Making Christmas green…

I am feeling inspired by Santa’s supermarket recycling trip, so I have been thinking of ways we can all be a bit greener this Christmas…

Have you made any changes to your Christmas so this year is more environmentally friendly? Have some of your relatives or guests resisted any changes towards a greener Christmas?

Giving more sustainable options…

  1. Choose the item with least packaging whenever possible
  2. Be more creative with wrapping gifts, like using
    1. using kids’ artwork
    2. reusing wrapping paper from last year – and if you tie gifts with ribbons instead of using sticky tape, reuse of paper is even easier!
    3. use gift bags as more people are likely to reuse them
    4. cloth bags that can then be reused as shopping or storage bags
    5. practical items, for example tea-towels, tablecloths, and even hankies can wrap around gifts. This works especially well when the wrapping can be part of the gift, like a tea towel around a kitchen item or a sarong around some beach items.
    6. boxes (remember even Santa collects old boxes!) without or with any decorations on them.
  3. Save Christmas cards you receive, cut off the back half where someone has written and use the front half as a card or gift tag
  4. Avoid gifts that people won’t appreciate or use as that is just a waste of resources and encourages a materialistic attitude. Much better to give something you know they want or something very practical, or even better, for someone ‘with everything’, why not think about giving an activity or even a charity gift (like Oxfam gifts to struggling farmers and girls unable to go to school)?
  5. When choosing wrapping paper and cards, look for more eco-friendly options like being made from recycled or sustainably grown paper and without foil and glitter. If you scrunch a piece of wrapping paper and it stay scrunched, that generally means it can be recycled – if it unfolds itself, it is likely to contain non-recyclable elements.
  6. Shop locally as much as possible to reduce the transport miles of your Christmas tree, decorations, gifts and so forth
  7. Give sustainable lifestyle gifts like reusable produce bags, beeswax wraps, keeper cups, metal clothes pegs, shampoo bars and bamboo toothbrushes – these may be things people will try if given one but be too nervous to buy one for themselves

Bags, fabric and tins are simple ways to reduce wrapping paper waste this Christmas

Decorating sustainably

  1. If you have a real Christmas tree, make sure it gets chopped up afterwards and used as mulch rather than thrown into a tip or landfill. {Note if you do have a real tree, make sure you add water to it everyday to reduce the risk of fire}
    Even better, there are a couple of places that rent out real Christmas trees! You hire the tree for December, care for it and then they collect it and replant it – how’s that for eco-friendly! I haven’t one of these near me but it is a lovely idea.
    At one time, I did have a Christmas tree in a pot that came inside each summer to be decorated, but it got too big! Another year part of a gum tree fell in our yar so we used the fallen branch as our Christmas tree – I loved the Aussie feel that year!
  2. Reuse your decorations each year – if you prefer a different theme or style each year, consider having two or three sets and rotating them or swapping sets with a couple of friends. If you really don’t want to use the decorations again or just have too many, make sure you give them to someone who will – try op shops, kinders, school, community houses, food kitchens and homeless shelters.
  3. Choose the ‘better’ decoration when selecting new ornaments – for example, select metal and glass ornaments over plastic ones, look for recycled materials, and choose ones that will last (both in terms of quality and style)
  4. If making some decorations yourself, try using existing materials instead of buying new – there are some amazing creations to be made out of old magazines and newspaper for instance, and paper chains made out of junk mail or old Christmas wrappings is pretty and cheap!
  5. Instead of plastic centrepieces and bits of glitter, why not use some real greenery? Some gum leaves add a muted colour and lovely smell, and you can add in some rosemary, lavender or citrus leaves so contrast, too. For variety, you can even use potted plants (herbs plants are a great choice for scent and size) amongst the leaves, or instead of a horizontal display. The bonus is that any herbs can be picked from the centrepiece to be used as seasonings, too!

Recycled materials can make beautiful decorations to add Christmas cheer without harming our planet

General Christmas actions to help the environment

  1. Take our own shopping bags when we go to the shops – and definitely refuse to accept any plastic bags from the shops
  2. Plan to use any left overs so there is less food waste. In my family, we have the roasts for lunch and then left over meat and salad for dinner which reduces waste but also takes a lot less work for everyone!
  3. Avoid disposable things like paper plates, paper serviettes and plastic cutlery – if everyone pitches in, washing up the dishes isn’t too hard to manage
  4. Avoid bonbons with plastic nonsense inside – you can get or make bonbons without plastic items or with better quality items instead of just throwing out lots of little gimmicks. Better yet, get some reusable bon bons and really reduce the waste this Christmas
  5. Only leave out healthy snacks for the reindeer and boomers – glitter is awful for the environment and the animals so avoid that, but if you leave out carrots and grass or oats any left behind by the animals can be composted or thrown in the garden
  6. Buy food from eco-friendly places wherever possible – farmers markets are a great source of veggies for example


Dealing with left over Christmas wrapping

I went for a walk yesterday and was surprised to see a roll of Christmas wrapping paper sticking out of a bin.

