Get festive this year without leaving an environmental footprint the size of the North Pole. Check out our sustainable Christmas tips and if you’ve got a green tip of your own, we’d love to hear it in the comments section below.

Christmas trees: fake or fresh?

Go al natural this Christmas
Go al natural this Christmas

For a lot of us, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree, so should you fake it or go fresh?

Fake plastic trees tend to be re-used for between six to 10 years, but they eventually get tossed and once in landfill, they never degrade. Plus they’re usually made overseas and it takes energy and resources to make and transport them to our lounge rooms.

Real trees have a footprint too, but that’s relatively offset by the carbon soaked up during their time in the ground. The greenest option is to make your own arrangements with branches or grab a potted Australian native pine like a Wollemi or Cypress that can be used year after year – decorate with homemade trinkets and recycled goodies or if you want to buy some, make sure they’re manufactured to last.

Shopping: DIY, online and home-made

Instead of buying all your gifts new, choose vintage or pre-loved items from markets, op shops or garage sales. Even better, there are a bevy of online stores that specialise in home-made and local products.

Our mates at Etsy have also just opened a Christmas pop-up (28 November – 12 December 2013) in the middle of Sydney with an absolute bevy of local talent available to make a bespoke hand-made gift for you or that special someone. Want some DIY-spiration now? Here’s some step-by-step videos we’ve created with Etsy to get your started.

If getting crafty is not for you, then give some thought to what you buy, where it came from, who made it and how far it travelled. Consider setting a spending limit for each person. It will keep your present-buying in check and ensure you stick to a budget. Instead of buying gifts for all and sundry, you could just buy for the kids or consider organising a Kris Kringle. Pull a name out of a hat, spend a set amount and have fun on Christmas Day guessing who gave what to whom.

Cards & wrap: time to get crafty

Beautifully wrapped presents under the tree look mighty fine on Christmas morning, but they quickly turn into a rather depressing mountain of ripped paper. Cut the waste and get craftastic with material off-cuts, old scarves, vintage hankies, or snip up old shirts or tees you’ve outgrown.

You can reuse your cards too. Try chopping up last year’s cards and turn them into gift tags, or cut off the picture side and send them as Christmas postcards. E-cards are a great way of saving money and trees, but if you prefer sending them the traditional way then go for cards made from recycled paper or ones that support a charity.

Decorations: deck the halls with recycled goodies

Hessian heaven came early this year: Try fabric decos this year
Hessian heaven came early this year

These days, the lure of the $2 shop makes it easy enough to change our Christmas decorations year on year. Instead choose durable baubles and trinkets that will last for years, or better yet, get the kids to make decorations out of recyclables or old fabrics, used ribbons or twine.

With table decorations, instead of using paper napkins and tablecloths, which only get one use, go for fabric ones that can be washed or wiped down and used again , the same goes for re-useable plates and cutlery.

Decorate the table with flowers or pine cones and get the kids to make name tags and place settings out of last year’s Christmas paper and cards.

If you have old decorations that you won’t re-use, donate them to an op shop or online through sites like Gumtree or OzRecycle. Finally, when it comes to lighting up your tree, make sure you choose LEDs.

Food: buy seasonal, local and watch the waste

We all end up stuffing ourselves at Christmas, but many of us also end up throwing away tonnes of perfectly good food – and that’s really bad for the environment. When wasted food is thrown away and breaks down in landfill, together with other organic materials, it becomes the main contributor to the generation of methane – a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere – and is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

Reel Food Projects' Christmas Artisan Food Market
Reel Food Projects’ Christmas Artisan Food Market

Instead of chucking your leftovers, freeze them for a rainy day or get creative and turn them into something else. If you need inspiration, check out The OzHarvest Cookbook, which uncovers Australia’s top chefs’ secrets for using leftovers.

You can also make your festivities greener by buying local – food that has been produced close by, rather than shipped in from overseas or interstate. Reel Food Projects will host it’s first Christmas Artisan Food Market on the 18th December at the Hyde Park Barracks, so get your fill of local suppliers who have an eye for using local, seasonal and sustainable produce. Fill your Christmas stocking with these sustainable goodies this year!

 There are tonnes of great sustainable Christmas ideas out there, share yours in the comments below.

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