Tips for a zero-waste festive season

It is the most wonderful - but wasteful - time of year. Christmas is a time to be grateful and celebrate, and for some, a time to reflect on how to live more consciously. Here are some helpful practical tips that Dr Amy Prendergast shared with us, to help you celebrate Christmas a little more sustainably...

Wrap gifts in reusable cloth, such as your own pillow cases and sheets. They are just as fun to open and then afterwards they can go back to being used for their original purpose. It avoids the unnecessary wrapping paper waste and the plastic sticky tape. Occasionally you might also reuse wrapping received on gifts from the previous years.

Make memories, give second hand or gift experiences. Aim to purchase second hand gifts from the op shop to avoid all the unnecessary packaging. Alternatively you can purchase ‘experiences’ such as massages, theatre tickets, or dinner vouchers. Get cooking and give home made food & drinks in reusable containers. If you do purchase new gifts, try to purchase things that will have a positive effect on the world such as keep cups, fair trade items, donations to charity, or pot plants.

Instead of buying Christmas cards, repurpose kids drawings and paintings (if you have children). Kids end up bringing home so much artwork from school and kinder, and it may not be possible to keep every picture. Best to share the joy!

Avoid single-use disposable items such as plastic plates, cups, and cutlery and paper napkins. Instead use cloth napkins and ‘real' crockery and cutlery. It’s a little more effort to clean up but all the more reason for everyone to pitch in and help!

Purchase your Christmas decorations from the op shop. There are always plenty of things available!

Avoid purchasing food with too much unnecessary packaging - best to buy it straight from the market using your own cloth bags. Also avoid throw-away things like Christmas crackers as it’s a lot of waste and the gifts you get inside them are just plastic junk anyway.

Recycle any soft plastics that you may encounter. Often it's inevitable that you will receive gifts or purchase food wrapped in soft plastic. Remember this can be recycled in the Redcycle bins outside Coles or Woolworths.

Be mindful to compost food waste and recycle what you can. As with everyday waste, make sure everything that can be recycled is recycled and that all food waste goes into the compost rather than the landfill bin.

Dr Amy Prendergast, Amy is a palaeoclimatologist and archaeological scientist at the University of Melbourne. She is interested in high-resolution climate and environmental reconstruction, human-environment interaction, and natural hazards.