In the lead-up to the festive, chaotic time it’s easy to put your values aside and get caught up in the over-consumption craze that is the holiday season. Below are some handy tips to help you be more mindful when it comes to planning a festive celebration that is special, memorable and better for the planet.

Let’s get you on your merry way…

1. Food, glorious food

Let’s be honest, one of the best parts about Christmas is the food. A time of year when it’s perfectly acceptable to eat way more than you’re supposed to, and have nobody judge you for it. Lots of traditional Christmas meals revolve around a centrepiece ham, turkey or seafood extravaganza of some kind, and while these meals are delicious and heart-warming, they bring up many environmental and animal welfare concerns that are important to think about.

The vast majority of turkeys in Australia are farmed in intensive farming systems (factory farming), in conditions similar to meat chickens – they have no access to the outdoors, no room to move around and experience very unnatural growth rates which lead to leg disorders and many other health issues.

Now, the good news is that we’re not asking you to take these things off the menu entirely. The thing is, there are choices you can make that will not only taste better, but also do a world of good for animal welfare and the environment.

Check out the following links:

Gobble Gobble your Turkey Wisely this Christmas… and beyond

Ethical Eating – sourcing free-range ham and pork

Grab a copy of our nifty eBook The Good Fish Book – a tasty guide to sustainable seafood to get you started ($15).

Free range ham from Greenvale Farm

2. Lay off the plastic plates, straws, cups and glad wrap

As soon as party season hits single-use plastic seems to increase tenfold. Not only is plastic bad news because of the toxic chemicals it contains but it also takes hundreds of years to breakdown. And although many of these items can be recycled this should be a last resort due to the embodied energy that goes into recycling and the fact that most plastics are shipped offshore for processing, often under terrible conditions for workers and their families.

If you’re hosting a party and don’t have enough plates or crockery, why not ask to borrow a friend’s? Or if that’s a bit tricky then make a trip down to your local op shop and pick up some bargain crockery and glassware that you can return after. And for most adults there is absolutely no need to drink from a straw; however, if you’re hell bent on using one then purchase a reusable metal or glass one or borrow the internal straw from your water bottle if there is one. Finally, instead of covering all your leftovers in glad wrap or foil, store them in containers or wrap them in food-friendly beeswax wraps, like these (pictured below right).

Image left: Bin (source) | Image right: Bee Eco Wraps

3. Make veggies the hero

It’s true we Aussies sure do love out meat, chomping through almost 100kg per person per year (the world average is 30kg). This isn’t doing our waistline, animal welfare, our health or the health of the planet any favours. Veggies bring a fresh burst of flavour to any meal, and can most certainly hold their own at Christmas time. Red-meat has been linked to heart disease amongst other diet-related illnesses and raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes in the world combined!

In the face of all this – are you game to switch up that roast turkey for some seasonal veggie delights? Or perhaps you’re already planning a vegetarian Christmas and are looking for some ways to mix it up a bit.

For tips and menu ideas check out our co-founder Cassie’s blog post ‘A Christmas of “Surprise, There’s No Meat in This!”

Even if you don’t go completely meat free, think about the portions and still make veggies the hero!

4. Drink and be Merry (and ethical)

Could we call it a real Christmas without at least one person in the family drinking a few-too-many beers and ending up asleep on the couch by 4pm?

We suggest reducing your packaging waste and environmental-footprint by opting for beer in kegs or growlers (refillable glass jars that hold the equivalent of 6 beers) and sourcing wine from local and organic wineries.

5. Gift an experience

Rather than a last minute dash to the shops to find whatever is left on the shelves, gift an experience instead. A meal together, a weekend or day trip away, a homemade voucher for a camping trip, a massage, chores around the house, the list is endless! Instead of giving something that takes a lot of energy to make and soon gets thrown out after the silly season, plan trips and events where you can spend time with the lovely people in your life. And throw in some homemade cookies or jam for something they can open on the day.

6. Buy vintage and second-hand

Image: Luca sporting his secondhand bike and helmet from Gumtree

Second-hand gifts are a nifty way to reduce your eco-footprint and save perfectly useable and precious items from ending up in landfill. Choose quality and unique items and re-gift them in a way that feels new and hand-selected. Instead of hitting up Toys R Us, pick up some Jigsaw puzzles or classic children’s novels and picture books from the charity store. Pick up a set of 70s retro ceramic mugs for your sister, and some vintage earrings for Nana. Pretty them up in cloth wrapping off-cuts and throw in a bunch of foraged flowers or handmade chocolates alongside. Online shops like Etsy, Gumtree and eBay are also great places to pick up some gems.

7. Impress and go DIY

Homemade gifts are a great way of making Christmas personal and are forgiving on your wallet. Show your friends just how much you love them by putting in that little bit of extra time (it’s more precious than money these days)…and skip that stressful pre-Christmas department store chaos! Pinterest is a good place to look for inspiration but we’ll also be sharing some of our own DIY gift ideas, so stay tuned.

8. Be eco-friendly with your decorating

If you’re hosting Christmas this year, don’t buy new decorations, instead be crafty and re-use and recycle things like jars to hold tea light candles, or newspaper origami for the tree. Avoid $2 tinsel and plastic baubles and decorate the table in pinecones and fresh flowers. Ribbon you’ve collected from gifts you’ve received can also look great on a tree. Wrap presents in colourful patterned fabric off-cuts, or sections of a magazine or newspaper relevant to the recipient to make it more personal. Donate old decorations you don’t use to an op-shop or online on Gumtree.

9. The unconventional tree

Instead of buying a fake tree, which will eventually end up in landfill where it will sit in the ground for hundreds of years, invest in a potted plant as an alternative Christmas tree that you can keep forever. Try an Australian native pine like Wollemi or Cypress, or have a go at making your own ‘twigmas tree’ made using an old tree branch and sitting it in a beautiful vase or pot of sand and decorate away.

Image left: Macho Picture | Image right: Hilldale House

10. What to do with all those leftovers

We tend to get a little carried away with serving sizes, with our eyes always larger than our tums. More often than not we find plates and plates of leftovers stacked up in the fridge – and eventually thrown in the bin.

Yep, the festive season can be a disaster when it comes to food waste. Did you know that in Australia, we throw out $8 billion dollars worth of food each year?! Let’s face it – weeks and weeks of ham on toast can get pretty tiresome.  So this festive season, let’s get creative and put those leftovers to good use… More on that later, but in the interim you could always buy our food-waste bible The Clever Cook eBook, either for yourself or as a gift ($12.50).

So there you have it, 10 handy tips to get you thinking about the festive season. There’s so much more from where this came from, so watch this space x