It’s the season of giving, how much are we wasting?
“Go local, not loco!”
by Elly Hill

When you start getting bombarded with all things Christmas from the middle of October (!!!!), it’s easy to get overwhelmed and let your good ethics slip.  Gift giving becomes a major drag. Five different Kris Kringles, 393849 nieces and nephews, your partner, your Nanna, your Auntie, your dog…. it’s understandable that we’re all prone to freaking out and falling into the trap of buying several boxes of foil-wrapped chocolates and a collection of questionable goods from the $2 shop in order to get Mission Gift-Acquisition over and done with quick smart.

But what’s the real cost of convenience at Christmas time? Australians produce a whopping 40 million + tonnes of waste every year, much of which ends up as discarded rubbish and in landfill. Over Christmas we also purchase additional items such as Christmas trees, food, packaging and unwanted gifts. A recent survey showed that 78.5% of Australians have received a gift that they didn’t want. 13.7% of people will throw away these unwanted presents – meaning they go unused from manufacturer to landfill.

Hideously wasteful! So, we’ve put together a handy list of creative gifts to feel good about and that your loved ones and the planet will thank you for:

Experiences make people happier than things do

Research proves it – material things don’t make us happy, experiencing something fun and reliving it through our memories does. Ergo experiences make wonderful presents. Vouchers for extreme sports, massages, beer tastings, gourmet meals, membership to galleries, tickets to a show or a plot in a community garden… the options are endless. And if what you had in mind doesn’t offer vouchers, get creative and make your own IOU! (One of the ST girls made her brother a voucher for a bike ride and gourmet lunch in Red Hill as a gift.)

Kris Kringle Chaos

There’s no need to give cheap knick-knacks or palm oil-filled treats to whoever you draw out of the Secret Santa hat this year. People value thoughtful or useful gifts, especially if you explain you wanted to get them something eco-friendly:

– Herb seedlings make terrific and cheap gifts that actually do good for the earth and keep giving and giving.

– Head to a local market, you’ll find an abundance of amazing locally-made food and crafts.

– Etsy, eBay and Gumtree are great online resources that are full of handmade or secondhand gifts at affordable prices.

– Retro is in! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving something second hand and chances are you’ll find something really unique and personal if you have a hunt around op shops and antique stores.

– Eco Christmas hampers are also available for corporate giving so you can green up the workplace.

Get crafty

There are sustainable alternatives for everything – seek and you shall find. Ask Google and Pinterest in your mission to go green these holidays – they can even help you make your own sustainable Christmas crackers (perhaps you can put some decent jokes in them and make some recycled paper hats that actually fit!).

Sorting out the family

Remember that the festive season isn’t defined by the number of presents under the tree. Organise the family to give a little less this year – it should be quality over quantity anyway, right?

– Refine your gift list.

– Quality doesn’t have to mean expensive – set a spending limit for each person and get creative.

– Make dud gifts a thing of the past and get everyone to write a wish list.

– If someone’s wish is a bit beyond the budget, then the whole family could pitch in.

– Take all the kids in the extended family out for a day at the zoo or a picnic in the New Year instead of buying them all cheap toys and lollies on Christmas day.

– If you’re doing a family KK, make a rule that it must be handmade or second hand. See who rises above the challenge!

– If any gadgets get replaced or upgraded this year (new phone, ipad etc) be sure to dispose of the old ones responsibly – electronic goods and old batteries can wreak havoc on the environment.

– Someone you know not eating so well? Why not organise organic veggies to be delivered to their door via local box systems or food co-ops.

What to get the person who has it all?

We all know people that are super tough to shop for. Charity gifts are a perfect way to embrace the spirit of giving. Most charities have ways to make Christmas giving easy, just check out the website of your favourite organisation and see how easy it is to help others and give the person who has it all something they… don’t have.

To re-gift or not to re-gift?

It’s inevitable that each year we’ll receive a gift or two that isn’t quite to our liking. And if it means that something isn’t going to end up in landfill, re-gifting is absolutely okay. Just be sensitive to the original giver, you don’t want to risk offending anyone.

Christmas is only as chaotic as you make it (okay, maybe our crazy families do play a part) but if you head into the silly season with an open mind and an open heart, it’s a breeze. Be mindful with everything you buy this season, consider where it came from, who made it and how far it has travelled. Go local, not loco! We don’t all need to have Christmases that look as perfect as a department store window with baubles that match the napkin rings – make your Christmas unique and stay kind to the earth. Have a merry Christmas and eat, drink and be sustainable!

Got any sustainable Christmas tips to share? Feel free to add in the comments below!