Christmas wrapping paper in a rubbish bin in February!

Christmas wrapping paper in a rubbish bin in February!

Obviously, being towards the end of February, I was surprised to see something Christmassy in the bin – I would have thought left over Christmas rubbish would be long gone by now!

But I was also surprised at someone throwing out a roll of wrapping paper – it seems like such a waste to me. It could easily be used to wrap presents next Christmas, so why throw it out?

Many people feel obliged to use new wrapping paper (that is, not so many reuse wrapping paper), but this was a new roll someone had put in the rubbish.

I guess if you like having all your gifts wrapped consistently each year, a small amount of one year’s paper may seem less useful for the next year. But there are other ways to use it…

  • give it to a kinder or childcare centre – they can use it as wrapping or just give it to the kids as a craft material
  • keep it as a back up in case you run out next year
  • use it for some surprise Christmas in July gifts!
  • use it in various Christmas crafts – or give it to someone crafty so they can use it
  • donate it to a charity that provides Christmas gifts to the needy – the less paper they buy, the more they have to help people in other ways
  • use it for wrapping pass the parcel items at a party
  • recycle it! Rip it up and put it in the compost, line a bird cage with it or just put it in the recycling bin (to be fair, this picture does show the roll in the recycling bin)

So what do you do with left over rolls of wrapping paper after Christmas?

Do you have any other ideas on how to use up old wrapping paper if you don’t keep it for next year’s wrapping?

Kids’ artwork = wrapping paper

Child made wrapping paperKids often make a lot of art pieces – often a lot in one art session!

I’ve often heard of people using some of the larger art pieces as wrapping paper. What do you think – is that a good idea?

Artistic wrapping paper is good

I like this idea because:

  • it is bright and cheerful – and stands out under the Christmas tree
  • I like the personal touch over the commercial shiny paper
  • it’s good for the environment to use artwork you already have rather than buy more paper that will just be thrown out. Especially given much of the paper children paint and draw on is recycled in the first place!
  • it’s positive to display their artwork this way, and  negative to just throw out artwork when it builds up
  • children can be very proud of the gift they carry to someone if they see their artwork is on view to all
  • kids learn that their efforts (ie painting in this case) is appreciated and probably given more attention than a shop bought gift

 Artistic paper is cheap

Using your  children’s art work is certainly cheaper than buying rolls of gift wrapping paper – I think that’s a positive as it makes your Christmas budget go further (I could spend $15 on a gift and $5 on wrappings and cards or $20 on a gift, or $15 on a gift and have $5 still in my pocket for necessities).

Yet some people think gifts must have pretty wrapping to pass some unknown standard, so would see ‘cheap’ wrappings as a negative.

Do you think kids artwork is a cheap cop-out for gifts or something good?

Are there other negatives of using artwork this way?

Have you ever received a gift wrapped this way – did you like it? How did others respond to it?


Christmas mess…

I just came across this thought in a magazine (Your Child in Banyule & Nillumbik to be precise) and loved it:

one of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the lounge room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.

I love that mess (especially compared to the mess my kids usually make…) all the wrapping paper and packaging strewn across the floor, new clothes, books and toys scattered around, topped off with tinsel and decorations around the room. It evokes happy feelings of sharing and giving, and its bright and colourful. Love it!

I never clean it up before we go out for Christmas lunch, and generally leave it for Boxing Day (isn’t that the point of Boxing Day anyway??) Does that make me unusual?

Wrapping paper reuse

Who else collects and reuses wrapping paper? Just at Christmas or year round?

We always fold up the decent bits of paper (those the kids have ripped to shreds go in the recycling bin!) and keep them for future use. Some relatives look down at us for it, thinking we’re being cheap and lazy. Yes, it does save us money (some of which goes into buying better presents for said relatives!) but more importantly, it saves the environment.

The creation of wrapping paper involves chopping down trees, processing the paper (which uses fossil fuels and huge amounts of water) and printing the paper. Then add in the footprint of wrapping paper – how far does it travel to reach your Christmas tree? And if you collect enough paper, it is one less thing you need to worry about buying next Christmas (potentially saving pollution of driving to the shops, too!)

Other ways we save on wrapping paper are:

  • using paper we already have (e.g. from the deli) and getting the kids to decorate it – saves paper and money, entertains the kids and provides a personalised wrapping paper
  • using something practical instead of paper – tea towels and ribbons in particular wrap gifts nicely

What does everyone else think about green gift wrapping?

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