Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Pancha Ganapati or just love to throw a classic end-of-year party – things generally get a bit messy.
During the holidays, we produce 30 per cent more waste than we do during the rest of the year. But that doesn’t have to be the case. There are ways to host the big day without all the mess, stress, excess trash and ending up with a fridge full of uneaten food that’s cursed to decompose by New Year’s.
Here’s how to throw a spectacular low-impact gathering – with all the trimmings – but without the environmental waste.
Sadly, your life probably isn’t a Jane Austen-esque comedy of manners. In which case skip the paper invites and just send a text or group message.
Yes, it’s less dramatic, but it also won’t end up in the bottom of someone’s bin.
MORGANE LE BRENTON
Natural is always best, right? In most cases, that’s our position. But Christmas trees are surprisingly tricky. The problem is, after the big day has come and gone, most are discarded and end up in landfill.
Rentable trees are a great alternative to the fake-versus-real dilemma. A quick google will let you know of rental services in your area that will drop off and pick up your temporary centrepiece. If possible, look for a company that will also replant it after the Christmas period is over, so it can continue to suck up CO₂ and release oxygen well past the holiday season.
If you don’t live within the delivery zone of a rent-a-tree specialist, consider your own long-term tree commitment. These days most nurseries sell small trees in pots that can be moved indoors for the season and then spend the rest of the year chilling in your garden or on your balcony.
If that still feels like too much work, there is a way to make an artificial tree work for you. There’s no denying the easy appeal of a fake shrub: it’s easy to store and set up each year, but all that plastic can make your skin crawl.
Although fake trees have a much larger carbon footprint than real trees – equivalent to around 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions – it is possible to minimise the impact. Rather than jetting out to your local megastore, look for a second-hand one online (Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are a good starting point). Or if you do buy one new, spend a little extra to ensure it’ll last for decades.
For something a little more modern and unexpected, consider wooden trees or this colourful option made from 100 per cent shredded bottles and containers collected through household kerbside recycling.
We’d love to say cut the lights, but we know they are a holiday must-have. If you’re purchasing, make sure they’re LEDs, as typical incandescent bulbs use 80 per cent more energy. It will reduce not only your impact, but also the hefty bill you’ll receive post holiday season.
Another great option is to find some second-hand or to borrow (you never know who has an old tangle of bulbs they don’t want to deal with bundled up somewhere).
When trying to shop for decorations, it’s almost impossible to bypass plastic. So why not make your own? From Christmas wreaths to origami stars, there’s a ton of DIY websites out there to help you get creative. If you are buying, as always, choose second-hand or opt for ornaments made of wood that aren’t covered in glitter. You don’t want to add to the 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our ocean.
If it’s an intimate affair, the table setting is often the focus feature. Try your hand at decorating with fresh or dried flower arrangements. It’s a good excuse to whip out those unused vases, or invest in a new piece which you can keep long after your holiday soiree (we personally recommend Kelly Bignell Studio). And if you’re a bonbon enthusiast, opt for a plastic-free version with eco gifts inside like these from French for Tuesday.
When it comes to the tableware, swap napkins for reusable versions (like these from IN BED) and try to avoid single-use plastic cutlery and plates. If you don’t have enough dinnerware at your house, again, pick some up from a second-hand store or op shop, or look for somewhere to rent a set. You could make your Instagram-worthy dreams come true for a fraction of the cost with a rented set from one of these beautiful companies.
What’s a party without wine? Unfortunately, our beverage of choice can have a rather large impact on the environment.
Embracing your region’s local wine market and picking natural, biodynamic or organic verified bottles to serve adds an eco (and, let’s face it, suitably wine snob) flair to your festivities. There’s no shortage of selection either. Retailers like Notwasted and The Natural Wine Company specialise in this area and have an entire selection of sustainable drinks to match any meal.
For drinks other than wine, lean towards canned varieties that can be recycled afterwards. If you’re based in Australia, make sure all your beers, ciders and canned drinks have a 10c mark on them. That way you can get paid to recycle your empties through Envirobank (there’s got to be some benefits of hosting, right?).
MICHAEL COMNINUS FOR RIISE
In 2018, it was estimated Australians spent $400 million on 10 million unwanted Christmas gifts, many of which were discarded and likely ended up in landfill. Yes, that includes the awful work Kris Kringle gifts you dread getting year-on-year.
If you’re looking for gifts that your loved ones, and the planet, will appreciate, we’ve got you covered. Our gift guides have ideas for fashion and beauty lovers, shoppers on a budget and those who like to keep things close to home.
Now you’ve found the perfect gift, there’s still the surprisingly large matter of wrapping. Each Christmas the UK alone throws away 226,800 miles of wrapping paper. That’s enough to stretch nine times around the world.
We’re no grinches: we know just holding your perfectly selected token behind your back kind of lacks seasonal drama, so how about considering less-wasteful alternatives? Using butcher’s paper or magazine paper, biodegradable tape, and flowers or dried fruit can make for a stunning display. Or use a beautiful scarf, handkerchief or cloth napkin. Not only does it look chic, it works as an added gift too. For the perfect DIY video, click here.
Additional reporting by Brooke Fellman