nothing wrong with preparing a lot of food to avoid cooking for the rest of the week, but make sure you have plenty of reusable containers or jars on hand to store the leftovers in your fridge or divvy up among guests.
Think about creative ways you can use up the excess food – leftover veggies could become veggie burgers, for example. If you’re still struggling with a leftover surplus and won’t be able to eat it all yourself, look into options like the ShareWaste compost app. It puts unwanted food to good use by connecting people with food scraps to their neighbours with compost.
6. Unwanted presents
If you receive something you don’t want or need this year, and you don’t feel comfortable asking for the receipt, try to exchange it, sell it, re-gift it to someone who will enjoy it or donate it to charity. These are all better options than that item sitting at the back of your cupboard.
You could also get a few friends together for a white elephant gift exchange – a gift-swapping party. An exchange is also a good idea for kids’ presents, in particular. Post about double-ups to your local Facebook Buy, Swap, Sell and ask if anyone wants to swap. It’s a responsible way to offload gifts and make sure they’ll be loved by someone else.
YouGov research was commissioned by ING in October 2019. The sample comprised 1,079 Australians aged 18+ years distributed throughout Australia.
While ING is affiliated with Crema Joe through the ING Dreamstarter program, the information in the article regarding the tips are views of Crema Joe and not ING.
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